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This week, new drilling contracts have been announced in the North Sea and West Africa, and additional reports have surfaced regarding jackup suspensions in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, one of the Odfjell Drilling-managed semisubs in Namibia is expected to have a short off-contract period as the owner seeks new employment in West Africa and other harsh-environment markets.

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


Shelf Drilling (North Sea) has secured a letter of award with an unnamed operator, believed to be TotalEnergies, for the 400-ft jackup Shelf Drilling Fortress for a campaign in the North Sea. This new campaign is scheduled to begin following the completion of the rig’s current contract with CNOOC, which is expected in July or August 2024. The contract with CNOOC was previously expected to end in June 2024. The operator also had two optional wells after the firm part with a duration of around eight months. Market sources indicate that the new campaign is with TotalEnergies. Shelf Drilling expects to execute a contract for this new campaign in the coming weeks.

Noble 12,000-ft 7th generation drillship Noble Venturer has secured new contracts in West Africa with Trident Energy and Rhino Resources, which will follow the early completion of the rig’s contract with Tullow Oil offshore Ghana. Noble Venturer was previously expected to continue working for Tullow Oil offshore Ghana into March 2025. As reported in January 2024, Tullow is concluding its drilling activity at the Jubilee field ahead of schedule and will take a break from drilling off Ghana until 2025. Noble Venturer will now be released in late May 2025. Noble Venturer will move to Equatorial Guinea to drill three wells for Trident Energy, beginning in June 2024 for an estimated 150 days. The new contract dayrate has been revised slightly upwards to replace the legacy dayrate with Tullow Oil, which was recently in the mid to high $200,000s. Trident Energy will use the rig to drill two development wells, understood to be infill wells at the Ceiba and Okume fields on Block G. This will be followed by the Akeng Deep exploration well on Block S, which is operated by Trident Energy’s partner Kosmos Energy. Trident Energy and Kosmos each hold a 40.375% interest in Block G, with Panoro Energy holding 14.25% and GEPetrol 5.0%. Trident and Kosmos each hold 34% interest in Block S, with GEPetrol holding 20% and Panoro Energy holding 12%. Kosmos Energy is also a major partner in the Tullow-operated Jubilee and TEN fields offshore Ghana, where Noble Venturer has worked for the past several years. These three wells offshore Equatorial Guinea were previously scheduled to be drilled by Island Drilling 4,000-ft semisubmersible Island Innovator. Trident Energy and its partners cancelled this drilling contract soon after it began in early February 2024, stating that the rig was not in a condition to safely drill the wells. Island Drilling has disputed this claim. Following the work offshore Equatorial Guinea, Noble Venturer will move to Namibia for a minimum two-well exploration campaign on Block 2914A in the Orange Basin for Rhino Resources, starting in November 2024. Noble Venturer will earn a dayrate of $410,000, excluding mobilisation, during the firm term and optional scope of the contract, which has a total potential duration of 100 to 250 days. Rhino Resources has identified several prospects on the block, including Shoebill, Blue Waxbill, Scops Owl, and Guineafowl. The work with Rhino Resources was previously conditionally awarded to Noble 10,000-ft semisubmersible Noble Developer, prior to the Noble Venturer becoming available early. Noble Developer is currently warm stacked in Trinidad and Tobago.

Market sources indicate that the 375-ft jackup Setty, owned by Egyptian Drilling, has had its contract suspended by Saudi Aramco. The jackup is currently at Ras Tanura. It is understood that only one unit from Egyptian Drilling has been affected by the ongoing suspensions by Saudi Aramco. Aramco is issuing contract suspensions for multiple jackups as the state oil company backs off a previously planned increase in daily oil capacity. Borr Drilling 400-ft jackup Arabia I and ARO Drilling-leased 350-ft jackup Valaris 143 have received suspension notices. ADES noted suspensions for five units, COSL and Shelf Drilling each noted suspensions for four units, while Arabian Drilling has reported suspensions for three jackups. Market sources have indicated that suspension notices for additional rigs have been issued or are under discussion with other drilling contractors. Over 20 jackups are expected to be suspended in the coming months. The contract suspensions are increasing jackup availability in the global market, with contractors searching for work outside Saudi Arabia, as seen with ADES recently fixing rigs on contracts in Thailand and Qatar. The increase in available rig supply is expected to cause some downward pressure or flattening in jackup dayrates in the near term.

