Daily Archives: September 13, 2011

High-Spec Jackup Market: Hercules Offshore increases stake in Discovery Offshore

By gCaptain Staff On September 13, 2011

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Hercules Offshore Inc. (HERO) said its acquired an added 6.1 million shares of Discovery Offshore SA (DISC.OS), bringing the contract driller’s stake to 28% in the Luxembourg-based owner of ultra high-specification jackup rigs.

Hercules shares were down 6% at $3.78 in recent trading. The stock is up 60% in the past year.

Houston-based Hercules said it paid an average of 9.02 Norwegian kroner ($1.60) per Discovery Offshore share, bringing its total investment in the company to about $34.1 million.

The company is overseeing construction, marketing and operations of rigs owned by Discovery Offshore, as well as performing other administrative functions.

Hercules President and Chief Executive John T. Rynd said, “Since our initial investment in Discovery Offshore in January 2011, the fundamentals of the offshore drilling industry have strengthened, and demand for ultra high-specification jackup rigs remains exceptionally strong.”

Hercules, which has racked up more than three years of losses, became the biggest rig contractor in the Gulf of Mexico’s shallow waters when it closed on a deal in April to acquire the rigs of weakened rival Seahawk Drilling Inc.

-By Tess Stynes, Dow Jones Newswires

Original Article

New Oil Finds Around the Globe: Will the U.S. Capitalize on Its Oil Resources?

Uploaded by AmericanSolutions on Mar 28, 2011

In a recent trip to Brazil, President Obama praised the Brazilians for their forward-thinking energy policy and said he wants America to be one of their “best customers.” Why, then, is he keeping American energy resources off limits?

By November 23, a team of 12 Congressmen and Senators will determine if they can agree on a way to cut at least $1.2 trillion dollars from the federal deficit. If they fail to agree, predetermined cuts will automatically occur, half of which will be to the Department of Defense budget.[i] One way to get revenues without taxation and spending is to allow the U.S. oil industry to do what countries around the globe are doing: drilling for oil, onshore, offshore, in the Arctic and elsewhere. A recent study by the American Petroleum Institute (API) finds that fewer restrictions on oil drilling could increase government revenues by $800 billion, increase U.S. liquids production by 50 percent, and generate 1.4 million new jobs by 2030.[ii] And, the United States can do that just by allowing the oil industry to develop oil resources here in the United States as other countries are doing in their countries: Canada, Norway, Cuba, Brazil, Russia, Israel, to name just a few.

Oil Finds and Development around the Globe

Brazil. Brazil has some 15 billion barrels of proved oil reserves in its sub-salt offshore fields. They lie in a 2 kilometer deep salt layer under the seabed that is estimated to hold up to 50 billion barrels of oil.[iii] These ultra-deep deposits are drilled at up to three times the normal pressure for offshore oil. By 2020, Petrobras, the country’s government-controlled oil company, is expected to produce 4 million barrels per day, double its volume today.[iv]  Other estimates have production as much as 5 million barrels a day and 6.42 million barrel a day by 2020.[v] The sub-salt’s share of total domestic oil production is expected to increase from 2 percent in 2011 to 40.5 percent in 2020.[vi]

While the United States has oil offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Obama Administration either has that oil off limits to exploration or is slow at approving leases since it lifted the drilling moratorium it put in place after BP’s accident in the Gulf. In Alaska, which has over 50 percent of the entire coastline of the United States[vii], fewer than 100 exploratory wells[viii] have been drilled in federal waters, while over 35,000 wells have been drilled in the Gulf of Mexico[ix]. Alaska has tremendous unknown potential for energy discoveries, but currently, final permits have not been issued to allow exploratory wells. But, during President Obama’s visit to Brazil earlier this year, he pledged that the United States will be a major customer for Brazilian oil.

Canada. Canada is rich in oil sands with 170 billion barrels in reserves.  Environmentalists are against oil sands because their production emits more greenhouse gas emissions than the production of conventional oil. Studies have shown that the difference in emissions from well to wheel is only about 15 percent. Further, a new technology, developed by N-Solv, an Alberta Consortium, can extract twice the amount of oil as current methods and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the process by up to 85 percent.[xi] But none the less, the dispute over the Keystone XL pipeline bringing Canadian oil into the United States is due mainly to the oil sands production issue.

