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While there were no new drilling contracts announced this week, there was plenty of drilling activity across regions, with an emphasis on the North Sea and Africa.

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

Drilling Activity and Discoveries

TotalEnergies has started drilling the first of two infill wells on the Halfdan field located in the Danish North Sea, using the 400-ft Shelf Drilling Winner jackup rig. The infill wells are expected to increase gas production from the field. TotalEnergies and its partners in the Danish Underground Consortium (DUC) committed to drilling two infill wells on the Halfdan field in December 2022. BlueNord, TotalEnergies’ partner, said on Monday that drilling operations on the HBA-27B well have started with the first well spudded by the jackup rig Shelf Drilling Winner. This is the first of two infill wells to be drilled during 2023 in the Tor reservoir in the Halfdan North East area. Following the spudding, drilling activities will continue for the next months, and the well is scheduled to be on stream during autumn this year. It is expected to have an initial peak production rate of 3 mboe/day net to BlueNord where approximately 75% is gas. The Shelf Drilling Winner, formerly known as Noble Sam Turner, secured a two-year contract extension with TotalEnergies for operations in Denmark back in October 2022. This extension will keep the rig with the French operator into March 2025.

Perenco has drilled the first well in a planned four-well infill drilling campaign at the Tchibeli field at the PNGF Sud complex offshore the Congo with Petrofor-managed 350-ft jackup Axima. The first infill well of the campaign was spudded on 21 May 2023 and has been drilled to a targeted total depth of 2,694 meters (8,839 ft). Partner PetroNor stated that the infill drilling program would extend through October 2023, with first oil from the initial two wells expected in August 2023. A previous infill drilling program in the Congo’s PNGF Sud complex was paused in late 2022 following the drilling of four wells at the Litanzi field and two wells at Tchibeli NE with the Petrofor-managed jackup Dagda. The 350-ft Dagda has been converted to a production platform at the Tchibeli NE field and its drilling derrick has been removed. Axima, previously known as Valaris 142, was reactivated from cold stack in 2022 and had completed a four-well campaign at a different field in the Congo for Perenco before moving to Tchibeli.

Valeura Energy announced that the 350-ft jackup Mist has completed an infill drilling campaign on the Nong Yao field in Thailand. The jackup has now moved to its next location at the Manora oil field where it will drill three wells, aimed at increasing production from the field, which is expected to be completed in early August 2023. The rig will then move to the Wassana field for a five-well infill drilling programme.

Equinor has completed the drilling of a wildcat well in the North Sea offshore Norway. The well is dry. The well 31/2-24, which was targeting the Litago prospect, is located in production licence 923 where Equinor is the operator. The water depth at the site is 330 metres. Equinor secured a drilling permit for the well in April 2023 and the well was drilled about three kilometres west of the Troll field in the North Sea and about 115 kilometres northwest of Bergen. The well was drilled to a vertical depth of 2558 metres below sea level and was terminated in the Drake Formation in Lower Jurassic. Data acquisition was carried out and the well is dry. It was drilled by Odfjell Drilling’s Deepsea Stavanger semisubmersible, which will now proceed to drill wildcat well 30/11-15, targeting the Krafla Midt Statfjord prospect, in production licence 035 in the North Sea for Aker BP. The Deepsea Stavanger also recently drilled the wildcat well 31/2-23 S, targeting the Eggen prospect, located in the same production licence as Litago but the well was dry.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) has granted Equinor a drilling permit for a wildcat well and an appraisal well offshore Norway. The wells, 35/11-26 S and 35/11-26 named Crino/Mulder, are located in production licence 090 in the North Sea. The licence is operated by Equinor with Vår Energi, INPEX Idemitsu Norge, and Neptune Energy participating as partners. The wells are located about 4 km west of the Fram field and 58 km from land. The wells will be drilled using the Deepsea Stavanger semisub and drilling operations are expected to last about 70 days.

TotalEnergies has made an oil and gas discovery at OML 102 offshore Nigeria. The Ntokon-1AX discovery well encountered 38 meters of net oil pay and 15 meters of net gas pay, while sidetrack Ntokon-1G1 encountered 73 meters of net oil pay. Ntokon-1G1 tested successfully up to a maximum rate of about 5,000 b/d. Ntokon is planned to be developed through a tieback to existing facilities at the Ofon field. The Ntokon-1AX well and its sidetrack are understood to have been drilled using Shelf Drilling 375-ft jackup Baltic, which has been working for TotalEnergies offshore Nigeria since early 2021. OML 102 is operated by TotalEnergies EP Nigeria with a 40% interest. NNPC Ltd holds a 60% interest.

Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) has given Equinor consent to use the 1,640-ft semisubmersible rig Transocean Encourage for production drilling in block 6506/9 in the Norwegian Sea. Operations will be conducted in production licences 479 and 094. The consent includes plugging/production drilling/completion/intervention and workover of well NC-1 Smørbukk Nord. This Cat D rig has been working for Equinor for years and it has also recently secured further work with the state-owned operator, which will see it busy into early 2025 or late 2025 if its existing options get exercised. Under this latest contract, starting in late 2023, it will work on the Tyrihans, Verdande, Andvare, and Vigdis fields.

CGX Energy has updated the well results of its Wei-1 prospect off Guyana. In March 2023, the operator confirmed it had encountered hydrocarbon shows in the well. Then in early May, CGX reported a stuck wireline fluid sampling tool meant an open-hole sidetrack would be needed. CGX has now reached total depth on the bypass exploration and appraisal well, which penetrated the primary Santonian targets. Prior to the bypass, the well encountered an aggregate of approximately 71 ft of net oil pay in the secondary target reservoirs in the Maastrichtian and Campanian trends. Data indicates multiple hydrocarbon shows in the primary target, and CGX suggests results are encouraging. Once the data acquisition and evaluation is complete, the operator will provide another update on the well results. Semisub Noble Discoverer (ex-Maersk Discoverer) drilled the well in about 1,912 ft of water. Following this job, Noble Discoverer has a charter to drill one well for Ecopetrol off Colombia beginning in Q4 2023.

BW Energy has started production from the second well of the Hibiscus / Ruche Phase 1 development in the Dussafu licence offshore Gabon and started drilling the third well. The first new production well on the Hibiscus field, DHIBM-3H, was put on stream in early April 2023. The second production well, DHIBM-4H, has now also been put on stream at a stabilised rate of approximately 6,000 bopd, in line with expectations. The DHIBM-4H well was drilled as a horizontal well in 116 metres of water depth from the BW MaBoMo production facility to a total depth of 4,800 metres into Gamba sandstone reservoirs on the Hibiscus field. Following completion, the Borr Drilling-owned jackup Norve has started drilling operations on the third production well, DHIBM-5H. BW Energy in May exercised an option for the 400-ft jackup, which will keep it working offshore Gabon into September 2023 with further options available. The drilling campaign targets four Hibiscus Gamba and two Ruche Gamba wells which are expected to add approximately 30,000 barrels per day of total oil production when all wells are completed in early 2024.

Speaking at Shell Capital Markets Day 2023, Integrated Gas and Upstream Director Zoe Yujnovich stated that Shell had recently conducted a successful flow test offshore Namibia. The flow test follows Shell’s drilling of three exploration wells and one appraisal well on PEL 39 offshore Namibia since 2022, with three discoveries so far. Yujnovich stated that the company was reviewing the “encouraging results” from the block and determining its commercial potential. Shell described its activity as “de-risking Namibia at pace.” Yujnovich said that production from Namibia was not included in its forecast production volumes through 2030, assuming that production from Namibia would likely come outside this timeframe. Shell is currently drilling offshore Namibia with Odfjell Drilling-managed 7,500-ft semisubmersible Deepsea Bollsta and recently extended the rig’s contract by six months with a further six-month option available. Shell noted that the harsh environment rig allowed it to continue drilling activity through the year without taking seasonal breaks.

Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) has given OKEA consent for exploration drilling in block 6407/9 in the Norwegian Sea. Operations will be conducted in production licence 093 operated by OKEA with Petoro and M Vest Energy participating as partners. OKEA will be drilling wells 6407/9-SME and -GWS, targeting Springmus East and Garn West South prospects. The water depth at the sites is 279m (SME) and 266,6m (GWS). The wells will be drilled using the 1,640-ft Transocean Endurance semisub, which is currently warm stacked in Norway following the conclusion of its contract with Equinor in April 2023. The rig was awarded this two-well contract with OKEA in early May and operations are expected to begin in July. The rig also has a contract lined up in Australia, expected to start in early 2024. The contract also provides for a series of options, potentially keeping the rig in Australia through the fourth quarter of 2025.

Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) has given Neptune Energy Norge consent to use the 3,900-ft semisub Deepsea Yantai to drill an appraisal well in the North Sea off Norway. The appraisal well 35/6-4 Ofelia is located in production licence 929, which is operated by Neptune with Pandion Energy, Wintershall Dea, Aker BP, and DNO Norge participating as partners. The well is located in the North Sea, 40 km west of Kinn in Vestland and 23 km from Gjøa. The water depth at the site is 332m. The Odfjell Drilling-managed Deepsea Yantai was also used to drill the Ofelia prospect last year and the well was announced as an oil discovery in August 2022. Earlier this year, the semisub made an oil discovery at the Eirik HPHT well for OMV. The rig is fully booked for this and the next year with several different operators, including the recent contract awards from ConocoPhillips and DNO scheduled for Q3 2024.

In June 2023, APA Corp’s Apache suspended new drilling in the UK amid uncertainties arising due to the country’s tax regime on oil and gas operators. The company will manage its base production and maximise the economic recovery of its oil and gas wells through well intervention activities. Apache stated it allocates capital based on the best potential returns, and North Sea assets have become the least competitive in its global portfolio. This business decision was made in response to the UK’s increasingly costly and burdensome tax regime and uncertain policy environment, Apache said. Earlier this year, the company exercised its option to terminate the contract for Diamond Offshore’s 3,000-ft semisubmersible Ocean Patriot. The semi was originally expected to remain with APA until September 2024, but the early termination shortened it to conclude in July 2023. APA said the UK’s tax changes had made returns in the North Sea less attractive than other opportunities in its portfolio. The company’s decision to suspend new drilling came despite recent changes to the Energy Profits Levy (EPL), which will see the current total 75% tax rate removed if oil and gas prices fall to certain levels for two consecutive quarters and returned to 40%.


Pharos Energy has received an exploration period extension on exploration acreage. The Vietnamese Government has given Pharos Energy a two-year extension of Phase One of the Exploration Period – from November 2023 to November 2025 – of the Blocks 125 and 126 Production Sharing Contract. Pharos Energy is in discussions with interested parties to secure a farm-in partner before drilling the commitment well on Block 125.

Mobilisation/Rig Moves

The 12,000-ft drillship Valaris DS-17 has completed its journey from the Canary Islands to Brazil following its reactivation from cold stack. It departed Las Palmas on or about 20 May and arrived off Rio de Janeiro on 6 June. Valaris DS-17 was contracted by Equinor last year for a 540-day job at the Bacalhau development. Once this charter commences, Equinor will have two rigs under contract off Brazil. Seadrill drillship West Saturn began a 1,460-day charter with the operator in October 2022.

The 400-ft jackup Valaris 249 is preparing to begin operations under its upcoming charter with EOG Resources off Trinidad and Tobago. The rig recently arrived following its transit from New Zealand. The work scope is understood to cover three development wells and two exploratory wells from the recently completed platform in the Modified U(a) Block, along with one exploratory well in the South East Coast Consortium Block, which is expected to be drilled in December. The charter for Valaris 249 runs into June 2024.

Vantage Drilling-managed drillship West Capella is mobilizing from Mozambique to Southeast Asia after drilling the Raia-1 exploration well on Block A5-A for Eni. The 10,000-ft drillship is currently heading to Singapore, with its arrival scheduled for late June 2023. The rig’s next job is a four-well contract with Harbour Energy offshore Indonesia that is expected to keep it working through the first half of 2024. West Capella secured the contract in March 2023 and began drilling the Raia-1 well for Eni in mid-April 2023. West Capella is owned by Seadrill, which recently terminated its marketing agreement with Vantage for the unit, though Vantage will continue to manage the rig through its contract with Harbour Energy.

The jackup rig ArabDrill 150 has departed Singapore and is now en route to Saudi Arabia, where it has a multi-year charter with Saudi Aramco. The PPL Pacific Class 400 unit is being transported on the heavy-lift vessel Seaway Eagle. Arrival off Saudi Arabia is scheduled on or about 24 June.

The Valaris-owned 225-ft jackup Valaris 72 has recently arrived in Dundee, Scotland to undertake its five-year special periodic survey (SPS). The rig arrived at the Port of Dundee on Monday 5 June 2023 where it is expected to stay for a couple of months. Prior to this, the rig was under a P&A contract in the UK North Sea with Eni, which will continue after the maintenance period and run well into 2024.

Transocean drillship Dhirubhai Deepwater KG2 is en route to Brazil for its upcoming charter with Petrobras. The ultra-deepwater unit left Singapore around 20 May and is currently off South Africa. Early this year, the rig was awarded a 910-day charter with Petrobras. Operations are set to begin in Q3 2023 under the BM-S-11 project. Dhirubhai Deepwater KG2 last worked in early 2022 off Brunei for Shell. Market sources indicate the rig underwent reactivation for the Petrobras charter while in Singapore.

