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This week, Seadrill completed the acquisition of Aquadrill, Eldorado Drilling bought the Pacific Zonda drillship, and Northern Ocean's Deepsea Mira mobilised from Norway to Africa.

In case you missed it, you can access our previous Rig Market Roundup here.

Drilling Activity and Discoveries

The Odfjell Drilling-managed 3,900-ft semisubmersible Deepsea Yantai is set to spud an HPHT well in the North Sea off Norway for Wellesley Petroleum. According to the latest AIS data, the rig is moving towards the Carmen well (35/10-10 S) location in the North Sea to start its work for Wellesley, which was announced in April 2022. The 35/10-10 S well is located in PL1148 and it is operated by Wellesley with DNO Norge, Aker BP, and Equinor as partners. Carmen will be Wellesley’s first operated HPHT well and is located in the prolific Brent fairway in the FANTA area that has delivered four commercial discoveries in the last several years. The company secured the safety consent to use the Deepsea Yantai for this well as well as the drilling permit in February 2023. The water depth at the site is 360 meters. The semisub has recently drilled the Eirik exploration well, also located in the North Sea, for OMV. This year the rig also has work lined up with Neptune Energy and DNO. In late 2023, the rig has a P&A contract with Shell which will run into 2Q 2024 after which it will drill the Tomcat well for PGNiG, with an option to drill two further wells.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) has granted Equinor a drilling permit for a wildcat well and an appraisal well in the North Sea offshore Norway. The wildcat well 31/2-24 and appraisal well 31/2-24 A are targeting the Litago prospect located in production licence 923 operated by Equinor with DNO Norge, Petoro, and Wellesley Petroleum as partners. Equinor has already secured consent from the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) to drill the wells using the 10,000-ft Deepsea Stavanger semisubmersible. The first well is planned for May entry and the second one is for June 2023. The water depth at the site is 333 metres. The rig is under contract with Equinor almost throughout the year with continued optionality, which could see it continue working for the state-owned operator until the end of 2024 after which it is expected to work for Aker BP under the five-year drilling alliance agreement with Odfjell Drilling.

BW Energy has completed drilling and completion operations on DHIBM-3H, the first production well of the Hibiscus / Ruche Phase 1 development campaign at the Dussafu licence offshore Gabon. The well was drilled with Borr Drilling 400-ft jackup Norve, which began drilling operations at the well in January 2023. Drilling operations began with batch setting of conductors and surface casing on three Hibiscus wells. In addition, a further three conductors have been batch set on slots planned for Ruche / Hibiscus fields. Norve is contracted to BW Energy until August 2023 with the option to extend. First oil from the well is expected early this April, with oil produced at Hibiscus / Ruche to be processed on the BW Adolo FPSO along with production from the Tortue field.

Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) has given DNO Norway consent for exploration drilling in block 25/7 in the North Sea, using the Deepsea Yantai semisubmersible rig. The HPHT well 25/7-11 S is targeting the Norma prospect, located in production licence 984, which is operated by DNO with Vår Energi, Source Energy, and Equinor acting as partners. The water depth at the site is 121 metres. The 3,900-ft semisub will be working for Wellesley Petroleum over the next couple of months, drilling the Carmen HPHT well located in the North Sea. After that, it will move on to work for DNO under a one-well contract awarded in September 2022. Norway’s Well Expertise is in charge of delivering a full on- and offshore organization as well as supporting with management systems and frame agreements for services for both Carmen and Norma wells.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) has granted Aker BP a drilling permit for a wildcat well in the Norwegian Sea. The well 6405/7-2 S is located in production licence 1005, which is operated by Aker BP with Vår Energi and Shell acting as partners. The water depth at the site is 1108 meters. The well, targeting the Rondeslottet prospect, will be drilled using Saipem’s 10,000-ft semisub Scarabeo 8. It is expected to be spud in April 2023. The rig is under a long-term contract with Aker BP, which started early this year. It has recently drilled the Styggehøe well in the North Sea but the well is dry.

