Discovered in November 2014 in the Green Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico, the Anchor Deepwater Project lies about 140 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

After its discovery, appraisal of the field began in September 2017, with FEED activities beginning the following December. That same year, Chevron entered into an $831 million contract with Transocean for the design, construction and use of its 20,000-psi Deepwater Titan drillship.

But in 2019, as final investment decision (FID) on the $5.7 billion project was made, the world turned upside down.

Developing the Anchor Deepwater project—a floating production unit (FPU) moored in 5,000 ft of water capable of processing 75,000 bbl/d and equipped with well systems, subsea systems, floating systems and production and export systems to produce from seven wells—would prove to be challenging, as most deepwater projects are. Anchor was even more difficult to develop, as Chevron was also working to enable technology to withstand a 20,000-psi environment in the midst of COVID-19.

“Three months later on the heels of our FID decision, we found ourselves at the beginning of a global pandemic, which added a dimension to the challenge of delivering a world class technology develop program called ‘20K’ and the delivery of the Anchor Deepwater Project,” Tim Mitchell, project manager of Chevron’s Anchor project, told an audience on May 6 at the 2024 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

To mitigate the project’s challenges, Chevron focused on five key operating principles.

The first principle was to develop and deliver a safe project with technology that could withstand 20,000-psi in any case, because “without 20K, we didn’t have a project,” Mitchell said.

The second and third principles were to embrace operational excellence and protect the people as well as the environment, as those are “core parts” of who Chevron is, Mitchell said.

Chevron’s fourth principle was to continue innovation while also simplifying project procedures. The final principle was to “empower the team to collaborate to deliver a project that meets our financial and economic objectives.”

Another hurdle the project had to clear was moving from “prototype to production,” while maintaining the same level of quality and fit, Chris Guillet, TotalEnergies’ deputy project manager for the Anchor project told the audience. Chevron operates Anchor with a 62.86% interest. TotalEnergies holds the remaining 37.14%.

To clear this hurdle, “rigorous testing” of the different systems within the project was conducted throughout production to uncover issues that needed to be resolved.

The project developers also found supplier-led solutions, including an integrated manifold-pump station and special chemical injection technology.

“In line with a regulatory agency, we set up the strategy to write and get approved non-site specific specifications before issuing actual site specific governance,” Guillet said. “This provided us with a double advantage of making our 20K equipment suitable for other developments and giving us more time to actually develop and qualify the required prototypes and intersect the ongoing project timeline.”

While this regulatory review was a daunting task with more than 800 documents waiting for approval, success was able to be achieved through the “amazing teamwork” between Chevron and Total, Guillet said. Weekly accurate monitoring of all documents, as well as reviews and updates, helped push the project through.

Currently, engineering on Anchor is complete with only follow-up engineering remaining to support any loose ends, Mitchell said. Installation of all subsea equipment, including trees, is on schedule, with multiple offshore campaigns to install all of the subsea infrastructure, the FPU and export pipelines.

“The facilities are nearly complete with final commissioning underway. We've successfully completed buyback gas and buyback oil, which are key milestones for commissioning our export pipeline and provide pipeline gas and top side and subsea production. We've already drilled two wells and we're completing the first well now,” Mitchell said.

First oil for the Anchor project is expected in mid-2024.