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One contract termination and several new contract awards were confirmed this week. Meanwhile, plans are in progress for new wells in the North Sea region as well as Morocco.

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


Dolphin Drilling has announced the termination of its contract with Peak Petroleum in Nigeria. Dolphin Drilling announced a new contract award for the 6,000-ft Blackford Dolphin semisub with Peak Petroleum back in March 2023. The contract was for a minimum of 120 days and up to 485 days. It was supposed to start in late March 2024, in direct continuation of the rig’s current contract with GHL, also in Nigeria. However, in its Q3 2023 financial report published earlier this week, Dolphin said it had removed the contract with Peak from its backlog due to continued breach of contract conditions, which included a failure to pay the rig’s mobilisation fee in the amount of $6 million. Dolphin has now confirmed that it has terminated the contract. The contract backlog reported in the third quarter 2023 report was adjusted for the contract termination and will remain at the same level as reported. As a result of the termination, which made the rig available from late March 2024, Dolphin is in discussion with Oil India to use the Blackford Dolphin for a 14-month firm contract in India, which was previously supposed to be carried out by the 1,500-ft Borgland Dolphin.

ONGC has awarded a contract under Category II to a Jindal Drilling jackup for operations offshore India. ONGC has issued a letter of award (LOA) to Jindal Drilling for the 1975-built LeTourneau 84-S Class Jindal Supreme for a three-year campaign with a dayrate of $86,327. The jackup’s current contract with the same operator is expected to conclude at the end of Q3 2024. This new contract is expected to start by Q4 2024, keeping the rig busy until Q4 2027.

Brazilian state oil and gas company Petrobras has extended its contracts for Constellation floating rigs, the 2,000-ft Atlantic Star and the 10,000-ft Amaralina Star, keeping both rigs working offshore Brazil into 2025. The semisubmersible Atlantic Star had its contract with Petrobras extended until January 2025, from the previous end date of January 2024. Atlantic Star is one of several semisubmersibles that is competing for a new contract with Petrobras expected to begin in 2025. Petrobras exercised a 12-month option for the drillship Amaralina Star, keeping the rig working into October 2025. Constellation stated that the Amaralina Star is available for new opportunities after the end of this contract. Constellation CEO Rodrigo Ribeiro noted that these extensions secured 100% utilisation for the company’s fleet up to 2025.

PV Drilling has secured a three-year contract offshore Indonesia for its 400-ft jackup PV Drilling III with PT Pertamina Hulu Energi. The rig will be used for a drilling campaign offshore Northwest Java and Southeast Sumatra, with the commencement date scheduled for late December 2024 or early January 2025. The contract is for a firm period of three years, with an optional two-year extension available. PV Drilling III is currently drilling for Hibiscus Oil & Gas offshore Malaysia, with work expected to continue well into 2024. The 400-ft sister rig PV Drilling II is currently working under a three-year contract with Pertamina in the West Java Sea offshore Indonesia. This term began in December 2022.

Japan Drilling Company (JDC) announced that the 425-ft jackup Hakuryu-11 has been awarded a contract with Murphy Oil Corporation, offshore Vietnam. The contract is for two exploration wells, for an estimated duration of 100–140 days. The exploration work will be in Cuu Long Basin and has an estimated commencement between July and October 2024, after its current contract commitments.

Drilling Activity and Discoveries

Malaysian state-owned company Petronas stated that there have been 19 exploration discoveries and two exploration-appraisal successes offshore Malaysia in 2023, contributing over 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent of new resources. These discoveries includes wells operated by Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd, PTTEP, Shell, and Hibiscus. Sixteen of these were made in the Sarawak Basin, primarily in the Balingian and West Luconia areas. Three were made in the Northwest Sabah Basin and two in the Malay Basin. Petronas Senior Vice President of Malaysia Petroleum Management Mohamed Firouz Asnan said that the next series of the Malaysia Bid Round would be launched in early 2024, “offering more exploration blocks and discovered resources opportunities to potential investors.”