Byron Energy has advised that it now anticipates it will be able to commence its charter of jackup Enterprise 264 around late June or early July. The rig ran long with EC Offshore, and now has two other campaigns to finish ahead of Byron’s assignment. Byron intends to batch drill two wells, Tiger Trout (G4) and Gila Trout (G6), in South Marsh Island Block 58. Depending on the results, the operator may elect to drill the River Trout (G7) well in the same block, and probably the South Marsh Island Block 58 E3 well from the South Marsh Island Block 69 E platform. Following a focused seismic reprocessing programme, and low natural gas prices, Byron has decided not to drill the Golden Trout well in South Marsh Island Block 70 and will relinquish this lease.


Petrobras has canceled its earlier tender for the Buzios project off Brazil and issued a retender. Market sources indicate the operator has updated the start window to between April and August 2024, as well as extended the period allowed for mobilisation following contract signing. Other terms of the tender for up to three high-spec floating rigs with MPD systems are believed to be unchanged. Given the market tightness for high-spec floating rigs, these changes will allow rigs that need longer reactivation periods to be offered and still meet the start window. The start window in the original tender was between December 2023 and February 2024. Separately, Petrobras has once again delayed the bid deadline for its pool tender for up to four floating rigs. The original due date was 17 March. It has since been delayed a few times and is now 18 April. Meanwhile, sources advise that Petrobras is close to finalising the second award from the BM-S-11 tender for up to two floating rigs. Transocean drillship Dhirubhai Deepwater KG2 won the first award.

QatarEnergy has entered into an agreement with Shell to acquire a 40% working interest in the C-10 block offshore Mauritania. Following approval by the government of Mauritania, Shell will hold a 50% interest and remain as operator of the block while Société Mauritanienne des Hydrocarbures will hold a 10% interest. In February 2023, Shell signed an amendment to its exploration and production contract for Block C-10, extending the exploration phase by six months. Shell is expected to drill an exploration well on C-10 this year. Block C-10 covers a total area of approximately 11,500 square kilometers and is located around 50 kilometers off the coast of Mauritania in water depths of around 50 to 2,000 meters (164 to 6,562 ft).

Following presidential approval, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) has revised its 2022/2023 Deep Offshore Oil Block Mini Bid Round schedule. The deadline for submission of technical/commercial bids has been extended to 19 May 2023 while the timeline for concluding contract negotiations and signing has been set for 3 to 28 July 2023. The deadline was amended in response to investor concern over the closeness of the schedule to the end date of the current presidential administration. The Mini Bid Round launched in January 2023 and is offering seven blocks in the Nigerian Transform Margin and Niger Delta areas in water depths of 1,150 to 3,100 meters (3,773 to 10,172 ft).

Australia-based Hartshead Resources has entered into a farm-out agreement (FOA) with the UK North Sea independent RockRose Energy, a subsidiary of Viaro Energy, for divestment of a 60% equity interest in its UK Southern Gas Basin License P2607. The total gross consideration under the FOA is approximately A$196.3 million, comprising of reimbursement of past costs, a partial carry on Hartshead’s share of development costs, bonus milestone payments and $48.4 million of UK government Investment & Capital Allowance. Hartshead says that the farm-out is materially de-risking the company’s path to FID for Phase I development of the Anning and Somerville gas fields and providing a clear pathway to the full financing and subsequent development. Additionally, Hartshead has received firm commitments for a placement to raise A$20 million. Net proceeds from the placement will augment proceeds from the farm-out and are estimated to see Hartshead fully-funded through its share of non-debt project development costs. Following the completion of the farm-out transaction, the two companies will form a joint venture (JV) and sign a joint operating agreement (JOA), which is in agreed form. Heartshead will remain the operator of the JV until a future date agreed by the JV parties. The completion of FEED studies, a key deliverable in order to reach FID, will be a focus for the company in the immediate term with the completion targeted for Q2 2023. The submission of the field development plan (FDP) is expected in Q2 2023, the execution of debt financing in Q3 2023, and FID is targeted for Q3 2023.

