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Feature Article

Deepwater Operations Show Growth In US Gulf, International Regions
Greater Spending and Progressive Technologies Result In a Slew of New Rigs and Oil Discoveries

By Susanne S. Pagano
Sea Technology contributor
Houston, Texas

Improved oil prices and higher exploration and production expenditures are among the factors pointing to strong deepwater oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico and international regions. Technological advances in engineering, subsea equipment, deepwater solutions and equipment designs are enabling energy companies to exploit oil and gas reserves and prospects in ultradeepwater, while meeting the challenges of an expanding global market.

Deepwater exploration, production and related services are on pace for a busy year. Oil prices close to $100 per barrel make many deepwater and certain shallow-water prospects attractive. Weak natural gas prices in the mid-$2-per-1,000-cubic-feet range have forced some gas-prone prospects to the back burner until commodity prices improve.

As mid-2012 approaches, semisubmersibles working in more than 3,000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico are fixed (upon publication of this magazine) at rates from about $325,000 to $514,000, energy information and intelligence provider IHS Petrodata (Houston, Texas) reported. Daily rates for semisubmersibles off West Africa ranged from about $235,000 to $548,500, while similar rigs in South America were working from $200,000 to $365,000.

Deepwater drillships in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico are commanding daily rates around $492,000, slightly below fees in West Africa but several thousand dollars ahead of rates for similar drillships working in South America.

Premium jack-up rigs in the U.S. gulf are working charters from approximately $105,000 to $120,000 per day, according to IHS Petrodata. Rates for the same-class rig working off Mexico ranged from about $99,450 to $129,500. High specification jack-ups designed for harsh environments and working offshore Norway are securing attractive rates, from $113,000 to $377,000.

The worldwide fleet of offshore mobile drilling units includes about 824 rigs, and global utilization of those vessels is around 80 percent, IHS Petrodata reported. About 113 rigs are based in the Gulf of Mexico, and 69 of those are under contract to oil and gas companies in the first fiscal quarter of 2012.

Upcoming Rig Deliveries and Orders
Approximately 42 new drilling rigs will be delivered in 2012, including units destined for the Gulf of Mexico, West Africa and Brazil. Some rigs carry price tags well above $600 million. To further illustrate the long-term promise of the deepwater oil and gas market, around 165 rigs are planned, on order or under construction at shipyards worldwide.

Sembcorp Marine's (Singapore) new shipyard, Estaleiro Jurong Aracruz in Espirito Santo, Brazil, secured an estimated $792.5 million contract from Guarapari Drilling BV, Netherlands, a subsidiary of Sete Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), to design and construct a next-generation drillship. The proprietary Jurong Espadon is slated for delivery by mid-2015, Sembcorp said, and will be among a series of drillships built in Brazil for oil and gas discoveries that have recently been found in pre-salt fields.

To access any of Sea Technology's feature articles in their entirety
prior to our August 2012 issue, please contact us directly at
seatechads@sea-technology.com or +703 524 3136.

Susanne Pagano, a frequent contributor to the magazine, has more than 25 years of experience covering the oil and gas industry and was editor of a weekly international energy newsletter.

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