Upgrades prepare fleet for deep drilling in deepwater

A number of the newbuilds listed in the planning stage in last year's survey have been completed and left the shipyards.

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Judy Maksoud
International Editor

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Rowan's Gorilla V jackup offshore Eastern Canada.
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A number of the newbuilds listed in the planning stage in last year's survey have been completed and left the shipyards. Today, the building and upgrading trend continues, but now with fewer newbuilds on the books. The bulk of capital spending is going into modifications.

Recent royalty relief effected by the US Minerals Management Service combined with promising new seismic data are leading operators to explore much deeper in the shallow shelf areas of the Gulf of Mexico. A significant portion of the upgrades in this year's mobile offshore drilling unit survey reflect drilling contractors' investment in anticipating the operators' move toward deep gas exploration.

Mergers and upgrades

The drilling industry has seen consolidation since last July's survey, when Pride International had just finalized its merger with Marine Drilling. Santa Fe International and Global Marine merged in November 2001, becoming one of the three largest drilling companies in the world, in company with Transocean and the newly expanded Pride.

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The drillship, Noble Leo Segerius, being upgraded to 2,000-m water depth.
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This year brought another merger, Ensco International's purchase of Chiles Offshore Inc., which should be complete by early August. The new entity will have 58 offshore units in its fleet. And there is a great likelihood that Ensco will not stop expanding with the purchase of Chiles Offshore.

The mergers the industry has seen over the past year or so continue a trend that began in earnest in the 1990s. And there is no reason to think the industry has seen the end of it.

Deep water, deep gas

Last year's survey listed nine rigs being built or upgraded by Global Marine and Santa Fe International. This year, the combined company lists 15 rigs under construction or being modified. GlobalSantaFe is "attempting to optimize the operating capabilities of existing rigs in order to deliver premium assets into the marketplace," according to Jon Marshall, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

One goal of the optimization program is greater drilling depth capability, of particular interest in the Gulf of Mexico, where deep gas has become a primary target.

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The semisubmers-ible Transocean Winner drilling in the North Sea.
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"Drilling in deeper horizons is the next phase of evolution within the industry, so we're trying to position our rigs to be capable of drilling at those depths," Marshall said.

Ensco is heading in the same direction with its aggressive upgrade program. The Chiles Discovery, delivered by Keppel FELS in Singapore in March, and the Chiles Galileo, due in September, are specially designed ultra-premium jackups capable of deep drilling.

"The Chiles rigs were designed principally for deep gas areas around the world - the GoM, South America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia. That represents a big part of the value Ensco wanted to capture (with the merger)," said Bill Chiles, president and chief executive officer of Chiles Offshore.

Rowan Cos. also will be in the running for shallow water, deep gas drilling with the newbuild Scooter Yeargain, one of the highest-specification shallow-water jackups to enter the market.

2002 survey data

This year's survey lists 100 mobile offshore drill-ing units. An abbreviation appears in the first column following the name of the rig to indicate the vessel type: jackup (ju), semisubmersible (ss), drillship (ds), submersible (sub).

Of the 100 vessels listed, there are 61 jackups, 32 semisubmer-sibles, six drillships, and one submersible. The construction status of each rig is listed in a column that indicates that it has been recently completed, is under construction, or was planned during this calendar year.

Twenty-eight of the units surveyed are newbuilds: 15 semisubmersibles, 12 jackups, and one drillship. The remaining 72 units surveyed are being converted or upgraded. Of those, 45 are jackups, 20 are semisubmersibles, six are drillships, and one is a submersible.

Twenty-five of the rigs listed were completed in the course of 2001. Fifteen are semisubmersibles, eight are jackups, one is a submersible, and one is drillship. Of the remaining 75 rigs listed in the survey, 50 list delivery dates. Thirty units are slated for completion in 2002, 17 in 2003, and three in 2004. There was no completion date provided for the other 25 units.

Each listing includes the owner of the vessel, the vessel's name if one has been assigned, the type of vessel, whether it is a newbuild or under construction (planned, underway, or recently completed), new capabilities or upgraded features if provided, the proposed completion date, and the construction yard, if that information was supplied.

The information presented in this survey appears as it was submitted by the participating companies, with the exception of some rigs undergoing modification, for which information was taken from www.rigzone.com.

Click here to view the 2002 Worldwide MODU Construction/upgrade Survey

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