Jersey Oil & Gas has agreed to farm out a 50% interest in the Greater Buchan Area (GBA) licences located in the UK Central North Sea to NEO Energy. The company’s GBA interests comprise the P2498 and P2170 licences, which contain the Buchan oil field, the J2 and Verbier oil discoveries and a number of exploration prospects. The transaction delivers material value to Jersey, including cash payments, funding through to Field Development Plan (FDP) approval and a minimum 12.5% development expenditure carry to first oil for the 50% interest retained by the company. In exchange for entering into definitive agreements to divest a 50% working interest and operatorship in the GBA licences to NEO, Jersey will receive 12.5% carry of the Buchan field development costs included in the FDP approved by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) equivalent to a 1.25 carry ratio; carry for JOG’s 50% share of the estimated $25 million cost to take the Buchan field through to FDP approval; $2 million cash payment on completion of the transaction; $9.4 million cash payment upon finalisation of the GBA development solution; $12.5 million cash payment on approval of the Buchan FDP by the NSTA; and, $5 million cash payment on each FDP approval by the NSTA in respect of the J2 and Verbier oil discoveries. More here

Mobilisation/Rig Moves

The Dynamic Drilling-managed jackup Valiant Driller is being renamed Divine Driller and is being actively marketed for contracts internationally. The 300-ft rated Marathon LeTourneau 116-C unit has been at ASRY Shipyard, Bahrain since December 2022 for major repairs and upgrades. Dynamic Drilling has confirmed the repairs, upgrades, and installation of equipment, along with drydocking and five-year surveys have been completed. The rig contractor notes the rig has been upgraded from MODU 1979 to MODU 1989 code and will be ready to drill by August 2023, following recertification and overhaul of equipment. Valiant Driller was delivered in 1981. It last worked for ONGC off India until May 2021.

Northern Ocean’s 10,000-ft semisubmersible Deepsea Mira is mobilising from Norway to Africa ahead of its multi-country drilling contract with TotalEnergies, initially starting in Namibia. This is the sixth rig to leave Norway for work elsewhere since early 2022 with more to follow by the end of 2023. The Deepsea Mira has been in Norway since its delivery. It had previously worked for Wintershall Dea. The rig secured the contract with TotalEnergies with a firm duration of 300 days plus a 180-day option and a 90-day option in December 2022. Since then, it has been at Semco Maritime’s Hanøytangen yard undergoing preparations ahead of its contract start expected in mid-Q2 2023. This will be the rig’s first contract under the Odfjell Drilling management. More here

Rig Sales

Market sources indicate that the 10,000-ft ultra-deepwater drillship Pacific Zonda has been sold to Eldorado Drilling. The ex-Pacific Drilling drillship was ordered in 2013 but was later cancelled in 2015. The sales price has not been disclosed but Esgian Rig Values estimates the price to be around $200,000,000. Eldorado also acquired the ex-Seadrill drillship West Dorado earlier this year.

Norwegian company Eldorado Drilling AS raised $70 million in a private placement connected to its acquisition of two newbuild ultra-deepwater drillships. The rigs are expected to be delivered in 2024 and according to one of the banks involved, Eldorado will charter the units out externally. The net of proceeds from the private placement will fund outstanding yard payments for the rig acquisitions and general corporate purposes. Fearnley Securities and SpareBank 1 Markets acted as joint bookrunners in the transaction. The transaction was increased from $60 million due to demand from investors. Eldorado Drilling acquired the 12,000-ft 7th generation drillship West Dorado from Samsung Heavy Industries in January 2023. As reported by Esgian, the second drillship acquired is the 10,000-ft 7th generation drillship Pacific Zonda, also under construction at Samsung Heavy Industries.

Other News 

Offshore, marine and energy industry engineering company Sembcorp Marine Ltd and its subsidiaries plans to change its name to Seatrium Limited. The proposed change of name is subject to shareholders’ approval. The name change follows Sembcorp Marine’s business combination with Keppel Offshore & Marine, which was completed in late February 2023. Sembcorp Marine operates shipyards and other facilities in Singapore, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States. The company’s commercial units are Rigs & Floaters; Repairs & Upgrades; Offshore Platforms and Specialised Shipbuilding.

