New vessels, rigs & upgrades

Schlumberger has launched the largest and most advanced stimulation vessel operating in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Gulf of Mexico's largest stimulation vessel

Schlumberger has launched the largest and most advanced stimulation vessel operating in the Gulf of Mexico. The DeepStim new-generation vessel measures 260 ft by 56 ft, which allows the vessel to operate in severe weather and remain at sea for long periods. The vessel incorporates a new-generation dynamic positioning system, which uses computer-aided thrusters built into the ship's hull and both satellite global positioning and sonar to retain position.

The service package on the vessel, which includes all pumping, mixing, and blending equipment, is located in an enclosed North Sea-style deck to eliminate exposure to weather. The vessel also features the latest in anti-roll systems, environmental waste containment, data acquisition and transmission, and fluid engineering technologies.

Delivery rates for the vessel are at rates of 50 bbl/min at 12,700 hp. Delivery power can be increased to 19,500 hp within 48 hours. Also, the vessel offers a process-controlled, continuous-mix fluid system allowing for mixing on-the-fly of both acid and fracturing fluids using fresh water or seawater.

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Schlumberger's DeepSTIM becomes the largest stimulation vessel in the Gulf of Mexico.
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Further, the vessel is equipped with a high-speed satellite communications package that allows wellsite information to be transferred in real time to multiple client locations. With the addition of the DeepSTIM, Schlumberger now owns the largest fleet of stimulation vessels in the Gulf of Mexico, joining the BigOrange 29, BigOrange 30, and Galaxie vessels.

Marine Drilling acquires jackup

Conditions might be improving up for the jackup market in the Gulf of Mexico. Marine Drilling has made the first rig purchase in quite some time and is mobilizing two jackups to the region. The company has entered into an agreement to purchase the Baruna V jackup rig for $13.5 million.

The rig is a Bethlehem mat cantilever with an operating depth of 200 ft water depths built in 1980 and was operating in Southeast Asia. The rig is similar to several of the company's rigs in its jackup fleet. The company took delivery of the Baruna V late last month and is mobilizing it and a similar rig, the Marine 201, working in the United Arab Emirates, to the Gulf of Mexico. This move provides hope that conditions might be improving in the overall rig market in the Gulf of Mexico.

Three new deepwater rigs go to work

Three new deepwater drilling rigs have entered service in recent months. Under the "better late than never" category, the long awaited Transocean Sedco Forex Discoverer Enterprise ultra-deepwater drillship began its initial five-year contract with BP Amoco. The Discoverer Enterprise is the first of a new class of drillships featuring the company's proprietary dual-activity drilling system. The dual activity system allows the rig to conduct simultaneous drilling operations using two drilling locations within a single derrick. The rig was tested late last year in 6,100 ft water depths at BP Amoco's Neptune Field in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig is now drilling an appraisal well at BP Amoco's highly-prospective Crazy Horse Field in the Gulf of Mexico. The contract is valued at over $360 million.

Also included in that category, the Borgland Doplphin semisubmersible began its initial six-year contract with Statoil. The rig is working on the Statfjord Field in the North Sea at a rate of $160,000/day. Fred. Olsen, owner of the rig, said that any disagreements regarding delayed commencement and higher completion costs under the initial contract with Statoil will be dealt with between the parties and separately from the operation of the rig.

On a better note, Noble Drilling completed its fifth EVA-4000 conversion, the Noble Max Smith, in just fourteen months, eight months faster than the first project of this type - the Noble Paul Romano. The Noble Max Smith was converted from a submersible to a semisubmersible and is capable of drilling fully-moored in water depths up to 6,000 ft.

In addition to being delivered within the scheduled time frame, Noble has said that the estimated conversion cost is anticipated to be about 4% below the construction budget. This is outstanding considering that almost of the deepwater rig construction projects have exceeded budget, some by exorbitant amounts. The rig has completed final commissioning and has commenced drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico for Amerada Hess.

However, things are not all rosy for Noble. The company has one EVA-4000 conversion left in the works, the Noble Homer Ferrington, and it is the cause of some trouble. In February 1998 Noble signed letter agreements with Mariner Energy and Samedan Oil, which require the two companies to sign a five-year drilling contract and a related rig-sharing agreement.

In March of 1999 Mariner said that its letter of agreement had expired, but it still intended to work toward a mutually acceptable outcome. Samedan, however, has questioned the extent of its obligations under the agreement and expressed concerns about the rig's design criteria. Noble contends the operators have a binding contract to use the rig and that the rig meets the originally agreed-upon design criteria. The company has since filed suit against the operators for breach of contract to enforce its rights.

The company said that if it is not able to resolve this matter promptly, it could experience delay in finding alternate customers or have to contract the rig at a lower day rate. Noble is continuing its discussions with Mariner and said it is hopeful that such a mutually acceptable outcome will be reached in the near future. All previous EVA conversion projects have been viewed as highly successful, and one, the Noble Paul Wolff, has set several drilling records.

Triton in search of a floating producer

Following approval of the development plan for the Ceiba Field offshore Equatorial Guinea by that government, Triton Energy is now in the market for a floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessel. The company said it will require a vessel with a storage capacity of two million bbl of oil and an initial processing capacity of up to 60,000 b/d. The company added it will likely expand the processing capacity to accommodate up to 240,000 b/d of oil. Triton plans to award the contract for the FPSO in the near-term, in order to achieve first oil by year-end.

Seismic vessel fit for the Caspian

Caspian Geophysical, a joint venture between Schlumberger and Socar, the state oil company of Azerbaijan, has re-fit the M/V Gilavar seismic acquisition vessel for work in the Caspian Sea. The vessel was previously known as the Geco Gamma, and operated solely by Schlumberger. The re-fit entailed adding the Schlumberger Monowing technology, which enables wide streamer separation for efficient 3D acquisition.

However, in order to get the vessel to the Caspian Sea via the narrow, shallow, and low-bridge Volga-Don canal, the vessel had to be modified in Istanbul, Turkey. For the transit, sponsons were attached to raise the vessel and reduce draft. All deck equipment was removed. The vessel was re-fitted in Baku and renamed the Galivar. The Galivar now joins Caspian Geophysical's existing vessel, Baki, in providing 2D and 3D seismic surveys in the deepwater Caspian Sea.

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