Esgian Week 4 Report: Spotlight on Drilling Activities and Discoveries

Deepsea Stavanger drilling rig (Credit: Odfjell Drilling)
Deepsea Stavanger drilling rig (Credit: Odfjell Drilling)

Esgian's latest market roundup for the fourth week of 2024 brings several updates on new oil discoveries and plans for exploration drilling across the world, together with reports about new contracts and mobilization of rigs.  


Dragon Oil and and Bluewhale Offshore have signed a three-year contract extension for the 300-ft jackup Caspian Driller, keeping the rig working for Dragon Oil offshore Turkmenistan. The extension is effective immediately following the conclusion of the rig’s current contract in the first quarter of 2024. Caspian Driller has been working for Dragon Oil for over 10 years.

Drilling Activity and Discoveries

Equinor has discovered oil in exploration well 30/12-3 S in the North Sea off Norway. The well also included a sidetrack well, 30/12-3 A, which was dry. Equinor drilled the well on behalf of Aker BP, which is the operator of production licence 272 B where the wells are located. The licence is part of the Munin field, which was discovered in 2011. The drilling was conducted by Odfjell Drilling’s 10,000-ft semisub Deepsea Stavanger.

Tullow Oil expects to conclude its drilling activity at the Jubilee field offshore Ghana around six months ahead of schedule. The company and its joint venture partners then intend to take a break from drilling in Ghana before resuming in 2025. Tullow Oil has been drilling at its Jubilee and TEN fields offshore Ghana with Noble 12,000-ft drillship Noble Venturer (previously Maersk Venturer) for the past several years.

After more than a year on standby offshore Darwin, Australia, the 8,200-ft semisub Valaris MS-1 has resumed drilling operations at Santos' Barossa development. The rig arrived at the Barossa field in mid-January from its standby location southeast of Cape Fourcroy, Bathurst Island, in the Beagle Gulf.

Santos said that, despite the delays, it still expected the first gas from Barossa in 2025, however, not in the first half of 2025, as originally planned when the FID was made in 2021.

Borr Drilling 400-ft jackup Gunnlod has completed work with SapuraOMV after drilling six development wells at the Jerun field offshore Sarawak, Malaysia. Gunnlod is expected to remain in Malaysia for upcoming work with an undisclosed operator, scheduled to run from around February to May 2024, based on a binding LOA fixed in 2023.

Murphy Oil is advancing plans to drill two exploration wells in the Cuu Long Basin offshore Vietnam in 2024. The wells are expected to be spud in the second half of 2024 with Japan Drilling 425-ft jackup Hakuryu-11.

Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) will drill two exploration wells in the eastern US GOM in 2024, with spud dates targeted for the second quarter of 2024. Oxy plans to drill the Ocotillo well on Mississippi Canyon Block 40 and the Orange well on Mississippi Canyon Block 216. The company called these wells “promising exploration opportunities” in late 2023. Oxy has two drillships under contract in the US GOM; Valaris 12,000-ft unit Valaris DS-16 and Diamond Offshore 10,000-ft unit Ocean Blackhawk

Portuguese oil company Galp said Friday it had discovered a significant column of light oil in reservoir-bearing sands of high quality at AVO-2, a deeper target of the Mopane-1X well, offshore Namibia. Galp is using the Odfjell Drilling-managed semisubmersible Hercules for the operation.


The recent updates on the Sea Lion development progress have included an updated development plan to align with Navitas Petroleum LP' reservoir models, leading to an 11% increase in certified resources across the entire North Falkland Basin portfolio. Navitas has identified suitable and available existing floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels and is actively working with leading industry vendors to secure all long lead equipment, with the goal of reaching the Sea Lion Phase 1 Final Investment Decision (FID) in 2024 and achieving first oil by the end of 2026.

Sonangol and its partners are continuing planning for activity at Blocks B3/05 and B3/05A offshore Angola. Partner Afentra stated that planning is continuing on the selection of the initial phase for electric submersible pump installation, workovers and infill wells at B3/05 and B3/05A. Drilling candidates include the undeveloped Bufalo Nord field, Gazela discovery and an exploration well at Pacassa South West.

Mobilisation/Rig Moves

COSL’s 4,921-ft semisub COSLProspector has left the Canary Islands and is now en route to its final destination, Norway. The semisub is expected to reach Norway in early February 2024. Following preparations, it will start a two-year firm contract with Vår Energi in the Barents Sea in Q3 2024.