Serica Energy is continuing with plans for its four-well drilling campaign in the UK North Sea, scheduled for 2024 and early 2025. The campaign will be carried out using the semisubmersible COSLInnovator. All four wells are production wells. The first well in the campaign will be a sidetrack of an existing well (B1z) on the Bittern field. The spud date is currently expected to be in mid-Q1 of 2024, with the completion expected in about 90 days. The other wells in the campaign are the GE-05 well on Gannet E, the EC well on Guillemot North West, and the EV-02 well on Evelyn. Serica has also exercised an option to use the 2,460-ft COSLInnovator to drill a fifth well in the campaign, and this may be the development well on the Belinda field. The draft FDP for this project was submitted to the NSTA in September 2023. The semisub is currently working for CNOOC and is scheduled for SPS around the end of the month, after which it will move on to its next contract. Petrofac is managing these well operations on behalf of Serica.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) has granted Vår Energi a drilling permit for a wildcat well in the Barents Sea off Norway. The well 7219/6-1, targeting Venus prospect, is located in production licence 1025 S, which is operated by Vår Energi with Petoro and Equinor participating as partners. Drilling is planned to start in the first quarter of 2024 at the earliest, with a duration of up to 45 days. It will be carried out with the 1,640-ft Transocean Enabler semisub in a water depth of about 399 metres.


With the rig tendering process ongoing, Shell is on track to drill the Selene exploration well and the Pensacola appraisal well, both located in the UK Southern North Sea, in 2H 2024. The Selene prospect is situated in the Southern North Sea Licence P2347 and Pensacola discovery is located in Licence P2252. Both licences are operated by Shell, with Deltic Energy participating as a partner. Preparatory works for both the Selene and Pensacola wells are progressing according to plan. Following completion of the well design process, critical long lead items including casing have been identified, and procurement processes are advanced. Accordingly, Selene remains on track to be drilled in Q3 2024. The JV is expected to formalise a positive well investment decision in relation to the Pensacola appraisal well in December 2023. Planning for the appraisal of the Pensacola discovery is well advanced and, subject to regulatory approvals, the drilling of the appraisal well on Pensacola remains on track to be drilled after the Selene well in late 2024. Site survey works focused on the Pensacola appraisal well location are due to be carried out in the first half of 2024.

Australia-based Finder Energy has initiated a farmout process to secure an industry partner to fund the drilling of the Whitsun prospect in the UK North Sea. The Whitsun prospect is located within the P2528 Seaward Production Licence in the UK North Sea. Finder holds a 60% interest in P2528 and is the Licence Administrator. The remaining 40% is held by Dana Petroleum, which farmed into the licence last year. Finder retained the 60% interest in the licence in order to undertake a secondary farmout with the objective of securing funding for drilling. The current term of P2528 (Phase A) extends to late 2024. Based on detailed subsurface interpretation of the newly reprocessed Big Buzz 3D, Whitsun has gross mean prospective resources of 150 MMbbl and geological chance of success of 26%. The licence is located within the Peterhead Graben, Central North Sea (CNS) immediately south of the Ettrick Sub-basin, which contains the prolific stratigraphic traps of the Buzzard and Golden Eagle fields. Buzzard is often cited as one of the largest oil discoveries in the modern era in the North Sea, with an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil. The field’s facilities offer potential for a tieback in the event of Whitsun’s success. The evaluation of additional prospectivity in P2528 and P2527 on the Big Buzz 3D reprocessed data is ongoing.

Energean has signed partnership agreements to farm into Chariot Limited’s acreage in Morocco, taking a 45% interest in the Lixus licence, which includes the Anchois-1 and Anchois-2 discovery wells, and a 37.5% interest in the Rissana licence, along with operatorship of both licences. Completion of the transaction is subject to standard Moroccan regulatory approvals. Chariot will retain a 30% and 37.5% interest in Lixus and Rissana respectively, with ONHYM maintaining a 25% stake in each licence. An appraisal well in the east of the Anchois field is planned for 2024, targeting an additional 11 Bcm of gross unrisked prospective resource to be commercialised through the Anchois development. Chariot stated that rig contract negotiations are advanced. The well will be used to conduct a drill stem test on the main sands, target additional recoverable resources via a sidetrack and a deepening of the well into previously undrilled sands, and then be retained as a future producer well. Energean and Chariot will expand the development plan for the field, finalise gas sale negotiations and conduct a seismic campaign on the licences. As consideration for the interests in the licences, Energean has agreed to a $10 million consideration on closing of the transaction and will carry Chariot for its share of pre-FID cost up to $85 million. This covers the drilling of the appraisal well, other pre-FID costs and up to $7 million of seismic expenditure on the Rissana licence. Another $15 million in cash is contingent on FID being taken on the Anchois Development. Post appraisal well, Energean has the option to increase working interest in the Lixus licence by 10% for further considerations. If the option is not exercised, subject to FID, the partners agree to progress the Anchois development with an ownership structure of Energean 45%, Chariot 30% and ONHYM 25%.