Speaking during the company’s Q1 2024 results call, executives at Saipem stated that three Saipem-managed jackups have been affected by Saudi Aramco’s recent series of contract suspensions. Aramco has issued contract suspensions to multiple jackups this month including ADES, Shelf Drilling, Egyptian Drilling, ARO Drilling, Arabian Drilling, COSL, and Borr Drilling. The Saudi Arabian state oil company has been suspending contracts due to a reversal in previous plans to increase its daily oil capacity. Saipem did not specify the three jackups which would have their contracts suspended. The company is currently managing seven jackups in Saudi Arabia. Saipem stated that the first jackup affected by the suspension was already scheduled to be released by around mid-2024 without a contract extension, and in line with Saipem’s previous plans, the rig will be returned to its owner and no longer managed by Saipem. The company intends for a second jackup to spend the majority of its contract suspension undergoing planned maintenance and recertification. Saipem expects another jackup to have its contract suspended in May 2024. This jackup, which Saipem characterized as earning the lowest dayrate of its units working for Aramco, will be redeployed to another region and replace another Saipem-managed jackup under contract. The jackup replaced by this rig will be delivered back to its owners. While Saipem did not specify which unit would be replaced by a rig from the Saudi Arabian market, the company is currently managing the Jindal Drilling-owned 350-ft jackup Jindal Pioneer, which is working for Eni offshore Mexico. Saipem stated that the jackup market worldwide remains tight and dayrates remain healthy.

Northern Ocean expects a short off-contract period for its harsh-environment (HE) semisubmersible (SS), the 7,500-ft Deepsea Bollsta, following the completion of its current job with Shell in Namibia. The rig owner is focusing on West Africa and other harsh-environment markets for future employment opportunities. Northern Ocean owns two HE semisubs, the 10,000-ft Deepsea Mira and Deepsea Bollsta. Both rigs, managed by Odfjell Drilling, left the North Sea region for contracts in Namibia, with one departing in late 2022 and the other in 2023. The Deepsea Mira is currently operating under a drilling contract with TotalEnergies and is expected to remain in West Africa through the contract term. The Deepsea Bollsta is currently operating under a drilling contract with Shell. On 25 May 2023, Shell declared its option on the Deepsea Bollsta for continued work in Namibia extending the firm term of the contract by six months to mid-June 2024. In December 2023, Shell elected not to exercise its remaining six-month option under the contract for the rig. The rig remains available for employment beginning mid-June 2024, and the company is continuing discussions with potential customers in West Africa and other harsh-environment markets. However, it does expect the Deepsea Bollsta to have a short period off contract. Due to Deepsea Bollsta’s off-contract period and the short-term nature of the current funding, the company will be dependent on loan amendments, obtaining new loans and/or equity issuances to finance its loan obligations and working capital in the next twelve months. This potentially raises substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern. However, the board remains confident that a solution will be reached. Meanwhile, in the second quarter of 2023, the Deepsea Mira started drilling operations for TotalEnergies in Namibia. TotalEnergies declared its option on the Deepsea Mira in December 2023, extending the firm term of the contract by 180 days into the fourth quarter of 2024. One further option remains on the contract.

Drilling Activity and Discoveries

The Norwegian Ocean Industry Authority (Havtil) has given Equinor consent to use the 1,640-ft semisub Transocean Enabler for production drilling/completion and drilling of the exploration segment at the Johan Castberg field offshore Norway. The consent relates to drilling operations on the Johan Castberg field, which is located in the Barents Sea, 100 kilometres northwest of the Snøhvit field. The water depth is 370 metres. The field is currently under development and production is scheduled to start in 2024. The Transocean Enabler secured the Johan Castberg work in March 2023. The contract is for a fixed drilling programme of 19 wells, with a duration of about 570 days, plus options for up to eight wells. The firm part is expected to start in May 2024 and run until December 2025 with options until August 2026.