The Shelf Drilling-owned 300-ft jackup, Main Pass IV, has recommenced operations with Saudi Aramco in the Middle East. The Main Pass IV performed its planned maintenance at Zamil Shipyard in Saudi Arabia. With the recommencement of this contract, the rig will be busy until March 2025.

Stena Drilling’s 1,640-ft semisub Stena Don is at a yard in Norway where it is undergoing some recertification works related to special periodic survey (SPS)/UWILD. The rig has been under contract with Shell in the UK from May 2023, but the contract has been paused recently for it to undergo these works related to the SPS, which is due on 27 February 2024. Once these operations are completed, the semisub will return to the North Sea.

Valaris 350-ft jackup Valaris 118 has been docked in Chaguaramas, Trinidad for routine maintenance and upgrades ahead of its next six-well campaign with bp. Valaris 118 has been working for bp in Trinidad since October 2022. After the completion of its yard stay, the rig will return to bp offshore Trinidad for a six-well contract extension, fixed in November 2023.

Transocean 1,640-ft semisub Transocean Endurance has left Dampier, Australia, and is being towed to Woodside’s Stybarrow site to start a P&A contract. The rig, which arrived in Australia from Norway earlier this year, has its destination set to Eskdale, a reservoir that is part of the Stybarrow Development, together with the Stybarrow reservoir. The Cat D rig is expected to reach the site on Thursday, 25 January, and upon final acceptance, it should start its contract by the end of the week.

Other News

The Government of the Republic of South Africa has given final approval for the transfer of a 6.25% interest in Block 3B/4B from Eco Atlantic subsidiary Azinam Limited to Africa Oil Corp. With this transaction, first announced in July 2023, Africa Oil now holds an operated 26.25% interest in the block, while Eco Atlantic has a 20% interest and Ricocure (Pty) Ltd holds a 53.75% interest.

W&T Offshore has acquired six fields in shallow waters of the US GOM for $72 million, excluding certain closing costs. W&T Offshore bid on these assets offered by Cox Operating and related companies which filed for bankruptcy in May 2023.

Eco (Atlantic) Oil & Gas Ltd. has initiated entry into the Second Phase of the Second Renewal Period for the Orinduik Licence in Guyana, effective from 14 January 2024. In this Second Phase, there is a commitment to drill an exploration well in the Cretaceous formation by the end of the licence period on 13 January 2026.

Stena Drilling's 5,000-ft harsh environment semisubmersible Stena Spey is being marketed for sale. Maritime consultancy Clarksons is assisting with the divestiture of the unit. Stena Spey was delivered from DSME in 1983 as High Seas Driller and has worked primarily in the UK North Sea and offshore Ireland since then.

Malaysia's Petronas has awarded Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) for six exploration blocks and one Discovered Resource Opportunities (DRO) cluster marketed under the Malaysia Bid Round 2023 (MBR 2023). Petronas has now also launched Malaysia Bid Round 2024.

NEO Energy has filed the environmental statement (ES) for its Buchan Horst development in the UK North Sea to the country’s regulator. The NEO Energy-operated Buchan Redevelopment Project involves the redevelopment of the Buchan Horst field, in the Outer Moray Firth in UKCS Blocks 20/05a and 21/01a in the Central North Sea, c. 115 km northeast of the Aberdeenshire coastline. The proposed project will comprise the drilling of up to five production wells and two water injection wells, across two drill centres located within a single 500 m safety zone. At the time of preparing the ES, NEO had yet to determine if a semisubmersible or a heavy-duty jackup rig would be used to drill the proposed wells

United Oil & Gas Plc has secured a two-year extension to its Walton Morant Licence offshore Jamaica to 31 January 2026. The company has a 100% working interest in the block. During this extension, United intends to undertake additional technical studies including piston core sampling and seismic reprocessing, aimed at further de-risking the petroleum system and better defining the prospects and leads identified on the licence.

Petrobras has formally expressed its interest to the National Energy Policy Council (CNPE) in securing the right of first refusal for the pre-salt Jaspe block within the Campos Basin. This asset is slated for tender in the third round of the Permanent Offer System, operating under the Production Sharing Regime. By exercising preferential bidding rights, Petrobras can secure a 30% operating stake in Jaspe.

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