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It's looking like the world of deepwater drilling is coalescing into what's being called the "Golden Triangle." Consisting of Brazil's Santos Basin, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and West Africa, the three areas have resulted in a bevy of discoveries of late, and their potential is growing by leaps and bounds.
The most recent oil and gas discovery was made by Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC ) and its partners -- including the U.K.'s Tullow Oil, Repsol (NYSE: REP ) , and Australia's Woodside Ltd. Called Venus B, it was drilled off the coast of Sierra Leone in West Africa in about 5,900 feet of water to a total depth of 18,500 feet. And while the companies are not yet ready to estimate its total reserve value, its 45 feet of pay -- the apparent thickness of its trapped hydrocarbons -- is somewhat less than impressive.
The positive aspect of the well involves its possible inclusion at the western end of a single major petroleum structure that is set off about 700 miles to the east by Anadarko's Jubilee field, which was discovered offshore Ghana in 2007. Jubilee is believed to contain about 1.8 billion barrels of crude oil. Anadarko is preparing to drill another well off the Ivory Coast, an effort that could confirm the existence of the major deepwater structure between Ghana and Sierra Leone.
The Anadarko discovery comes essentially on the heels of another major deepwater discovery by Brazil's state-controlled Petrobras (NYSE: PBR ) and a pair of partners in Brazil's Santos Basin. That well, Abare Oeste, which was started over a mile deep, came only a week after another big Brazilian discovery called Guara.
And as my Foolish colleague Toby Shute told you earlier this month, BP (NYSE: BP ) , along with minority partners ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP ) and Petrobras, announced that it had latched onto a "giant" new discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. That well, called Tiber, could contain more than 3 billion barrels of oil. It resulted from Transocean (NYSE: RIG ) having drilled the world's deepest well.
So the deepwater is clearly where it's happening. For that very reason, oilfield service companies Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB ) and Halliburton are putting a sizable portion of their attention into contending with the deeper areas. My feeling, however, continues to be that the optimum way to play the deepwater is through Petrobras. Rarely, it seems, does that company wet a drill bit and end up dry.