Deepwater Gulf Activity Forecast to Continue Rise

Deepwater Gulf Activity Forecast to Continue Rise

Deepwater U.S. Gulf of Mexico drilling activity will continue to rise, with the number of deepwater Gulf rigs expected to reach 60 by 2015, according to a recent analyst report.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in June issued 37 permits for floating rigs in the U.S. Gulf, up from 36 permits announced in May but down from 45 permits in April. The 37 permits in June included 20 permits for exploration work and 17 for development work, Barclays Capital analyst James C. West in a July 16 research note.

The continued strong permitting environment in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico suggests a continued improvement in the deepwater rig count, especially in light of recent, very successful discovery announcement in the Lower Tertiary, according to a Barclays Capital July 16 analyst note. 

“We expect this to persist in the coming months,” West noted.

As of July 17, 37 floater rigs are working in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico for 14 operators, including Royal Dutch Shell plc, Chevron Corp., Statoil ASA and Exxon Mobil Corp., according to Rigzone’s RigLogix database.  The rigs are drilling 16 development wells, 13 exploratory wells and eight appraisal wells in the U.S. Gulf in water depths between approximately 2,001 feet and 8,843 feet.

According to RigLogix, five floater rigs are scheduled to start work in the U.S. Gulf in the second half of 2013, including the Noble Don Taylor (UDW drillship), West Auriga (UDW drillship), West Vela (UDW drillship), Ocean BlackHawk (UDW drillship) and Ocean Onyx (DW semisub), which was upgraded for deepwater exploration at Keppel AmFELS shipyard in Brownsville, Texas. Ocean Onyx is scheduled to leave the shipyard in late September of this year and start a one-year contract for Apache Corp.. The rig will be available in September 2014 if Apache does not exercise its one year option for the rig.

In 2014, 12 floating rigs are expected to begin work in the U.S. Gulf, including the Ocean Confidence (UDW semisub), which is working offshore Angola in West Africa and is expected to return to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Discoverer Americas (UDW drillship), which is expected to return to the U.S. Gulf from East Africa. The Discoverer Americas currently is drilling for Statoil offshore Mozambique.


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Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at


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