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USA: Helix Marks Strong Market Demand for Deepwater Well Intervention Services

Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. announced that it has been awarded its initial customer contractual commitments for the Helix 534. The Helix 534 was acquired in August from Transocean and is undergoing modifications and upgrades necessary for conversion into a well intervention vessel at the Jurong Shipyard in Singapore.

The Helix 534 is scheduled to sail from Singapore during the first quarter of 2013 and after transit to the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to be placed into service in late second quarter 2013. Backlog for the Helix 534 involves work in the Gulf of Mexico and extends into 2016.

Meanwhile, the Q4000 has extended its strong contractual backlog through 2014, with strong customer interest into 2016.

Helix also announced that the Skandi Constructor has also received its initial contractual awards. The Skandi Constructor is a chartered vessel and is expected to enter the Helix well intervention fleet in the spring of 2013. Its initial contract involves work in the North Sea and follows with a project off the eastern Canadian coast.

Helix’s two existing North Sea based well intervention vessels, the Seawell and the Well Enhancer, have been awarded customer contracts into the fourth quarter of 2013.

Owen Kratz, President and Chief Executive Officer of Helix, stated, “The recent contract awards for our two new additions to the well intervention fleet, the Helix 534 and the Skandi Constructor, as well as the growing backlog for our existing fleet, reflects the strong market demand for deepwater well intervention services as well as Helix’s market leadership for these services. Furthermore, customer interest for our newbuild semisubmersible well intervention vessel, the Q5000, remains high. The Q5000 is currently under construction at the Jurong Shipyard in Singapore and is scheduled to enter the fleet in early 2015.”

Subsea World News – USA: Helix Marks Strong Market Demand for Deepwater Well Intervention Services.

Ultra Deepwater Drilling Poised to Take Advantage of Supply Demand Imbalance

By SiHien Goh, Kapitall, The Motley Fool
Posted 12:50PM 09/07/12

The stars are aligned for the success of the ultra-deepwater (UDW) drilling industry. As crude oil prices remain substantially high, oil exploration companies are going farther offshore to obtain new supply sources, supporting the demand for UDW drilling. At the same time, the cost of purchasing UDW drillships remains low, as shipbuilders clamor for any sort of construction orders (rigs and ships) because of the extreme downturn in the shipping industry.

UDW drilling refers to drilling beginning at water depths of more than 7,500 feet. Companies in this field contract out their UDW drilling rigs along with the necessary equipment and work crew on a daily rate basis to drill wells for customers. The nature of the business is very specialized, meaning that it is difficult for a new entrant to replicate the business model and attempt to muscle itself into the picture. Furthermore, the business model is fairly simple. Companies aim to profit from the difference between the daily rates that they charge their customers, and the daily operating expenditures (“OPEX”) that they incur while servicing drillships. So long as daily rates remain high and OPEX stays low, UDW drillers will make a tidy profit.

Fortunately for drillers, the demand and supply dynamics of the industry is in their favor. A typical drillship scheduled for delivery in 2015 can be purchased at around US$650 million, while the ongoing daily rate of a typical UDW drillship is around US$600,000. Assuming daily OPEX of US$200,000, a UDW drillship should bring in about US$400,000 daily. Considering these assets cost an average of US$650 million each and estimated useful lives of around 25-30 years, this spread between daily rates and OPEX could potentially generate US$730 million for the rig owner in five years.

Following the 2010 oil spill incident by BP in the Gulf of Mexico, increased regulation and greater scrutiny has limited the entrant of new UDW players. These policies entrench the incumbent UDW drillers and support the daily rate that companies can charge oil exploration companies such as ExxonMobil. At the same time, prices of new drillships remain low as the global shipbuilding industry goes through a deep cyclical trough. This means that shipbuilding houses are more likely to charge lower prices to obtain any business possible to make up for lost orders from the shipping sector.