Longboat JAPEX Norge has farmed down two exploration licences on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) through an agreement with Concedo. In PL1182S, the company has farmed down from 30% to 15% in return for a full carry of the Lotus exploration well, up to an agreed cap above the dry well budget, which is expected to spud in Q3 2024. The licence lies in the Northern North Sea, 4 km southeast of the recent significant Kveikje discovery, where Longboat JAPEX is a 10% equity partner. Lotus contains gross mean prospective resources of 27 mmboe with further potential upside estimated at 44 mmboe. The chance of success is 54%, with the key risk being hydrocarbon retention. The Lotus prospect will be drilled using the 3,900-ft semisubmersible Deepsea Yantai during Q3 2024. The licence partnership includes DNO Norge (40%, operator) and Aker BP (30%). In PL1049, which contains the Jasmine and Sjøkreps prospects, Longboat JAPEX has farmed down from 40% to 25% in return for Concedo carrying 15% of the company’s 2024 exploration expenditure. Sjøkreps is a fault-bounded three-way dip closure at Palaeocene level and has preliminary estimated recoverable volumes ranging between 20 to 300 mmboe (P90-P10) with the main risk being presence and quality of reservoir. The Jasmine prospect is an injectite target at Eocene level, which is analogous to the Kveikje discovery, and has recoverable volume range preliminarily estimated between 10 to 30 mmboe (P90-P10) with the main risk being reservoir presence and quality. The work programme consists of seismic studies, potential seismic reprocessing and integration of results from ongoing and near-term wells targeting the same interval in the area, which combined have the potential to significantly improve the chances of success ahead of making a drill decision. The potential drilling decision has to be made by February 2025.

Mobilisation/Rig Moves

Shelf Drilling North Sea’s 500-ft CJ70 jackupNoble Lloyd Noble, has completed its contract with Equinor and has moved to Mandal, Norway. The rig will now be officially renamed and its management transferred to the owner. The jackup has been working for Equinor since 2016, and its most recent job was at the Gina Krog field location. Now that this contract has been completed, the rig is in between jobs, with the next one also being with the same operator. However, before starting this new contract, the rig will be officially renamed Shelf Drilling Barsk, and its management will be transferred from Noble to Shelf Drilling. This next contract, awarded in April 2023, is for operations at the Sleipner Vest field offshore Norway, and the firm term is two wells over a total of 270 days. It is expected to start around May 2024 and keep the rig busy into early 2025. Two options available thereafter could keep the rig busy until Q4 2025.

Noble’s 492-ft jackup Noble Intrepid has mobilised to the UK North Sea for a new contract with Harbour Energy. The rig had been staying in Kishorn Port since late 2022 before moving to Aberdeen in October 2023 for reactivation scopes and contract preparation. It mobilised from Aberdeen on Sunday 3 December, heading towards Harbour’s Judy field. The ten-month contract for the provision of accommodation services at the field was announced in August 2023. The contract contains options to add up to five months of accommodation and well intervention services, which could keep the rig busy into early 2025.

Borr Drilling’s 400-ft jackup Gerd has left Abu Dhabi and started operations with Bunduq in the UAE. The rig recently underwent contract preparations at the Crystal Offshore Middle East yard. The 270-day contract started in early December 2023. It also has an unpriced option for 60 days.

Energy Drilling tender-assist rig EDrill Vencedor has been moved to the Crystal Offshore facility in Singapore where it will be upgraded and reactivated. The unit had previously been stacked in Malaysia. EDrill Vencedor was purchased by Energy Drilling in June 2023 from Seadrill, alongside two other units. The rig is being prepared for a three-year contract with PTTEP offshore Thailand, scheduled to begin by 1 July 2024.

