New technology may revolutionize deepwater drilling

From 2008 to 2012, the number of active deepwater rigs rated for 4,000-ft (1,219-m)water depth and greater has increased by 56%, according to the latest edition of Offshore's Worldwide Survey of Deepwater Drilling Rigs, available in this issue.

David Paganie • Houston

From 2008 to 2012, the number of active deepwater rigs rated for 4,000-ft (1,219-m)water depth and greater has increased by 56%, according to the latest edition ofOffshore's Worldwide Survey of Deepwater Drilling Rigs, available in this issue.

The results of the survey illustrate the market's increasing demand for incremental units, but also for rigs that come equipped with enhanced safety systems and advanced drilling technology. Newbuild drillshipPacific Santa Ana, for example, has arrived in the US Gulf of Mexico for Chevron with capacity to perform dual gradient drilling – a technique that proponents think may revolutionize deepwater drilling. Meanwhile, an alternative approach – continuous annular pressure management – is being independently pursued by Transocean. The technology is deployed on its drillship Deepwater Enterprise.

Special correspondent Dick Ghiselin, with help from Chevron's Ken Smith and Transocean's John Kozicz, examines the evolution of dual-gradient drilling, the pros and cons of the competing techniques, and the companies' plans to employ the technology. Ghiselin's feature article begins on page 61.

Backlogs post modest gains

The pace of orders for newbuild drilling rigs has slowed considerably since the influx began in Aug. 2010. A net of 16 rigs has been added to order books since this time last year, according toOffshore's annual Worldwide MODU Construction survey (page 44). Compare this to the first six months of last year – 62 new orders were placed for a total estimated capex of $24.7 billion (Offshore, July 2011). Special correspondent Jerry Greenberg brings you up to date on the latest trends in rig construction, beginning on page 42. The accompanying survey includes data from IHS (Petrodata RigBase).

Exclusive series inside

Beginning in this issue, we are delighted to bring you a special five-part series that examines the offshore drilling industry and rig construction markets, and investigates targeted issues relevant to the Gulf of Mexico. This series of articles, which will run in consecutive months, is part of a larger report funded by the US Department of the Interior.

The first installment, beginning onpage 49, by Mark Kaiser and Brian Snyder, Center for Energy Studies, Louisiana State University, describes the primary factors that impact rig construction costs and the empirical relationships that help us to better understand the dynamics.

Latin America trends

Latin America, with spending of nearly $230 billion, is expected to be second largest offshore region after Asia/Pacific in terms of upstream capex during the period 2012-2016, according to a recent study by IHS.

This is led by E&P offshore Brazil, with a growing share of spending going to presalt field development. In other parts of Latin America – Mexico, for example – regulatory reform is needed to spur investment. In this issue's regional report, the editors highlight the key trends and projects in Latin America's major offshore producing basins. The analysis begins onpage 32 with a comprehensive look at Brazil, by Eldon Ball, senior technology editor.

To respond to articles in Offshore, or to offer articles for publication, contact the editor by email (davidp@pennwell.com).

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