Editor's note: This column originally appeared in E&P magazine's May 2019 issue.

As I mentioned last month, I spent several months at sea onboard a research drilling ship. A crewmate of mine liked to say, “Simplicity is the key to succeeding at sea.” I heard that particular earworm so often that it lodged itself nicely in my frontal lobe and, every so often, it will play softly, reminding me of good times. Here lately, it has been playing several decibels louder, especially after reading reports out of last month’s Scotia Howard Weil Energy Conference that an offshore revival was underway.

While there is nothing simple about drilling and producing a well that is located hundreds or thousands of feet below water and seafloor, it does appear that “simple” has replaced “mega” in the lingo dictionary. Field development projects like Shell’s Kaikias that tie new production back to pre-existing infrastructure demonstrate the success of simplified well designs.

The approach was pioneered by LLOG Exploration Offshore in 2011 at its Who Dat Field located in the Gulf of Mexico’s (GoM) Mississippi Canyon 547 protraction block using the semisubmersible Opti-Ex floating production system (FPS), and it was duplicated in 2015 at its Delta House FPS located in Mississippi Canyon 254.

The simplified approach continues as the Covington, La.-headquartered company awarded in January a subsea tieback contract to McDermott International for development of its Stonefly Field in the GoM’s Viosca Knoll Block 999 protraction area. The scope of work includes project management, installation, engineering, subsea structure and spoolbase stalk fabrication, and installation of the subsea infrastructure to support a two-well subsea tieback from the Stonefly development site to the Ram Powell platform owned by Talos Energy.

The tieback will be made possible via an 18-km (11-mile), or 18,288-m (60,000-ft), 6-in. pipeline at water depths ranging from 1,005 m to 1,250 m (3,300 ft to 4,100 ft), according to a press release. McDermott also will design, fabricate and install a steel catenary riser, a pipeline end manifold and two in-line sleds. Installation of the tiebacks and structures is scheduled for the third quarter of this year using McDermott’s North Ocean 105 lay vessel.

Upon its completion, Stonefly will join a host of other LLOG fields in the GoM developed using subsea tiebacks, including Blue Wing Olive, Claiborne, Crown & Anchor, La Femme and Red Zinger. Two other fields, Buckskin and Nearly Headless Nick, also are planned to come online this year as subsea tiebacks,
according to an operational update issued in January.

LLOG noted in a September 2018 operational update that it was evaluating the need for a third FPS in the GoM to co-develop its Khaleesi and Mormont discoveries. Located in the Green Canyon protraction area, the discoveries were successfully drilled by LLOG as operator in 2017 in about 1,189 m (3,900 ft) of water to a total depth of as much as 9,335 m (30,625 ft). Each of the two discoveries has been delineated by two wells and a sidetrack that discovered multiple oil-bearing Miocene horizons, according to the company. If the company holds to its pattern of creative names for its FPSs, then I’m anxiously awaiting its decision to sanction a third one. Perhaps in another nod to Game of Thrones, we’ll soon have a Vaes Dothrak, a Red Waste or a Great Stallion to pair with Animal House’s Delta House?