(EnergyAsia, June 15 2011, Wednesday) — ExxonMobil said it recently made “one of the largest oil discoveries” of the last decade in its first drilling in the Gulf of Mexico since the US government lifted a deepwater exploration ban last October.

Steve Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company, said:

“We estimate a recoverable resource of more than 700 million barrels of oil equivalent combined in our Keathley Canyon blocks. This is one of the largest discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico in the last decade. More than 85% of the resource is oil with additional upside potential.

“We plan to work with our joint venture partners and other lessees in the area to determine the best way to safely develop these resources as rapidly as possible.”

While large by recent standards, the reserves of 700 million barrels will meet less than eight days of current global oil demand of around 88 million b/d.

Keathley Canyon, located about 400km south-west of New Orleans, Louisiana, was drilled to a depth of 2,100 metres, yielding two major oil discoveries and one gas find.

Mindful of last year’s tragic Gulf of Mexico oil leak disaster, Mr Greenlee added:

“As one of the largest lease holders in the Gulf of Mexico with interests in over 370 leases, we are committed to the continued safe exploration and development of this important national resource.”

In April 2010, a BP-chartered oil rig exploded and sank to the bottom of the Gulf, killing 11 workers. The rig ruptured the exploratory Macondo well, releasing more than 4.9 million barrels of crude oil and an unknown amount of methane gas into the ocean.

The US government briefly banned deepwater drilling in the Gulf and introduced tougher regulations and inspection measures on offshore oil activities after lifting the drilling moratorium on October 12.