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James Stafford

James Stafford

James Stafford is the Editor of Oilprice.com

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Evolving in the Deep: The Ultra Drill Ship

The bulk of new discoveries we’ve been hearing about over the past couple of years—at least the big ones—are offshore, many of them in ultra-deep waters. Shallow discoveries are fewer and farther between because most of the sweet spots have already been found.

So as exploration gets deeper, so too must the drilling rigs, and they have to be more advanced than ever before. This is all looking good for deepwater drilling rig day rates, which are showing some climb due to rising demand.

For 2012, 49% of new offshore discoveries were in ultra-deepwater plays, while 28% were in deepwater plays. What we’re looking at now are amazing advancements in deepwater rigs, with new semi-submersibles capable of drilling to depths of 5,000 feet or deeper. Beyond that, new sixth generation enterprise-class drillships can go to depths of 12,000 feet (think Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and Angola, for starters).

This market is getting tighter and tighter, and while this year it’s mostly about Africa, the US Gulf of Mexico and Brazil, demand is also increasing (gradually) from Asia and Mexico, too.  Not only are we looking now at 6th generation ultra-deepwater drillships, but 7th, too.

One of the most advanced ultra rigs out there is Transocean’s Discoverer Enterprise, which is the first ultra-deepwater drillship to feature dual activity drilling technology that is said to reduce the cost of deepwater development by up to…

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