Shell has concluded drilling Enigma-1X on PEL0039, the company’s sixth exploration well in its campaign offshore Namibia. The company stated that data gathered so far has confirmed the presence of hydrocarbons and that further evaluation is required to determine commercial potential. Enigma-1X was spudded in late February 2024 with Odfjell Drilling-managed 7,500-ft semisubmersible Deepsea Bollsta. Enigma-1X follows  Graff-1X, La Rona-1X, Jonker-1X, Lesedi-1X, and Cullinan-1X plus appraisal drilling at the Graff and Jonker discoveries. Shell is expected to release Deepsea Bollsta around June of this year, after which the rig will undergo its special periodic survey (SPS).

Equinor has completed an appraisal well (7324/7-4) on the Wisting discovery in the Barents Sea off Norway. The objective was to acquire data on the reservoir and cap rock, for use in ongoing evaluation and development of the discovery. The Wisting discovery was proven in Middle Jurassic and Upper Triassic reservoir rocks in the Realgrunnen Subgroup in 2013. The discovery is being evaluated for development along with the Hanssen discovery in the same production licence. The appraisal well 7324/7-4 is located in production licence 537. The water depth at the site is 396 metres. Equinor applied to the Norwegian Environment Agency (Miljødirektoratet) for permission to operate in connection with planned drilling operations related to the 7324/7-4 Wisting Appraisal and 7324/7-U-2 S Wisting Appraisal pilot holes in October 2023. Drilling operations started on 17 March 2024 using the Odfjell Drilling-managed semisub, Deepsea Stavanger, 300 kilometres north of Hammerfest. The well was drilled to a vertical depth of 870 metres below sea level and was terminated in the Fruholmen Formation in the Upper Triassic. The well encountered the reservoir in the Stø and Nordmela formations with a total of 39 metres, with good reservoir quality. Extensive data acquisition and sampling have been carried out. The licensees will conduct extensive analyses of the collected samples and data in order to determine their significance for the Wisting development. The well has been permanently plugged and abandoned.

Galp has completed the first phase of its Mopane exploration campaign on PEL83 in Namibia’s Orange Basin, concluding its Mopane-1X well testing operations. The operator stated that Mopane is potentially positioned as an important commercial discovery with hydrocarbon in-place estimates of 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent or higher in the Mopane complex, before drilling additional wells. Galp began drilling the Mopane-1X well on PEL83 with Odfjell Drilling-managed 10,000-ft semisub Hercules in November 2024. In January 2024, the company reported discovering significant oil columns containing light oil in reservoir sands at two different levels, AVO-1 and AVO-2. The rig then moved on to Mopane-2X, where light oil columns were discovered in sands across targets AVO-3, AVO-1 and a deeper target. The Mopane-2X well found AVO-1 to be in the same pressure regime as in the Mopane-1X discovery well, confirming its lateral extension. Galp stated that it had confirmed good porosities, high pressures and high permeabilities in the columns, with very low oil viscosity, with flows achieved during the well test at a maximum allowed limit of 14 kboepd. Galp stated that all acquired data from the Mopane drilling campaign will be analysed and integrated into an updated reservoir model, which will serve as a basis for its near-term drilling plan to further explore, appraise and develop the wider Mopane complex. Galp is the operator of the block with an 80% interest. Partners NAMCOR and Custos each hold a 10% interest. Hercules is scheduled to relocate from Namibia to Canada in the near future, where it will drill for Equinor. A number of companies have made important discoveries in Namibia’s Orange Basin. Shell has reported a series of discoveries on PEL39 while TotalEnergies has been conducting exploration and appraisal drilling in the wake of its 2022 Venus discovery.