The Valaris-owned 400-ft jackup Valaris 121 has completed its contract with Petrofac in the UK North Sea and moved to a new location for Shell. The heavy-duty harsh environment jackup has recently completed its one-well contract with Petrofac, which managed these operations on behalf of Dana as the operator. The rig drilled the Earn-1 well and made a new hydrocarbon discovery in October 2023. Following the discovery, a sidetrack well was also drilled in order to confirm understanding of the scale of this accumulation and potentially establish commerciality. The rig has now moved on to carry out its 210-day firm contract with Shell at the Shearwater location. The contract also includes four priced options, which could keep it busy into Q1 2025.

Other News

Chevron and the government of Cyprus are continuing talks over the development of the Aphrodite natural gas field, following the government’s rejection earlier in the year of an updated development plan that would see the field developed via a subsea pipeline connected to existing infrastructure rather than the previously-approved usage of an FPSO. As of 1 December 2023, Cyprus’ Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Industry confirmed that the two parties are in alignment regarding the wider framework of the field’s exploitation and are intensifying discussions in the coming weeks on the basis of the agreed Development and Production Plan. Following this, Chevron has requested to postpone the date for compliance with the milestone determined in the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) for commencement of the Front-End Engineering Design (FEED), in order to formulate, together with the Cypriot government, an optimal development plan. Chevron Cyprus Limited is the operator of the Aphrodite field with a 35% interest. Shell subsidiary BG Cyprus Limited holds a 35% interest, while NewMed Energy holds 30%.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) is seeking views on long-term options for how to fund its carbon storage work, once the UK Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) industry is on a more established and self-sustaining footing. To assist with this, a call for evidence launched on 4 December 2023 and will stay open until 26 January 2024. It forms part of an early information gathering exercise to seek initial views on potential principles, design and timing of a possible future levy on UK carbon storage licences. This will help inform thinking around how the industry could move towards a ‘user pays’ model for services provided by the NSTA. Earlier this year, the NSTA awarded 14 companies 21 licences in its first carbon storage licencing round. These licences are located in depleted oil and gas reservoirs and saline aquifers in UK waters.

Apus Energy has awarded AGR a well management contract for its exploration well to be drilled with the 12,000-ft Diamond Offshore drillship Ocean BlackRhino on the Sinapa licence offshore Guinea-Bissau in 2024. AGR will provide consultancy in well construction, drilling engineering, procurement, supply chain management, and operational supervision of the drilling for Apus Energia Guinea-Bissau S.A. Apus Energy contracted the 12,000-ft rig in November 2023 for the short-term drilling contract, which is expected to start around July 2024 following the rig’s completion of work with Woodside in Senegal. Engineering consultancy AGR became part of the ABL Group in 2023.

Stena Drilling has implemented several technical and operational measures to enable the 10,000-ft Stena DrillMAX drillship to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the drillship has been awarded DNV’s Abate(P) notation. The DNV (P) notation comes after Stena received ISO50001 energy management system certification. Stena collaborated with DNV to develop a class rule for greenhouse gas abatement. Stena DrillMAX is a harsh-environment dynamically positioned DP Class 3 drillship capable of drilling in water depths up to 10,000 feet and is the first of the DrillMAX series vessels. DNV’s Abate(P) class notation represents emission reduction targets and a comprehensive energy and emission management system aligned with ISO 50001 standards. It emphasises monitoring of energy consumption and the implementation of both operational and technical measures to notably reduce emissions. Recently, Transocean’s 10,000-ft semisub Transocean Norge also received DNV’s Abate (Power+) notation following upgrades designed to lower its greenhouse emissions during operations.

The federal Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Canada and Nova Scotia’s provincial Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables have vetoed the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board’s decision to issue Exploration Licence 2437 for Parcel #8 to Inceptio Limited. Inceptio Limited was the sole successful bidder in Call for Bids NS22-1 with a CAD$1,500,000 CAD Work Expenditure Bid for Parcel #8. This licence would have provided Inceptio Limited the exclusive right to explore for hydrocarbons, subject to regulatory authorization, in a shallow water parcel on the Sable Bank of the Scotian Shelf. The Work Expenditure Bid deposit received by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board will be returned to Inceptio Limited. Parcel #8 will no longer be up for bid and will remain as Crown land. Environmental groups, including Sierra Club Canada, Offshore Alliance, and Ecology Action Centre, had raised concerns about the effects of seismic activity and drilling on marine life and fishery resources, and the overall effects of new oil and gas projects. In a joint statement, federal minister Jonathan Wilkinson and provincial minister Tony Rushton stated that they had confidence in the regulatory process undertaken by the board but agreed that the decision must also account for broader policy considerations, including “commitments to advance clean energy and pursue economic opportunities in the clean energy sector.”