Other News

Ocyan has completed the restructuring process for its drilling business, currently known as DrillCo. The reorganisation plan, which was announced in December 2022, took effect on 7 June 2023. As a result of the restructuring, the drilling business has reduced its debt by approximately $2.4 billion to approximately $300 million, debt maturities have been extended, and about $197 million in new money investment has been provided. Ocyan will focus on its FPSO and subsea and offshore maintenance services, while DrillCo will hold the five offshore rigs, plus related people and infrastruture, as well as the management contract for PetroRio’s 10,000-ft semisub Hunter Queen. Ocyan will retain a 6.5% equity stake in DrillCo and will have a seat of DrillCo’s board of directors. The $300 million debt will be held by DrillCo.

Tullow Oil is considering its options for its interest in the Espoir field offshore Côte d’Ivoire. This follows an announcement by BW Offshore that it has sold the FPSO Espoir Ivoirien at the field to CNR International (Canadian Natural Resources) for $20 million. The Espoir development lies on Block CI-26. Canadian Natural Resources recently stated that it was targeting Phase 4 development at Espoir in 2025/2026 and Phase 5 development at Baobab on Block CI-40 offshore Côte d’Ivoire in 2026/2027. Tullow Oil has stated that it is “considering all options” in respect to its 26% interest in the Espoir field, though no formal commitments have been made. The company said this is in line with its capital allocation strategy of focusing on its highest return producing assets. Separately, Tullow also launched a tender offer for a portion of its 2025 senior notes, up to a tender consideration of $75 million.

Hartshead Resources has awarded a contract for a geotechnical survey across the Anning and Somerville fields and pipeline locations in the UK Southern North Sea to Geoquip. The results will form a critical component of the project’s Environmental Statement (ES) and provide an understanding of the seabed conditions at the platform and jackup rig locations. The Geoquip Seehorn vessel, which will be used for the work programme, will be mobilised to the Anning and Somerville field locations in July 2023. The main objectives of the geotechnical survey are to provide the company with confirmation of the seabed and sub-seabed soil conditions to finalise the design and the installation of the offshore facilities and to ensure the safe location of the jackup rig at the Anning and Somerville locations. Phase I development comprises the Somerville and Anning gas fields, located in License P2607, which is comprised of five blocks in Quads 48 and 49 on the UKCS. Last month, Hartshed completed the farm-out agreement with RockRose Energy for the divestment of a 60% equity interest in its License P2607. Hartshead plans to submit the Field Development Plan (FDP) shortly and ES later this year.

Following the reorganisation of Ocyan’s drilling segment, the new name for the company that now holds the five offshore rigs is revealed to be Foresea. Foresea also holds the management contract for PetroRio semisub Hunter Queen. Ocyan took a 6.64% stake in Foresea and will have a seat on its board of directors. Foresea’s main shareholders are international funds. After the restructuring, the company received capital investment of $197 million. Ocyan and Foresea have a non-compete agreement for five years.

Presenting at its 2023 Capital Markets Day, Shell has stated that it will extend its “advantaged position” in upstream to achieve cash flow longevity by stabilising liquids production at around 1.4 million BOE/d to 2030. The company is aiming at cash capital expenditures of $22 billion to $25 billion per year in 2024 and 2025. Shell said that most of its resources are in high-margin LNG and deepwater areas. The company will focus its exploration on “heartland” areas with no frontier exploration entries after 2025. Of its current campaigns, Shell said it was “de-risking Namibia at pace”. The company is drilling offshore Namibia with Odfjell Drilling-managed semisubmersible Deepsea Bollsta and recently extended the rig’s contract by six months. Shell expects new projects to deliver over 500,000 BOE/d by 2025, including contributions from the Whale and Vito developments in the deepwater US GOM and Mero 2, 3 and 4 offshore Brazil.

Mexico’s National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH) has confirmed that Chevron and CNOOC have concluded early relinquishment of individual offshore licences. Chevron has given up contract area CNH-R01-L04-A3.CPP/2016. Chevron’s partners were Pemex and Inpex. Meanwhile, CNOOC’s early relinquishment was contract area CNH-R01-L04-A4.CPP/2016. CNOOC drilled the non-commercial Xakpun-1 well in 2020. Both licences were still in the exploration phase.

Image: Noble Discoverer (ex-Maersk Discoverer); credit: Maersk Drilling/Noble

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