The first barrels of crude oil started flowing from Hibernia South last weekend - meeting ExxonMobil Canada's forecast of first oil by mid-year issued several months ago.
The offshore regulator estimates the southern part of the Grand Banks field contains 260 million barrels of oil. Among the partners, this portion of the oilfield is known as the Hibernia Southern Extension unit, HSE for short, and is a $1.74-billion development.
"We drilled the first HSE production well and we actually started flowing oil from that well on Saturday," said Meg O'Neill, president of ExxonMobil Canada.
ExxonMobil is the operator of HSE, whose eight partners also include Nalcor Energy. The original Hibernia oilfield is operated by the Hibernia Management and Development Co. in which ExxonMobil is one of seven partners.
Nalcor is not a member of that consortium.
Hibernia Southern Extension
The HSE well is the first of four oil-producing wells that will be drilled from the Hibernia platform into the southern part of the field.
"They can produce right away. One of the things we're doing by producing them now is we're able to learn more about the formations," O'Neill said.
"So, that'll help us optimize how many water-injectors and where we place those water injectors."
Up to five water-injector wells will be drilled using a floating drill rig starting in 2013.
Water-injection is used to help flow oil from the production wells.
Hibernia production up
O'Neill said Hibernia production averaged 175,000 barrels per day last month.
"That's 30 per cent higher than the May average in 2008."
Average production in May 2008 was about 135,000 barrels per day.
O'Neill attributed the increase to an extended well dubbed OPA2 and production from the AA block.
"It's the longest well in Canada at more than 10,000 metres," O'Neill said.
That extended-reach well was drilled into the AA Block, which pumped first oil in November 2010.
This block lies in the southern part of the field, but isn't contained in HSE.
O'Neill said drilling extended-reach wells for HSE won't be "nearly as challenging" as OPA2.
The HSE wells also won't reach the same distance as OPA2.
"That's by far the most challenging well that we've drilled off the platform," she said.
"The team just did an excellent job of putting the wellbore in the right place, avoiding some of the formations that have caused us challenges in the past and they executed really well."
During the first five months of this year, Hibernia has pumped just over 24.1 million barrels of oil.
Last year, the oilfield produced more than 56.3 million barrels of crude - surpassing the 45.9 million barrels pumped in 2009.
In 2008, the oilfield produced 49.2 million barrels of crude.