But before the explosion that killed 11 workers, BP had considered the field viable because there were nearby oil fields. “In an infrastructure sense it is easier to develop a small find if it’s tied to another facility rather than if it’s away from other discoveries," says Mr. Odone. "As far as I know that was the case with this.”
BP, however, might also decide not to expend any more money on the prospect other than ongoing efforts to seal the well and drill relief wells.
Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, estimated the Macondo well contained about 50 million to 100 million barrels of oil in an interview with the Houston Chronicle on May 6. This would make it a relatively modest discovery. By contrast, BP announced on Sept. 2, 2009, what it termed a “giant” discovery from its Tiber prospect in the Gulf. Energy analysts say the term is usually associated with oil fields of at least 250 million barrels.
Oil companies usually can only extract about 30 percent of the oil in a field, says Mr. Dismukes. He cautions that the BP estimate of as many as 100 million barrels in the Macondo prospect is based on limited information. Normally, oil companies drill several wells before they can determine the size of an oil field.