Luck Eludes ONGC's Deepwater Drilling Program

ONGC is having little luck in its ambitious deepwater drilling program. More than a year ago ONGC deployed three drillships to start the program: Belford Dolphin, Discoverer Seven Seas and its own Sagar Vijay. But so far there's been no major oil or gas strike.

ONGC has drilled ten deepwater wells to date, three are being drilled now and one was suspended. The Belford Dolphin is drilling her seventh well off the Kerala Konkan coast and has drilled the most for ONGC. The Belford Dolphin is sitting in water depth of 1080 meters and will drill to a depth of 3500 meters to reach Eocene formations.

PETROWATCH understands that the Belford Dolphin experienced a slight problem when the Blow Out Preventor could not be fixed properly as the 20-inch casing was sinking into the seabed. That's been sorted out and drilling continues uneventfully. Target depth is expected in another two weeks.

Transocean's Discoverer Seven Seas is drilling her fourth deepwater well for ONGC in the eastern offshore. This well was spud early October, in water depth of 857 meters and will be drilled to 2800 meters to Pliocene sands. Expect target depth in another 20 days.

The Discoverer Seven Seas also encountered a "minor problem" due to "gas influx" and "loss and gain" of mud. Neither Belford Dolphin nor Discoverer Seven Seas has reported any hydrocarbon strike.

ONGC's own Sagar Vijay has been slightly luckier. She struck a moderate gas pool in the first well she drilled. Her second well was a dry hole and she is now drilling her third well, also off the east coast. This well sits in water depths of 582 meters and will be drilled to 2600 meters.

ONGC is busy resolving a major complication that Sagar Vijay experienced while drilling the present well. We understand the drill string got stuck at 1600 meters due to "well activity". ONGC has snapped the string and is now pulling it out. Plans are to cement the well and sidetrack it. Drilling of this well is likely to be completed in another 40 days.

After the Belford Dolphin finishes drilling the Kerala Konkan well ONGC will either send her to the eastern offshore or bring her back to offshore Kutch to complete a well whose drilling was suspended midway as the riser could not be correctly placed due to a mismatch. "This problem has now been sorted out and the drilling of the well has to be completed," says an ONGC source. "If we keep the well incomplete for too long we will lose it." If ONGC decides to bring the Belford dolphin back up to Kutch, "we may like to use it to explore one or two more plays" and then send her to the eastern offshore.

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