Here are some of the drilling companies that have a higher proportion of exposure to UDW drilling and could potentially profit from the demand and supply imbalance in the industry. (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)

1. Ocean Rig UDW
ORIG is a pure play that allows one to invest in the deepwater water drilling market as it derives all of its revenue from that particular niche sector. 75% of its rigs are contracted into 2015, thus ensuring some kind of cash flow stability over the next three years. It has six high-spec UDW rigs on the water and three newbuilds scheduled for delivery in 2013. Of its six UDW rigs, it has two semi-submersibles that can drill up to 30,000 feet and four drillships that can drill up to 40,000 feet. Daily rates of all six ships are at least US$450,000, and up to US$675,000.

Furthermore, in August 2012, two of the newbuilds have already been contracted at daily rates of around US$640,000. However, a potential investor might be concerned that its assets are pledged as collateral to loans that are beginning to mature from September 2013 onward. For example, its two semi-submersibles Eirik Raude and Leiv Eiriksson are pledged to a US$1.04 billion revolver that is maturing in 2013.

2. Pacific Drilling (NAS: PACD)
Pacific Drilling derives 100% of its revenue from deepwater drilling. As such, it is one of the only two pure-play UDW drillers on the market. It has a fleet of six UDW drillships, with four delivered and two newbuilds to be delivered by 2013. It has the youngest fleet in the industry. Similar to Ocean Rig, it’s poised to profit from the upturn in deepwater daily rates and a lack of near-term supply of such expertise. The contract backlog for Pacific Drilling is at around US$2.2 billion and consists contracts ranging from one to five years. Two of the rigs operate in Nigeria, one in Brazil and another in the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the concerns about the company is that it has a fairly small fleet and has all its exposure to the deepwater drilling market. Should crude oil prices turn south for a considerable amount of time, the company might run into trouble.

3. Atwood Oceanics (NYS: ATW)
ATW is an international offshore drilling contracted founded in 1968. It currently derives 83% of its revenue from deepwater drilling and has eight rigs on the water, with five semi-submersibles and three jackups. It also has five newbuilds that are ready for delivery by 2014. Given its smaller size compared to the other players in the field, roughly 75% of its revenue is generated from its three largest customers: CVX Australia, Sarawak Shell, and Kosmos Energy Ghana.

The company is poised to take advantage of the upturn in the industry with most of its rigs contracted for a number of years. Its earliest rig repricing will come in December 2012, and this will allow it to have a chance of renewing the contract at a higher daily rate. Furthermore, the company has pretty low leverage compared to its peers with its debt to capital ratio at 26%, far lower than the industry average of around 35%.

4. SeaDrill Limited (NAS: SDRL)
Seadrill derives 66% of its revenue from deepwater drilling in FY2011 and has a mix of deepwater floaters, high-spec Jackups, and newbuilds. A huge advantage in investing in Seadrill is its aggressive dividend yield, which is currently at 9%. Its fleet consists of 66 offshore rigs, with 19 of them being newbuilds. It also has stakes in other offshore drilling companies such as Archer Limited (40%), SapuraKencana (6%), Varia Perdana (49%), Asia Offshore Drilling (34%), and Sevan Drilling ASA (29%). Its EBITDA margin and operating margin over the last two years has also been above those of its peers at 53% and 41%, respectively. However, similar to Ocean Rig, Seadrill has a tremendous amount of debt with its debt to capital ratio over 60%, while its peers are averaging around 35%. While in a rising daily rate environment Seadrill will do well with its leverage, it will suffer if and when the industry suffers a slowdown.

5. Noble Corp. (NYS: NE)
Noble Corp is a leading player in the offshore drilling industry with an existing fleet of close to 70 rigs. The fleet consists of nine drillships, 16 semi-submersibles and 43 jackups. In FY2011, it derived 61% of its revenue from deepwater drilling and will be a benefactor from the uptrend in daily rates of ultra deepwater drilling rigs.

In terms of geographical reach, Noble Corp is everywhere. It has 19 rigs in the Middle East, 12 rigs in Mexico, 10 rigs in Brazil, 10 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, nine rigs in the North Sea, two rigs in the Mediterranean, one in Alaska, and five in other regions.

