Rigs under construction show significant increase

The number of jackups, semisubmersibles, drillships, and tender-assisted units under construction grew by nearly 12% over the number of rigs under construction a year earlier.

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Jerry Greenberg
Special Correspondent

The number of jackups, semisubmersibles, drillships, and tender-assisted units under construction grew by nearly 12% over the number of rigs under construction a year earlier. Shipyards around the world saw order books grow by a net of 15 rigs in 2012 compared with 2011. In June 2012, 143 rigs were under construction in shipyards around the world compared with 127 rigs under construction in June 2011.

The 2011 figures included seven drillships reportedly ordered by Sete Brasil to be built in Brazil for contracts with Petrobras. Those rigs are not included in the 2012 list. Earlier this year, Sete reported an agreement with Petrobras to build as many as 26 drillships and semisubmersibles, with other contractors ordering as many as 6-7 additional drillships and semisubmersibles. However, reliable source note that these are not firm rig orders but rather letters of intent at best and some are reported to still be in negotiations. As a result, these rigs are not included in the 2012 figures.

New rig orders

It sometimes seems that several new rig orders are announced every month, particularly for huge, state-of-the-art drillships that can drill 35,000 or 40,000 ft wells in 12,000 ft of water. To be sure, many recent rig orders fit these specifications. However, a closer look at the rigs under construction this year compared with 2011 shows a slightly different scenario.

Most of the industry news lately seems to be about deepwater exploration and development programs, making it appear there is no offshore exploration except in ultra-deepwater. Numerous drilling contractors have been transitioning for years into deepwater rig providers. However, the number of semisubmersibles and drillships currently under construction is 20% less than the amount under construction a year ago. The 2011 survey of rigs under construction included 18 semisubmersibles and 47 drillships compared with 16 semisubmersibles and 36 drillships in 2012.

This is partly a result of drillships ordered in 2008, 2009, and 2010 delivered last year and during the first half of 2012. There have been a good number of new drillship orders, essentially all for units rated to drill in 10,000 ft or 12,000 ft of water.

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Noble Corp. ordered four JU3000N jackups at Jurong Shipyard in Singapore for delivery beginning in the fourth quarter 2012 through first quarter 2014.The JU3000N is an enhanced iteration of Friede & Goldman's JU 2000E.

Virtually all of the drillships presently under construction are rated for 10,000 or 12,000 ft. For example, all four of the drillships under construction for Diamond Offshore are designed for 12,000 ft of water. Atwood Oceanics' drillship and semisubmersible, currently under construction, are rated for 10,000-ft water depths. Maersk Drilling also has four drillships rated for 12,000-ft water depths. Noble Drilling's five drillships under construction are rated for either 10,000 or 12,000-ft water depths. Seadrill has eight drillships and semisubmersibles rated for those water depths.

Smaller drilling contractors also are joining the ranks of ultra-deepwater drillers. Vantage Drilling, for example, already has two drillships rated for 10,000 and 12,000 ft of water with two more currently under construction. Rowan Drilling, historically a jackup rig operator, also has three 12,000-ft water depth rated drillships under construction. Pacific Drilling grew quickly into an ultra-deepwater rig operator, with four drillships presently in its fleet, including three delivered in 2011, all rated for drilling in up to 10,000 ft of water. The company also has three more drillships under construction rated for 12,000 ft of water.

Certainly not all floating rigs are rated for extremely deepwater. Songa Offshore is building four semisubmersibles that will be equipped to drill in up to 1,640 ft (500 m) of water although they are designed to operate in about 5,000 ft of water. These are special purpose units with long-term contracts to Statoil for North Sea activity.

Increase in jackups

There are 25 more jackups under construction in 2012 than a year ago: 82 compared with 57 in 2011. That translates into a nearly 44% increase. Maersk Drilling is building three MSC Gusto CJ 70 units rated for 492 ft of water. It may not be too long before a drilling contractor orders one of MSC Gusto's CJ80 designs rated to drill in nearly 600 ft in North Sea conditions. (Bethlehem in the '80s had a concept for a jackup that could operate in 600 ft waters.)

As noted, most of the jackups under construction are rated for 300-400 ft water depth. Among those are four for Prospector Offshore for 400 ft, Noble is building seven 400-ft jackups, and Standard Drilling is building seven 400-ft units. The only company building shallow-water jackups is National Drilling (Abu Dhabi), which is building four jackups rated for 200 ft of water, which will cover most of the Middle East offshore regions.

Shipyard recipients

As expected, shipyards in South Korea and Singapore remained the most active in terms of rigs under construction. The 49 rigs being built in Singapore shipyards this year compares with 46 rigs under construction there in 2011. The 33 rigs under construction at Keppel FELS account for about two-thirds of the rigs under construction in Singapore. Jurong Shipyard Pte is building 12 of the rigs under construction in Singapore. PPL is building the remaining rigs there.

South Korean yards are building 44 rigs compared with 37 at this time last year. Samsung Heavy Industries is building 18 rigs while Hyundai Heavy Industries is building 14 rigs. Daewoo is building 11 rigs. In China, Dalian is building seven rigs while COSCO is constructing 11 units. Other yards building rigs in China include CMIC Raffles, China Merchants Heavy Industry, and China Petroleum Liaohe Equipment Co. (CPLEC).

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