Seadrill Limited has completed its acquisition of Aquadrill LLC, with Aquadrill now a wholly owned subsidiary of Seadrill. In connection with the completion of the transaction, Seadrill issued an aggregate 29,866,505 common shares to former Aquadrill unitholders and equity award holders, resulting in issued share capital of $798,665.03 divided into a total of 79,866,503 Seadrill common shares, each with a par value of $0.01. Seadrill President and CEO Simon Johnson stated that the management team would focus on “efficiently and rapidly integrating the two companies in order to realize the synergies arising from the transaction.” With the acquisition, Seadrill stated that has a combined backlog of $2.6 billion and a fleet with 12 floating rigs, three harsh environment rigs, four benign-environment jackups and three tender-assisted rigs plus an additional seven rigs managed under strategic partnerships. The newly-acquired Aquadrill fleet includes 10,000-ft drillships Auriga and Vela, currently managed by Diamond Offshore, and 10,000-ft semisub Aquarius and 10,000-ft drillships Capella and Polaris, currently managed by Vantage Drilling. These units were previously managed by Seadrill, when Aquadrill traded under the name Seadrill Partners. Aquadrill’s tender rigs T-15T-16 and Vencedor are managed by Energy Drilling.

Following its acquisition of Aquadrill, Seadrill President and CEO Simon Johnson said that Seadrill intends to take control of the former Aquadrill rigs at an appropriate time based on discussions with existing managers and the customers currently using these rigs. Currently, drillships West Auriga and West Vela are managed and operated on behalf of Seadrill by Diamond Offshore Drilling while drillships West Capella and West Polaris and semisub West Aquarius are managed and operated by Vantage Drilling. The 10,000-ft harsh environment semisub West Aquarius is currently warm stacked in the Canary Islands. Seadrill said that any potential reactivation would need to be funded by the client and would be observing financial prudence in regards to opportunities for the rig. West Capella is preparing to begin a one-well contract in East Africa this month, understood to be with Eni offshore Mozambique. West Polaris is under contract to ONGC offshore India until September 2023. West Auriga and West Vela are both under contract in the US GOM until February 2024 at this time; West Auriga with BP and West Vela with BP followed by Beacon Offshore. Tender-assist rigs T-15, T-16 and West Vencedor are managed and operated by Energy Drilling Management. Johnson noted during Seadrill’s Q4 2022 results presentation that the tender-assist rigs are not core units and that fleet composition is an active discussion for Seadrill.

Seadrill Limited reported a loss of $7 million for the fourth quarter of 2022, down from a $20 million profit in the third quarter of 2022. Seadrill relisted its shares on the NYSE and completed the sale of seven jackups during the fourth quarter. Operating revenues decreased by 15% to $228 million in Q4 2022, with the decrease attributed to fewer rig operating days overall across the fleet. Seadrill’s total adjusted EBITDA was $41 million in Q4 2022, down from $71 million in the previous quarter. The company’s total adjusted EBITDA for the full year 2022 was $265 million. Seadrill’s order backlog as of 31 December 2022 was around $2.3 billion. As of 5 April 2023, the company’s backlog had grown $2.6 billion, reflecting the acquisition of Aquadrill and its rigs. Seadrill stated that it remains encouraged by the fundamentals underpinning the oil and gas sector and believes that there will be continued positive momentum and trajectory for the offshore drilling market through 2023 and beyond.

Australia’s Karoon Energy is considering expanding its presence in the Americas beyond Brazil, where it has interests in a number of fields and prospects, including Neon and Patola. The operator is actively screening other oil-dominated assets. While most of the opportunities under review are in Brazil, Karoon notes North America is a potential area of interest. For assets that are not yet producing, they would need to be close to a final investment decision.

Image credit: Seadrill

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