Australian offshore energy regulator NOPSEMA has opened for comments Chevron’s proposed exploration drilling plans for two wells in the Northern Carnarvon Basin off the northwest coast of Western Australia. These are planned to be drilled between 2024 and 2025 subject to rig availability and regulatory approvals. One well is the Wheatstone Deep-1 exploration well in production licence WA-47-L in Commonwealth waters, ~175 km northwest of Dampier Port and ~65 km north-northwest of the Montebello Islands. The proposed exploration well, in a water depth of 754,6 feet is targeting a gas reservoir. Chevron plans to use a semisubmersible drilling rig, and the operation is expected to , around 50 days to complete. The proposed petroleum activity includes drilling, formation evaluation, and well abandonment. Once the exploration drilling activities are complete, the Wheatstone Deep-1 well will be permanently plugged and abandoned, and any property (e.g. wellhead) above the mudline will be removed. The other planned well is the Dino South-1, located in the same basin, but in the exploration permit WA-392-P ~150 km northwest of Onslow and ~100 km west-northwest of Barrow Island. The proposed exploration well, in a water depth of 3143 feet, is targeting a dry gas reservoir. Here, too, Chevron proposes to deploy a semisubmersible drilling rig, with petroleum activity also expected to take about 50 days to complete. As with Wheatstone Deep-1, once the exploration drilling activities are complete, the Dino South-1 well will be permanently plugged and abandoned, and any property (e.g. wellhead) above the mudline will be removed. In its plans, which are now open for comment, Chevron said that a rig contract was in place for both of the wells. While the company did not reveal the name of the rig, a look into the Esgian Rig Analytics system shows the rig planned for this work is Diamond Offshore’s 6,000-ft semisubmersible unit, Ocean Apex. The rig is currently on a contract with Inpex in Australia which is expected to be completed by the end of the month, after which the Ocean Apex will move to start a contract with Santos, also in Australia. Under the current schedule, the rig will become available to Chevron in early 2025.

Rhino Resources has awarded Halliburton an integrated multi-well construction contract for its upcoming exploration drilling campaign on Block 2914A (PEL 85) in the Orange Basin offshore Namibia. Drilling will be carried out with Noble 12,000-ft drillship Noble Venturer. Under the agreement, Halliburton will provide solutions to construct exploration and appraisal wells, along with testing services. Earlier this week, Noble announced the firm two-well drilling contract for Noble Venturer with Rhino Resources. Drilling is expected to begin around November 2024. Rhino Resources identified multiple prospects on the block during a 3D seismic survey carried out in late 2022.

ExxonMobil is drilling the Trumpetfish-1 exploration well on the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana with Stena Drilling 10,000-ft drillship Stena Carron. Following Trumpetfish-1, Stena Carron will move on to drill the Redmouth-1 exploration well. Both exploration wells are in the western part of Stabroek. The rig returned to Guyana in early April 2024 after spending time in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands undergoing its SPS. ExxonMobil recently made the decision to move ahead with the Whiptail development on the block. The company has made over 30 discoveries on Stabroek since 2015.

Partner Woodside Energy has revealed that Chevron has completed the drilling of the Corvus well in the US GOM. The well did not encounter commercial hydrocarbons. Analysis of well results is ongoing. The Corvus well is located in around 5,698 ft of water on Atwater Valley Block 453 and was drilled by Transocean 12,000-ft drillship Deepwater Conqueror. The well was spudded in January 2024.


Mauritania’s Ministère du Pétrole, de l’Energie et des Mines has signed an exploration and production contract with the Taqa Arabia / Go Gas consortium for the exploitation of natural gas reserves in the offshore Banda & Tevet fields. Mauritania’s government estimates that the Banda & Tevet block has total reserves of 2.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Representative of the Taqa Arabia / Go Gas consortium stated that the project would include the extraction, transport and distribution of gas, including electricity production. Go Gas will handle the exploration and production work. Previously, Tullow Oil took over operatorship of the PSC containing the Banda, Tevet and Tiof discoveries in 2011 but carried out decommissioning of the Banda and Tiof fields in recent years. New Fortress Energy signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the Banda field in 2021.

