Royal Dutch Shell has launched its first floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel in the Gulf of Mexico. The facility will operate in 9,500 feet of water, making it the deepest of its kind in the world.

The FPSO vessel -- named Turritella after a genus of sea snails with a long conical, spiraled shell -- is part of the company's multibillion-dollar Stones development about 200 miles southwest of New Orleans in the ultradeepwater Gulf of Mexico. The facility is expected to start operations in early 2016.

Shell announced final investment decision for Stones in May 2013. This set in motion the construction and fabrication of the host FPSO vessel and subsea infrastructure. Initially it will consist of two subsea production wells tied back to the FPSO vessel and host facility. Six more wells and multiphase pumping will be added in a second phase.

The Stones field is estimated to contain over two billion bbls. Shell plans to boost productivity and recovery in phases

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