Drilling contractor pursues deeper ambitions following merger

One year after its merger with Houston-based Noble Drilling, Dutch rig contractor Neddrill has been renamed Noble Drilling (Nederland). In line with a tradition at Noble, the offshore fleet is also being renamed, after long-serving Neddrill employees. So the Neddrill 3 is now called Noble Ronald Hoope, after the Netherlands division marketing director. Neddrill 1 becomes the Noble Leo Segerius; Neddrill 6 is now the Noble Ton van Langeveld; Neddrill 7 is renamed the Noble Piet van Ede; and the

One year after its merger with Houston-based Noble Drilling, Dutch rig contractor Neddrill has been renamed Noble Drilling (Nederland).

In line with a tradition at Noble, the offshore fleet is also being renamed, after long-serving Neddrill employees. So the Neddrill 3 is now called Noble Ronald Hoope, after the Netherlands division marketing director. Neddrill 1 becomes the Noble Leo Segerius; Neddrill 6 is now the Noble Ton van Langeveld; Neddrill 7 is renamed the Noble Piet van Ede; and the Neddrill Trigon becomes the Noble Al White.

The former Neddrill's strategy will remain the same, however, stresses Ronald Hoope. "We will continue to focus on high quality equipment which we will deploy in deep water and harsh environments. We also wish to offer a good product and an excellent safety report. In this business, no safety means no business."

Noble is exiting the "lower" side of the market and re-deploying its finances into "upper" market sectors such as ultra-deepwater operations in the North Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, and West Africa. To this end, Noble introduced last year the Economic Value Advantage (EVA)-4000 design. This involves refurbishing relatively new semisubmersibles used for shallow water drilling over the past decade.

They will be upgraded into fifth generation deepwater drilling units. The first of these triangular-shaped platforms, the Noble Paul Romano, was contracted recently for drilling operations in 2,000 meters water depth in the Gulf of Mexico. It will be delivered in the first quarter of 1998.

A second unit, the Noble Amos Runner, has also been under contract for operations in no less than 2,700 meters water depth offshore Brazil. Three more rigs of this type will be converted as soon as contracts have been won. Work is being done at a Texas drydock.

Hoope outlines the conversion process. "We enlarge the spudcans, connect them on the base and add a column to the unit to increase water displacement. The rigs are stripped entirely and all equipment is replaced with what is needed to turn it into a fifth generation unit.

"The cantilevered derrick is placed at the gravity point. We are investing millions of dollars, but per rig it was still considerably cheaper than the $200 million one would pay for building a new rig of this type."

All of Noble's drilling contracts are long-term agreements for deepwater projects lasting at least five years. Hoope is now occupied primarily with finding big new opportunities in the market, leading to contracts valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.

Another new market opening up for Noble is consultancy services in the Caspian Sea. Last month the company set up a new office in Baku. Area manager Dan Taylor is charged with offering technology, know-how, and integrated solutions from Noble Engineering and Development to the local industry. But Noble will not market its hardware in the Caspian. "There is enough equipment in place," says Hoope.

Noble in its Neddrill guise leased two rigs from the Russian market, the Muravlenko and the Kolskaya, but no more suitable rigs are available currently. The latest acquisition from this sector was the hull of the Shelf 4, a Russian Pacesetter-design semi.

This unit has been stacked in the UK, awaiting refurbishment for a deepwater drilling contract in Northwest Europe, hopefully in the Voering Basin. The Shelf 4 will be converted to a 5th generation rig equipped with dynamic positioning and capable of drilling in 2,500 meters water depth.

Copyright 1997 Oil & Gas Journal. All Rights Reserved.

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