Mobilisation/Rig Moves

Petroserv-managed 10,000-ft semisub SSV Catarina left the Batu Ampar anchorage on Friday, 19 April, and is now en route to Vietnam. The rig, which last worked for Eni in Indonesia (contract ended in late March 2023), is expected to reach Vung Tau anchorage in Vietnam on April 28. Following this, it is expected to leave the anchorage on 5 May, and arrive at Eni’s Block 124 to drill the Sáo Trúc-1X (eng. Bamboo Flute-1x) offshore oil well, on 10 May. SSV Catarina is expected to stay at the block in Vietnam until 15 July 2024. At this time, the only competitive semisubmersible drilling in Southeast Asia is Japan Drilling 1,640-ft unit Hakuryu-5 offshore Malaysia. Several other units are stacked or under construction in the region, while SSV Catarina is en route to Vietnam.

Valaris’ 400-ft harsh-environment jackup rigValaris 123, has mobilised from Dundee, Scotland to the UK sector of the North Sea for a contract with Ithaca Energy. The rig had been in Dundee since November 2023. The one-well contract with Ithaca was announced in early January 2024 and has a minimum duration of 45 to 72 days. After undergoing a maintenance period in Q1 2024, the rig mobilised to the North Sea over the last weekend and arrived at the Erskine field on Sunday 21 April. After this contract, the unit is scheduled to work for Shell on the Selene exploration well and the Pensacola appraisal well, also in the UK North Sea. This contract is expected to start in July. Once these operations have been completed, the rig will work for TAQA on a CCS contract in the Dutch sector of the North Sea for a minimum duration of 170 days. The contract also includes options for up to 10 wells with an estimated total duration of 300 days. This could keep it busy into Q1 2026. Valaris currently has 10 jackup units in the North Sea, 9 of which are working and 1, the 435-ft Valaris Viking, is cold stacked. Valaris’ North Sea rig count has recently been reduced by one unit after the 400-ft Valaris 247 left the North Sea region for new contracts in Australia. Before that, another Valaris-owned unit, the 400-ft Valaris 249, left the region for a contract in New Zealand in early 2022. This jackup is currently operating in Trinidad and Tobago.

Stena Drilling 10,000-ft drillship Stena DrillMAX has begun its mobilisation from Guyana to Canada, where the rig will continue to work for ExxonMobil. The rig is expected to arrive in Canada in early May 2024. Stena DrillMAX had been working for ExxonMobil offshore Guyana since around March 2021, with some short breaks for maintenance and other yard time. Earlier this year, ExxonMobil assigned an option for the rig to its work offshore Canada, where the unit will be used to drill the Persephone exploration well on EL 1169 in the Orphan Basin offshore Newfoundland. The well will be drilled in around 9,842 ft (3,000 m) of water. Drilling is estimated to take around 75 days.

Noble’s 350-ft CJ50 jackup, the Noble Resilient, has mobilised from a port in Denmark to the Danish sector of the North Sea for a new contract with Wintershall Noordzee. Noble Resilient had been undergoing its special periodic survey (SPS) work and repairs in Frederikshavn from late 2023. In late January 2024, it moved from Frederikshavn to Skagen for the  installation of a new helicopter platform and a new crane boom. The rig has now mobilised from the Port of Skagen for its P&A contract with Wintershall Noordzee at the Ravn field, where it’s expected to arrive on Saturday 27 April. This will be the first full decommissioning of an oil and gas field in Denmark. The rig’s contract has a duration of about 60 days. Later this year, the unit is scheduled for a two-well contract with Petrogas in the UK sector of the North Sea. The contract also includes a two-well option.

Advanced Drilling Services (ADES)-owned 375-ft jackup Admarine 691 is being towed to Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia, where it will stay for a few weeks. The rig is expected to undergo some class recertification and contract preparation before departing for Qatar to start its new drilling campaign with TotalEnergies. The rig is being towed by support vessels Zamil 57, Zamil 53, and Day Tide. Admarine 691 is one of the five ADES jackups affected by Saudi Aramco’s contract suspensions. These suspensions are for up to 12 months, and the original term of the suspended contracts will automatically be extended for a period equal to the suspension for each rig. If the jackups find alternate work during the suspensions, they may complete firm and optional terms before resuming work with Aramco.

