Posts Tagged ‘deepwater drilling’

Based on drilling contractor rig activity reports, the table below lists 19 deepwater MODUs under or soon to begin contracts in the GoM. (Further details are pasted at the end of this post.) Per the Valeris report, platform rigs are operating on bp’s Thunder Horse and Mad Dog platforms. Per the BSEE borehole file, Arena and Cantium continue to drill development wells on the GoM shelf.

Rig NameOperator
Deepwater TitanChevron
Deepwater AtlasBeacon
Deepwater PoseidonShell
Deepwater PontusShell
Deepwater ProteusShell
Deepwater Conquerornot disclosed
Deepwater ThalassaShell
Deepwater AsgardMurphy
Deepwater InvictusWoodside
Globetrotter IShell
Globetrotter IIShell
Faye KozackQuarterNorth
Stanley LafosseMurphy
Valaris DS-18Chevron
Valaris DS-16Oxy
Ocean BlackHornetbp
Ocean Black Lionbp

Excerpts from rig activity reports:

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  • Deepwater (>1000′) activity continues to dominate, accounting for 61% of the well starts.
  • Not a single company drilled both shelf and deepwater wells.
  • While shelf facilities currently account for only about 7% of GoM oil production, 1122 of the 1179 remaining platforms are on the shelf and they account for 24% of GoM gas production, most of which is environmentally favorable nonassociated gas.
  • Two companies, Arena and Cantium, accounted for 75% of the shelf well starts. Excluding the CCS bids, Arena and Cantium were the most active shelf bidders in Sale 279. Arena bid alone on 7 blocks. Cantium was the high bidder on 5 blocks. (Focus Exploration was high bidder on 4 shelf blocks and was “outbid” by Exxon for High Island 177.)
  • One company, Shell, accounted for 39% of the deepwater well starts
  • One of BP’s exploratory wells (drilled subsequent to Sale 257) was in Green Canyon 821, immediately south of GC 777, the block that BP/Talos bid $1.8 million for in Sale 257. That bid was rejected by BOEM. In sale 259, BP was the sole bidder for GC 777, and their bid was only $583,000, less than 1/3 of their Sale 257 bid. Perhaps the GC 821 exploratory well reduced the value of GC 777? Will this lower bid now be accepted?
DW explDW devshelf explshelf dev
Gulf of Mexico well starts during 2022 and the first quarter of 2023

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Lars Herbst analyzed GoM permitting and drilling activity from 2011 to 2021. His data and observations are summarized below.

  • Shelf (shallow water) exploratory drilling is at historic low levels with only a single exploration well drilled in both 2020 and 2021. That trend appears to have continued into 2022, as only one shelf exploration well (drilled by Contango) has been spudded YTD.
  • 2021 also saw a significant drop in deep water development wells.
  • Over the time period examined, deep water development is led by deepwater exploration. The same cannot be said for the development of shallow water leases where prospects are more mature and data are more available.
  • The only shelf well drilled in 2021 (Walter Oil and Gas) was in relatively deeper water (566 feet). That well was drilled with a deepwater semisubmersible (the Valaris 8503). This is the shallowest water depth for a GoM semisubmersible drilling operation in recent history. The rig had a modified DP/moored configuration with explosive disconnects on the mooring lines so the rig could move off location if needed during an emergency disconnect scenario. That mooring disconnect would also let the rig evade hurricanes without the need for anchor handling vessels. 
  • The 2012 spike in deepwater permit approvals is the result of the Macondo drilling moratorium backlog.
GOM OCS New Drilling Well Permits and Well Spuds 2011-2021
YearNew Shallow Water Drilling Well Permits ApprovedShallow Water Expl.; New Well SpudsShallow Water Dev.; New Well SpudsNew Deep Water Drilling; Well Permits ApprovedDeep Water Exp.;
New Well Spuds
Deep Water Dev.;
New Well Spuds
Note: Only includes new wells not sidetrack or bypass boreholes.

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A recent Colin Leach comment (below) merits a separate post.  Keep in mind that formation gas is highly soluble in oil-based fluids. Under bottomhole temperature/pressure conditions, the gas may be completely dissolved in the drilling fluid, complicating kick detection.

Problem: A small amount of gas is in the riser above the BOP.  This gas has been recognized, the BOP has been shut, and the well below the BOP has been killed and circulated.

What to do next? There may be 2000 bbl of mud in the riser.  Overboard?  In any case if this is done, it may get quite exciting when the (small) gas pocket reaches surface.  Do we always send this mud overboard?  Whenever there is a doubt?

The alternative of circulating through a “riser gas handler” (if the rig is equipped with one) is quite safe as long as some back-pressure  (perhaps 200 psi as a minimum) is held on a choke in order to prevent what was termed “explosive unloading” from happening.  Without this back-pressure, the events that follow are disastrous.

Follow-up: It is time to take a step back and re-look at this whole situation.  To do so does require the realistic modeling software….OLGA, Drillbench etc.. Simple gas calculations (P1V1=P2V2…..or even allowing for Z) don’t include the dynamic effects that you will see and simply must not be used.  The gas rates that come from these simple calculations are misleadingly low.

Certainly this is an area where the industry needs some focused effort.



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The tragedy in Japan has added yet more uncertainty to nervous energy markets:
Japan will likely need more imported oil and natural gas due to closures of nuclear reactors caused by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, but volumes can’t be calculated accurately as it is unclear how much industrial output has been affected by the disaster and how long power nuclear and thermal power plants will remain closed. Wall Street Journal
It’s much too early to gauge how the nuclear power industry, which some have touted as a model for safety achievement, will be affected.
    Standards news and discussion:
    Offshore Safety Institute?
    The CEOs of major oil and gascompanies will meet March 18 to decide how to proceed with the formation of a US offshore drilling safety institute, William Reilly, the co-chair of the National Oil Spill Commission, said March 8. Platts Oilgram News
    New twist in Cuban drilling drama – Petrobras relinquishes interest
    Marco Aurelio Garcia, foreign policy adviser to President Dilma Rousseff, told reporters in Havana exploratory work off Cuba’s northern coast had not shown good results and that Brazil wanted to concentrate on its own oil fields.
    Since BP’s disastrous Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico last April, the risks of offshore oil drilling have been a hot topic. One place it isn’t questioned much is Brazil, whose oil production industry is one of the fastest-growing in the world because of vast new deepwater oil reservoirs discovered in the past five years.
    Mexican Deepwater Update (Platts Oilgram News)
    Pemex has just begun to explore in Mexico’s Gulf of Mexico waters deeper than 1,000 feet, but 28 billion undiscovered barrels of oilequivalent are thought to exist in that area, some of which borders US territorial waters. Pemex officials said the company is forging a development plan for its first deepwater field, Lakach, located northeast of the state of Veracruz in about 3,200 feet of water. First production is expected in 2015.
    Environmentalists are furious at a proposal by the petroleum company Shell to start exploration drilling off one of Western Australia’s most treasured reefs. Ningaloo Reef off the north-west coast, has been nominated for World Heritage listing.

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