Needless to say, whether the United States buys Canadian oil sands or not, someone will and that someone is most likely China, who has already bought into Canadian oil fields. In July, China’s largest offshore oil producer, Cnooc Ltd. agreed to buy OPTI Canada Inc. for about $2.1 billion a deal that has to be approved by both governments.[xii] Also, whether the United States allows Canada to build the Keystone XL pipeline or not, the United States will be importing Canadian oil sands, moving it by barge, rail, or truck, as we do now. An Ensys Energy & Systems Report, Inc. commissioned by the State Department estimated that rail alone could haul 1.25 million barrels of Canadian crude daily by 2030, nearly twice the amount of the proposed pipeline.[xiii]

Cuba. Cuba has 5 billion to 20 billion barrels of oil off its coast, just 70 miles off the Florida Keys. Soon, Cuban workers on a Chinese-built rig owned by Spain will be drilling in mile deep-waters. China has signed contracts with oil companies from Brazil, India, Italy, Russia and Spain and is in talks with China over lease deals. This oil find could make Cuba independent of Venezuelan crude, from which Cuba gets 60 percent of its oil. Due to our 49-year embargo with Cuba, U.S. oil companies cannot drill in Cuban waters, supply equipment there, or help in the event of an oil spill.[xiv]

Israel. Israel has an estimated 250 billion barrels of recoverable oil shale, second only to that of the United States, which has almost a trillion recoverable barrels. The 250 billion barrels compares favorably to the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia whose reserves total 260 billion barrels. It is estimated that the oil can be recovered at $35 to $40 a barrel using a new technique that does not use water. Israel Energy Initiatives indicates that the process is cleaner than that currently used to produce shale oil because the oil will be separated from the shale rock up to 300 meters beneath the ground, releasing water as a by-product. The extraction process involves heating the rock underground to approximately 325C, the level at which the carbon bonds in the rock start to “crack”. Production on a commercial basis is expected by the end of the decade with production levels beginning at 50,000 barrels per day, which will provide almost 20 percent of Israel’s oil consumption. [xv]

In contrast, the U.S. oil shale resources are mostly on federal lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, and the U.S. federal government is withholding those lease sales.

Norway. Norway had been seeing oil production declines since 2000 when its oil production peaked due to maturing oil wells. But that trend may be reversed due to two new finds in the North Sea.  Statoil ASA has made two offshore finds totaling between 500 million and 1.2 billion barrels, which is among Norway’s top ten discoveries. The new well is less than ten feet from a dry well drilled in 1971.[xvi]

“This shows Norway still has the capacity to deliver world-class discoveries,” Tim Dodson, Statoil’s exploration chief, said. “It’s probably the largest offshore oil discovery anywhere in the world this year. It has given the entire oil industry renewed optimism.”[xvii]

Russia. Russia has opened a portion of its offshore area in the Arctic Ocean to drilling and ExxonMobil has obtained the rights to drill there, but the deal may need to be reviewed by the U.S. government. The United States Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic holds one-fifth of the world’s undiscovered, recoverable oil and natural gas. Russia’s economy is dependent on petroleum for about 60 percent of its export revenue. While Russia currently produces more oil than Saudi Arabia, its Siberian onshore oil fields are in decline, so the country needs to develop new areas.

This contrasts with the U. S. stance regarding drilling offshore Alaska where environmental restrictions and lawsuits by conservation organizations have held off exploration.[xviii]

The API Study

What could the oil industry achieve if restrictions on oil drilling in the United States were lessened? The American Petroleum Industry commissioned a study that assumed oil drilling would be allowed off the currently prohibited areas of the East and West Coasts, in waters off Florida’s Gulf Coast, in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and on most federal public land that is not a national park. It also assumed that it would get approval to build pipelines to accommodate a doubling of Canadian oil sands production and the continuation of the tax policies currently in place for the oil industry.[xix]

The API commissioned the study from energy consultants Wood Mackenzie, who found that domestic production of petroleum liquids would increase from 7.8 million barrels per day in 2010 to 9 million barrels per day in 2030 under current policies due to increased production from shale oil and deepwater drilling. However, if the industry could meet the assumptions of the study, domestic liquids production could reach 15.4 million barrels per day close to the 19 million barrels a day that we currently consume. That would create 1 million new jobs over the next seven years and 1.4 million by 2030. The industry already supports more than 9 million jobs throughout the economy. The study indicates that the United States can come close to producing enough new oil and natural gas to displace all non-North American imports within 15 years. More than $800 billion in cumulative new government revenue could be generated by 2030 and $127 billion by 2020 – equal to about two and a half years’ worth of current federal spending on roads. Most importantly, no new taxes or increased government spending is needed to accomplish the results of the study.

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Conclusion

Around the globe, countries are drilling for oil onshore, offshore, and in oil shale deposits. But the United States is hampered by government rules and restrictions to developing its vast resources. Without increasing taxes and without increasing government spending, the oil industry in the United States could make us independent of non-North American oil imports. And in doing so, they could create jobs and add billions of dollars to government revenues. Why don’t we take the challenge?