Constellation 3,600-ft semisubmersible Olinda Star is mobilising from Indian waters to Trincomalee, Sri. Lanka. The semisubmersible concluded its drilling operations with ONGC in January 2024. After a few months at anchorage in Kakinada, India, the rig departed on 21 April 2024 to Trincomalee, Sri. Lanka.

Shelf Drilling-owned 270-ft jackup High Island IV has started moving towards its new drilling location in the Persian Gulf to continue its contract with Saudi Aramco. The High Island IV completed an OOS period in Q4 2023 and started operations in the same quarter. After a few months of operations, the rig was moved to Ras Tanura, where it was waiting to be moved to its next drilling location. The Rawabi 3, Walker Tide, and Zamil 504 support vessels are towing the rig to its new drilling location to continue its 10-year contract with Aramco.

After spending more than a month at anchor in Labuan, Noble Corporation’s 400-ft jackup Noble Tom Prosser has left the anchorage. It is now under tow to start a contract with Shell in Malaysia. The rig left Labuan on Friday, supported by two anchor handling vessels Hai Duong 102 and Executive Aspire. Shell will use the rig of the F&G JU-3000N design to drill exploration and development wells offshore Sarawak. According to available information, Shell will first drill three exploration wells MLNG Exp. 1, MLNG Exp. 2, and MLNG Exp. 3, after which it will drill wells at F27, SLS, and F22 offshore sites, with the operation in total expected to last until mid-April 2025. The 2014-built rig itself has a contract until mid-May 2025, with further extension options that could keep it on contract for another year.

Other News

Odfjell Drilling 10,000-ft semisubmersible Deepsea Atlantic will go into the yard in mid-2024 for a planned special periodic survey (SPS). As part of this SPS program, the rig will be upgraded with a new blowout preventer (BOP). Deepsea Atlantic has been working for Equinor at the Johan Sverdrup Phase II development offshore Norway since 2023. Following the SPS, the rig will return to work for Equinor, initially offshore Norway but then in UK waters for a firm 23-month contract with Equinor fixed last year. Options for the rig could keep it working with Equinor into 2029. Odfjell Drilling expects its 10,000-ft semisubs Deepsea Aberdeen and Deepsea Stavanger to also undergo SPSs in 2024 and 2025. These units are also currently working for Equinor offshore Norway. The 7,500-ft semisub Deepsea Bollsta, which is managed by Odfjell and currently working offshore Namibia, is also expected to undergo its SPS in mid-2024.

TotalEnergies has signed an agreement with Sapura Upstream Assets Sdn Bhd (SUA) to acquire its 50% interest in Malaysian independent gas producer and operator SapuraOMV Upstream Sdn (SapuraOMV) for $530 million, subject to closing adjustments. Closing is expected in the second half of 2024. This agreement follows TotalEnergies’ January 2024 agreement with OMV for the acquisition of its 50% interest in SapuraOMV. After the completion of both transactions, which are subject to regulatory approvals, TotalEnergies would own 100% of SapuraOMV. SapuraOMV’s main assets are its 40% operated interest in block SK408 and 30% operated interest in block SK310, offshore Sarawak, Malaysia. SapuraOMV also holds interests in exploration licences in Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico.

Saipem Group reported offshore drilling revenue of €210 million for the first quarter of 2024, an increase of 16.7% from the first quarter of 2023. Adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter for this business segment was €80 million. Saipem reported first quarter revenue of €3,047 million for the entire business, with adjusted EBITDA of €268 million. Saipem attributed the rise in offshore drilling revenue to the contributions of the 12,000-ft drillship Deep Value Driller and the 400-ft jackup Perro Negro 11 and the 300-ft jackup Perro Negro 12, which were not operating in the first quarter of 2023 but were working for the majority of the first quarter of 2024. This improvement was offset by the 12,000-ft semisubmersible Scarabeo 9, which was off rate for a portion of the first quarter of 2024 as it underwent contract preparations, maintenance and class recertification ahead of work starting offshore Egypt with Burullus.

