Deepwater drilling set for growth, analyst claims

More than 170 ultra-deepwater rigs were active in January according to analyst Douglas-Westwood, only slightly down on the corresponding total for early 2014.

BeckmanJeremy Beckman • London

More than 170 ultra-deepwater rigs were active in January according to analyst Douglas-Westwood, only slightly down on the corresponding total for early 2014. Average day rates rose by more than $15,000 to $485,465, mainly as a result of contracts signed before the oil price dip. Many more wells could be drilled this year if the price recovers to $50-$70/bbl, the analyst adds, with the number of deepwater wells potentially rising by 32% by 2020.

North Atlantic

Statoil handed back four of its exploration licenses offshore Greenland although it has retained block 6, which has a longer deadline for drilling. The company based its decision on analysis of production potential and the costs of operating in the area.


Petrobras says it has saved around $1 billion since the start of its Well Cost Reduction Program (PRC-Poco) in 2013. This takes in various initiatives including use of simpler, lower-cost vessels to replace drilling rigs for certain activities; simplifying designs for multiple sets of wells; and raising the efficiency and availability of the company's fleet of floating rigs for constructing and maintaining wells.

Consultant Petrodata reports that Petrobras also now operates more floating production platforms than any competitor worldwide. In December it operated 110 facilities off Brazil, including 45 floating platforms, 15 semisubmersibles, and one non-storage production vessel, the P-53. Collectively these platforms produced on average 2 MMb/d of oil and 51 MMcm/d of gas.

The semisubOlinda Star has been operating in the Santos basin offshore Brazil. (Photo courtesy Karoon Gas)

The semisubmersibleOlinda Star was due to side track the recently drilled Kangaroo-2 appraisal well in block S-M-1165 in the Santos basin. According to operator Karoon Gas, drilling confirmed a 250-m (820-ft) gross oil column in Paleocene and Maastrichtian reservoirs, with tests suggesting a vertical production well could deliver up to 8,000 b/d. Karoon planned two side tracks targeting the same reservoirs at downdip and updip locations along with potential hydrocarbons in the Campanian. The results will assist assessment of the Kangaroo field's commerciality.

West Africa

Repsol has completed an exploratory well 60 km (37 mi) from Lanzarote and Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. The drillship Rowan Renaissance drilled the well over a two-month period in 882 m (2,893 ft) of water, to a TD of 3,093 m (10,147 ft). Samples contained gas, but the quality and volume was sub-commercial and within thin, non-exploitable layers. The company said it planned no further activity in the area.


Petroleum Consultant ERC Equipoise has upgraded prospective resources in African Petroleum's (AP) four licenses offshore Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire. The latest audit took into account eight newly identified Turonian and Cenomanian prospects and information from other nearby drilling campaigns in 2014, notably Total's CI-514 oil discovery last April. ERC has increased by 33% the resource potential at AP's Liberian LB-08 and LB-09 concessions to 5.854 Bbbl (unrisked and risked). At Côte d'Ivoire licenses CI-513 and CI-509, the resource has risen 118% to 2.586 Bbbl.


Eni and partners Vitol and GNPC have signed an agreement to deliver the Offshore Cape Three Points project in Ghana. This will be a deepwater development, 60 km (37 mi) from the coast, with peak production of 80,000 boe/d. First oil is slated for 2017, followed by first gas one year later. Two Yinson subsidiaries will supply and operate an FPSO for a firm period of 15 years, under a contract valued at up to $2.54 billion.


Lekoil has opted to develop the Otakipo field offshore Nigeria in two phases following a revision of the proved and possible resources by AGR TRACS International. Phase 1, targeting a potential 23 MMbbl, will involve recompletions of two wells and installation of a 6,000-b/d capacity early production system. The program could get under way by mid-year. Phase 2 calls for incremental development of the rest of the field via a central processing facility and seven wells. The field is in the eastern Niger Delta region.


Angola's government has extended the exploration period for deepwater block 15/06 where Eni recently started production from the West Hub complex. The East Hub, currently under development, is expected to come onstream in 2017. Eni requested more time for a three-year program that includes three exploration wells and 1,000 sq km (386 sq mi) of new 3D seismic. The extension also applies to an area adjacent to the block that contains the 100-MMbbl Reco-Reco oil discovery.

Black Sea/Caspian Sea

Gazprom was due to call for tenders for front-end engineering and design (FEED) for a new gas pipeline across the Black Sea to Turkey. The company said 660 km (410 mi) of the route, which will have four pipeline strings, will be within the corridor of the shelved South Stream project.

Currently the goal is to land first gas in Turkey in December 2016, with the first string's 15.75-bcm capacity reserved exclusively for Turkish customers.


Wood Mackenzie expects Caspian Sea operators to favor low-cost exploration this year, although there will be some higher-impact activity. One instance is the newly signed shallow-water Absheron contract area in the Azeri sector where BP and SOCAR are due to acquire 2D seismic.

The analyst also foresees gas production from BP's Shah Deniz field off Azerbaijan climbing to 1,040 MMcf/d following debottlenecking of the onshore Sangachal plant, while replacement of the leaking pipeline serving the Kashagan field should get under way in the Kazakh offshore sector.

In the Iranian part of the Caspian Sea, North Drilling Co. has spudded a second appraisal well on the 2-Bbbl Sardar-e- Jangal discovery. Wells drilled to date could reportedly deliver 2-5,000 b/d.

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