Original Article

Norwegian giant in it for the long haul with Texas shale venture

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Helge Lund (left), CEO of Norwegian energy company Statoil, speaks with Statoil Joint Venture Manager Cesar Alvarez (facing away) and Talisman Energy Frac Specialist Nabila Larsen (right) at a Talisman Energy fracking site near Cotulla, Texas. Statoil is working with Talisman energy to develop oil and gas ventures in the Eagle Ford shale formation in south central Texas. (Photo: JOHN DAVENPORT/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS)

LA SALLE COUNTY – Helge Lund, CEO of Norway’s Statoil, likes to say his company is more than just a financial investor in shale gas fields in the U.S., and he made that abundantly clear one morning last week.

Up before dawn, the tall, soft-spoken Norwegian ate breakfast tacos and endured a long drive on bumpy dirt roads before arriving at a remote well site, about 100 miles south of San Antonio, where mesquite and prickly pear blanket the dusty landscape and deer, jackrabbits and rattlesnakes are the primary residents.

His mission was to get an up-close look at an operation in the Eagle Ford shale formation, where the company launched a joint venture last year, and he spent several hours in the sweltering South Texas sun doing just that.

“The key point for us is we do not look at this as a short-term investment,” said Lund, 48, wearing thick red coveralls, steel-toe boots and a hard hat. Rather, he said, it is an important part of the company’s future.

Last fall, Statoil announced it would pay $1.3 billion for properties in the Eagle Ford shale formation and team up with Canada’s Talisman Energy to develop them. Two years earlier, the Norwegian oil giant paid roughly the same amount for a stake in Marcellus shale properties in the Northeast U.S. operated by Chesapeake Energy.

Statoil is among a number of foreign oil companies including France’s Total, China’s Cnooc and Australia’s BHP Billiton that are paying huge sums to enter U.S. shale rock formations, where recent breakthroughs in drilling and extraction technology – pioneered by small U.S. producers – have put massive quantities of natural gas within reach.

A push to diversify

But Statoil, two-thirds owned by the Norwegian government, faces special pressure to diversify its production beyond Norway, where mature offshore fields in the North Sea are in decline and taxes are high.

As such, it has focused on North America, where it also is a major leaseholder in the Gulf of Mexico, has exploration acreage in Alaska, operates an oil sands project in Canada and is drilling off the Canadian eastern coast.

“The next 10 years, we will probably have steeper growth in North America than in any other region of the world,” said Lund, who expects a fivefold increase by the end of the decade in Statoil’s North American production, now roughly 100,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Sharp increase is goal

The company has a broader goal over the same period to boost global output to 2.5 million barrels per day from about 1.9 million barrels today, as fields also come online in Brazil and elsewhere.

Statoil also might consider partnerships to explore in the Arctic, like one announced late last month by Exxon Mobil Corp. and Russia’s Rosneft.

“I cannot rule that out,” said Lund, noting that the Arctic will be another focus area for the company moving forward.

But he is the first to acknowledge that while Statoil is a skilled offshore operator, particularly in harsh climates, it still has much to learn in the onshore unconventional gas business. That’s why Talisman is taking the lead in operating wells in the Eagle Ford, while Statoil serves as understudy.

Statoil will begin operating wells under the joint venture by as early as the end of next year, though details of how the two companies will divide things up remain in discussion, Lund said.

The Eagle Ford shale, which is 450 miles long and 50 miles wide and runs in a crescent-shaped band below San Antonio, has been attractive to oil companies because, in addition to gas, it contains more valuable supplies of oil, condensate and natural gas liquids.

Houston’s Marathon Oil Corp., for instance, inked a $3.5 billion deal in June to acquire 285,000 acres in the formation, while Shell, ConocoPhillips and others also have positions.

But it can be challenging to develop the Eagle Ford’s deep high-pressure wells, and the mix of gas or liquids can vary widely from zone to zone.

Scales and fangs

Then there’s the matter of the neighbors.

“Rattlesnakes are really bad out here,” said David Peterson, a safety consultant to Talisman at the well site.

Sven del Pozzo, an industry analyst with IHS-Herold in Stamford, Conn., said such challenges will be difficult to navigate for companies like Statoil with little experience in shale plays.

“This is new for them,” he said. “It’s going to take some time to get it right.”

Since December, Talisman has drilled 22 wells under the joint venture, said Chris Jeske, manager of Talisman’s Eagle Ford unit. It’s run from The Woodlands, where half a dozen Statoil employees are working and more are coming.

The joint venture now has eight rigs in the formation, will increase that to 14 by the end of next year and then has plans to drill up to 200 wells a year, Jeske said.

The partnership controls roughly 170,000 acres across La Salle, McMullen, Live Oak, Bee, Karnes and DeWitt counties.

While Statoil is focused first on becoming an operator in the Eagle Ford and sees more opportunity for shale acquisitions in the U.S., “we are looking at opportunities outside North America as we mature our approach,” Lund said.

Possible areas for expansion could include Asia, South America and Europe.

He said Statoil also has had talks with China National Petroleum Co. on a possible joint venture to develop shale acreage in China, though he declined to discuss specifics.

Original Article

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