MedcoEnergi has divested its entire share capital of Ophir Vietnam Block 12W B.V. (OVBV) to Bitexco Energy Company Limited. OVBV holds a 31.875% participating interest in Chim Sao and Dua (“Block 12W”), the producing oil and gas field located in Vietnam. MedcoEnergi CEO Roberto Lorato said: “This divestment aligns with MedcoEnergi’s strategy of active portfolio management through targeted acquisitions and divestments. We appreciate Bitexco’s cooperation during the transaction and expect the fields to continue to add value for the new owners.” As previously reported, Harbour Energy, the operator of Block 12W with a 53.125% stake, in August 2023 agreed to sell its stake to Big Energy Stock Company for $84 million. The divestment is expected to be completed during 2024 and will result in a country exit from Vietnam for Harbour.

Ithaca Energy and Eni have entered into an agreement under which Eni will combine its UK upstream assets with Ithaca Energy. The combination includes Eni’s recently acquired Neptune Energy assets and excludes its East Irish Sea and CCUS assets. Under the terms of the business combination agreement Eni and Ithaca will combine the Eni UK business with the existing Ithaca business, funded through the issue to Eni UK of such number of new ordinary shares that represents 38.5% of the enlarged issued share capital of Ithaca. The economic effective date for the combination will be 30 June 2024, with completion expected in Q3 2024. Upon completion, Eni will be a significant minority shareholder in Ithaca Energy. As part of the transaction, the combined group will enter into a technical services agreement with Eni. The combined businesses will have an interest in 37 producing assets on the UK Continental Shelf and stakes in the Rosebank, Cambo, Schiehallion, Mariner Area, Elgin/Franklin and J-Area fields. Eni estimates 2024 production of 100,000 to 110,000 boe/d with a 2P reserves and 2C resources base of 658 mmboe.

Serica Energy has taken a final investment decision (FID) on the Belinda development, located in licence P1792 in the Central North Sea. The draft Field Development Plan (FDP) for this project was submitted to the NSTA in September 2023. Serica took the FID on the Belinda development in April 2024. Consent to the project has been received from the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED). The UK North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) approval of the final FDP is expected shortly. Serica plans to use the 2,460-ft semisub COSLInnovator to drill the Belinda development well (BE01) during 1H 2025, having exercised the option for an additional fifth well in the current Triton area drilling campaign in September 2023. The Triton area drilling campaign started earlier this month with the first well in the programme being the B1z sidetrack on the Bittern field. With the addition of the 100% owned Belinda development well, the programme using the COSLInnovator rig now comprises five wells. The first oil from Belinda is planned for 1Q 2026.

TotalEnergies and Trident Energy have announced transactions concerning some of their offshore oilfield asset stakes in the Republic of Congo. Trident Energy said Wednesday it had signed an agreement with Chevron to acquire the entire issued share capital of Chevron Overseas (Congo) Limited which holds a 31.5% non-operated working interest in the Moho-Bilondo, Nkossa, Nsoko II fields and a 15.75% operated interest in the Lianzi field. It then signed agreements with TotalEnergies to simultaneously acquire an additional 53.5% working interest in the Nkossa and Nsoko II fields from TotalEnergies and divest a 10% working interest in the Moho-Bilondo field to TotalEnergies. Moho is a deep-offshore field located 80 kilometers off the coast of Pointe Noire and operated by  TotalEnergies EP Congo, with a current production of around 100 kboe/d gross. Nkossa and Nsoko II are two mature offshore fields located 70 kilometres off the coast, which currently produce a combined 15 kboe/d in total. Upon completion of the transactions, TotalEnergies EP Congo will hold a 63.5% operated interest in the Moho licence alongside Trident Energy (21.5%) and the Société Nationale des Pétroles du Congo (SNPC, 15%). Trident Energy will hold an 85% operated interest in the Nkossa and Nsoko II licences alongside SNPC (15%). TotalEnergies said in a statement that it remained committed to the country through its increased stake and operatorship in the Moho field and that it was preparing to drill an exploration well on the Marine XX licence before the summer of 2024.

