New-generation of drillers

The AP Moller-Maersk Group's Maersk Drilling has signed a contract with the Keppel Fels yard in Singapore for the construction of two ultra-harsh environment, high-capacity jackup drilling rigs. The new rigs are targeting operations in water depths up to 150m on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) and have been designed to comply with its strict regulatory requirements.

The first rig is scheduled for delivery at the end of 2013, with the second following seven months later. The total project cost for the two rigs is close to $1.2 billion, including the yard's turnkey contract, owner-furnished equipment, project management, commissioning, start-up costs and capitalized interest. The contract includes an option for the construction of one additional jackup rig, to be declared by July 2011.

Representing a new generation of jackups, the rigs will be enhanced versions of the proven Gusto MSC CJ-70-150MD and include a number of features designed to further improve their drilling performance. The highcapacity features include offline pipe handling and simultaneous operations as well as an enlarged cantilever reach, which is expected to significantly improve drilling efficiency compared to conventional units. The enhanced design also includes multi-machine control on the drill floor, allowing for a high degree of automation. A total of 150 people can be accommodated onboard in single cabins.

‘We believe in continued strong demand for high capacity jackup rigs on the Norwegian continental shelf and have a strong track record since 1989 of operating in this challenging environment,' says Maersk Drilling CEO Claus Hemmingsen. Maersk Drilling currently operates five jackup drilling rigs in the Norwegian North Sea, with an additional unit scheduled to enter Norwegian waters later this year.

D day for Statoil
Drilling rigs of a different stripe were the subject of a recent tender invitation sent out by Statoil. Dubbed category D, the new rig was specially designed for use by the Norwegian operator as a workhorse on mature NCS fields, primarily for drilling production wells and well completion.

The purpose is to make drilling and completion of production wells less expensive, more effective and safer, explains Statoil chief procurement officer Jon Arnt Jacobsen. ‘The rigs delivered to the NCS in recent years were first and foremost constructed for operations in deep water,' he says. ‘That means that they are big and too costly for our requirements and challenges on the NCS. We are therefore taking steps to rejuvenate the rig fleet and ensure that the right rig meets the right requirements.'

The category D rig is able to operate in 100-500m water depths and drill wells down to 8500m. Statoil is inviting tenders for a minimum of two such rigs and expects the contract to run for either eight years with four three-year options or for a 20-year firm contract period. The unusually long contract duration is being dangled in front of drilling contractors to build their rigs. Statoil is also considering further reducing the rig risk by taking an ownership stake in them.

‘The goal is that the new rig will drill 20% more effectively than conventional rigs,' declares Jacobsen. ‘This will help to counteract the cost trends in the rig market.' A contract award is anticipated in 3Q 2011 and Statoil will be looking for delivery in 2H 2014. OE

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