Austrian industrial company OMV has entered into negotiation with bidders for its Malaysian joint venture and has decided to split the sales process for its assets in Malaysia and New Zealand, citing limited interest in a combined deal. The company has entered into negotiations with interested bidders on the commercial terms and the contractual documentation for the potential sale of 50% of the shares in joint venture SapuraOMV Upstream Sdn. Bhd. In the event of a sale, OMV expects a total consideration in the high three-digit million (USD) range, based on the offers received by such bidders so far. In Malaysia, a SapuraOMV subsidiary is the operator of shallow water Block SK310 and joint operator of offshore gas field Block SK408 with Sarawak Shell. The ongoing sales process for 100% of the shares in OMV New Zealand Limited is continuing separately. OMV New Zealand has interests in three exploration prospects in the Taranaki Basin and in production in three offshore fields.

Australian oil and gas giant Woodside is in talks to merge with compatriot Santos. Responding to media speculation, Woodside, which has a market cap of around 56.9 billion AUD, confirmed it was in discussions regarding a potential merger with Santos. “Discussions remain confidential and incomplete, and there is no certainty that the discussions will lead to a transaction.  As a global energy company, Woodside continuously assesses a range of opportunities to create and deliver value for shareholders. Woodside will continue to update the market in accordance with its continuous disclosure obligations,” Woodside said. Santos, with a market capitalization of around 22.2 billion AUD, also confirmed it was in preliminary discussions with Woodside regarding a potential merger. “Santos continuously reviews opportunities to create and deliver value for shareholders. Concurrently, Santos is assessing a range of alternative structural options with a view to unlocking value as referred to on Santos’ investor day on 22 November 2023,” Santos said. Woodside has operations in Australia, Gulf of Mexico, and Trinidad & Tobago. Santos has assets in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and the United States.

Following a non-binding Heads of Agreement from earlier this year, Orcadian Energy has executed a conditional Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA) with Ping Petroleum for the farm-out of an 81.25% interest in the Pilot Development project (Licence P2244) in the UK North Sea. As a reminder, the HoA was announced in September 2023, but the name of the potential operator was not revealed. Orcadian has now informed that the total consideration due under the SPA is $3,100,000, plus the payment of certain historic costs incurred by Orcadian to date. It is anticipated that the completion will occur before the end of March 2024. On completion, Ping will become the operator of the licence. Ping will pay the balance of the consideration ($3,000,000) on approval by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) of a Field Development Plan (FDP) for the Pilot field. The FDP is currently anticipated to be submitted during 2024.

John Fredriksen’s Hemen Holding has launched a mandatory takeover offer for the remaining shares in the Norwegian drilling firm Northern Drilling. Hemen Holding crossed the 50% threshold of the Norwegian Securities Trading Act section 6-6 in November and was obliged to make a bid for the remaining shares in Northern Drilling. As of 7 December, 2023, Hemen held 313,971,440 shares in Northern Drilling, representing 89.35% of the shares and votes in Northern Drilling. The offer price for the remaining shares is NOK 0.125 per share, with the offer period running from 8 December, 2023, to 5 January 2024 at 16:30 CET. Hemen plans to delist Northern Drilling upon completion of the offer. Northern Drilling currently does not own any rigs or assets other than its claims towards the South Korean shipbuilder Hanwha (ex-Daewoo Shipbuilding Marine and Engineering) in relation to previously made and subsequently cancelled rig orders for the 12,000-ft drillships West Aquila and West Libra. Northern Drilling cancelled the West Aquila and West Libra drillship orders with South Korea’s DSME in 2021, citing delay of deliveries as well as a repudiatory breach of contract, and said it would seek a refund for instalments paid. It also said that “if this claim is disputed, the company will seek an award via London arbitration.” In September 2023, the arbitration tribunal ruled in Hanwha’s favour. In October 2023, Northern Drilling said it had decided to seek leave to appeal the awards on a point of law and to challenge the awards on grounds of serious irregularity. Since then, drilling firm Transocean acquired the West Aquila drillship from Hanwha, renamed it to Deepwater Aquila, and secured a three-year contract with Brazil’s Petrobras for it.

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