A final investment decision (FID) for the NEO Energy-operated Buchan Horst project in the UK North Sea, which is not expected before the latter part of 2024, depends in part on the impact on project economics of expectations for the future tax regime which will apply through the life of the project. This is according to Serica Energy, one of the partners in the project. Serica announced the acquisition of a 30% non-operated interest in the Greater Buchan Area (GBA) from Jersey Oil & Gas (JOG) in November 2023. The transaction was completed in February 2024. The partners in the project are Serica Energy (30%), NEO Energy (50% and operator), and JOG (20%). This provides Serica with the option of participating in the re-development of the Buchan field (formally renamed ‘Buchan Horst’) and other potential projects in the GBA, such as the development of the J2 and Verbier discoveries. Located in licences P2498 and P2170, the GBA encompasses several oil and gas accumulations some 150 km northeast of Aberdeen. The largest of these accumulations is the Buchan Horst field, which produced for over thirty years, ceasing production in 2017 owing to the end of the useable life of the floating production facility. A draft FDP and an Environmental Statement for the Buchan Horst field have already been submitted to the regulators. The FDP for the re-development of the area assumes a new production hub located at the Buchan Horst field utilising the FPSO vessel currently operating on the UK Western Isles fields and planned to come off-station in the 2H 2024. A phased development is envisaged involving the re-development of the Buchan Horst field in Phase 1 and the possible development of the J2 and Verbier discoveries in Phase 2. Mid-case contingent resources from the Buchan Horst field alone are estimated to be in the region of 70 million boe gross, making it the third largest pre-development field on the UKCS. There are other discoveries and prospects in close proximity, which may provide additional tie-back opportunities to the FPSO. Subject to project sanction and regulatory approval, the target for first production from Buchan Horst is Q4 2026. This is one of several UK projects where questions have been raised about the impact of potential future changes in the fiscal regime on project economics. Ithaca Energy doesn’t want to commit to a timeline for the Cambo project without having some certainty from the government. Meanwhile, Hartshead Resources and its joint venture (JV) partners in the Phase 1 gas field development are committed to progressing the project, subject to receiving certainty regarding future fiscal policy. In addition, i3 Energy and Europa Oil & Gas continue to asses various development scenarios for the Serenity field discovery, but there are concerns over the impact of possible future changes in the UK’s fiscal regime on project economics.

Sintana Energy Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement which will grant it an interest in Petroleum Exploration License 79 (PEL 79) in the Orange Basin offshore Nambia. PEL 79 includes blocks 2815 and 2915 and is currently operated by state oil company NAMCOR with a 67% interest. Sintana has entered into an agreement with Crown Energy for the acquisition of up to 67% of the shares of Giraffe Energy Investments, which has a 33% interest in PEL 79. Sintana stated that PEL 79 presents “a unique opportunity” as one of the last remaining licenses in the Orange Basin not operated by a private operator. PEL 79 is close to the BW Energy-operated PEL 3 and the Rhino Resources-operated PEL 85, where exploration campaigns are planned.

The Government of Angola has approved Afentra’s acquisition of a 12% non-operated interest in Block 3/05 and a 16% non-operated interest in Block 3/05A from Azule Energy. Afentra and Azule aim to complete the acquisition in the second quarter of 2024. The agreement was first announced in July 2023. Block 3/05A contains the Punja discovery, which the Angolan government has declared as a marginal discovery. Afentra already holds an interest in the two blocks, which are operated by Sonangol. Songangol and its partners are currently carrying out light well intervention activities at the block and are considering infill drilling in the future.

Woodside Energy has exited the Carlisle Bay block offshore Barbados. The Australian exploration and production company previously had a 60% operated interest in the block. Woodside acquired operated interests offshore Barbados when it merged with BHP Petroleum in 2022. In late 2022, the company farmed out a 40% interest in the Carlisle and Bimshire blocks offshore Barbados to Shell.

Image credit: Odfjell Drilling 

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