Reducing drilling and development spend has largely been the focus of services and equipment providers in the Gulf of Mexico – with the aim of lowering costs at the most capital intensive period of asset lifecycles.
Often overlooked, Opex costs have grown in line with other upstream costs – 7% CAGR from 2010-2014 in the Gulf of Mexico. The North American offshore market has some of the highest overall maintenance, modification and operation costs per barrel – more than twice the global average.
Historically, offshore Opex has been largely ignored as a critical driver of deepwater project economics, yet this is beginning to change. The current rate of growth combined with the overall operational cost in the Gulf of Mexico is not sustainable.
Operators are deferring and cancelling many historically routine operational objectives as long as they stay within safety and regulatory guidelines. Budgets for maintenance and modification projects are now being revisited and contractors will feel the impact.
Within our offshore support sector clients, many firms typically point to the large proportion of revenue that is production-linked, implying that this insulates from the effect of oil price cycles. Whilst this may be true up to a point, the effect of the current prolonged downturn clearly reaches far further than exploration and development activities.
Mergers and acquisitions are likely to be a result of this operational spending compression, but there are still many efficiencies to be shaken out. Practices such as consolidating projects and optimizing contracting processes are already producing results in many cases. With breakeven economics at US$70/bbl or higher at some Gulf of Mexico prospects, recognition of operational costs and streamlining the value chain can no longer be overlooked.