6. Transocean (NYS: RIG)
Transocean currently derives 59% of its revenue from the deepwater drilling sector. Unfortunately for the company, it was involved in the Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. As a result, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the company. However, Transocean is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the offshore drilling market. It has the largest fleet of offshore rigs, with 130 rigs on water and five newbuilds. Furthermore, it has a large cash pile of close to US$4.0 billion and generates close to US$2.0 billion in cash from operations every year. This makes it a prime target to renew and upgrade its existing fleet of UDW rigs to take advantage of the latest uptrend in daily rates. Unfortunately, the Macondo event and its ensuing troubles will probably keep its share price depressed for the foreseeable future.

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Strong Demand for UDW Drillships Spurs Seadrill to Order One More from SHI (South Korea)

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Seadrill continues to see strong demand for modern ultra-deepwater (UDW) drilling rigs driven by high oil prices and large deep-water discoveries and increased development drilling. Specific interest, mainly from operators in West Africa and the Americas, demonstrate a trend towards higher day rates and longer term contracts.

With yard costs at very attractive levels and Seadrill’s proven track record with respect to successful new build construction the Company today announced the order of a sixth drillship from Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) with delivery in the second quarter of 2014. The expected total project cost is less than USD600 million, in line with the 5 units under construction and with delivery in 2013 and 2014. The yard contract was originally between a party related to Seadrill’s major shareholder Hemen Holding and Samsung, as part of a larger shipyard deal, but Seadrill has been given the right to take over the contract at original terms.

Seadrill’s current new build program now includes 17 units: 6 ultra deep-water drillships, 1 harsh environment semi submersible, 5 tender rigs and 5 jack ups, all to be delivered in the period from Q4 2012 to Q1 2015. In addition, Seadrill has received a fixed price option for a further ultra deep-water drillship. The six drillships under construction are of the same design and will have a hook load capability of 1,250 tons and a water depth capacity of up to 12,000 feet targeting operations in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and West and East Africa. Also, these units will be outfitted with seven ram configuration of the Blow out Preventer (BOP) stack and with storing and handling capacity for a second BOP.

CEO of Seadrill Alf Thorkildsen says:

“With the available capacity in 2013 and 2014 Seadrill is uniquely positioned among its peers to take advantage of strong demand for drilling services with high dayrates and longer charter contracts. We will continue to aggressively build Seadrill’s earnings and further expansion of the building program is expected in the months to come. Together, these developments provide for continued value creation and an increased dividend capacity.”

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Gulf of Mexico Records Largest Demand for Specialised Offshore Vessels

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Infield Systems have made a report on the offshore construction activity demand in order to recognize key regions and gauge supply developments stressing the possibility for activity increase due to the arrival of transcontinental pipelines and the deepwater tie-in of various satellite wells matched to an increased level of subsea installations. Demand is expected to reach its peak during 2015.

North America, particularly the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), has been recording the largest demand level mainly because of the availability of assets.

A considerable growth is expected in Asia and West Africa to 2016, supported by West African projects perceived as one of the key constituents of the emergent deepwater market and the region is seen as a key to a continued utilization of strategic assets. The Asian market features numerous countries including Malaysia, India, China and Indonesia, each reflecting differing dynamics, providing a slightly different opportunity for vessel operators who are keen to secure high utilization.

The global recession has affected all offshore developments and oil companies forcing them to restructure their capital cost commitments together with their offshore expansion plans.

Considerable confidence in Global financial markets has been regained. The declining oil price trend seen in Q2 2011 stabilized during Q3 2011. Greatly depending on whether the major economies return to recession, the global oil demand is anticipated to grow, although at a slower rate than expected.

Infield Systems strongly believe that the level of activity for specialist vessels will increase as E&P ventures expect to rise as a result of exploited reserves.

Vessel operators dealing with harsh and remote environments are most likely to be at the forefront of the expected growth. However, Infield Systems expects the global fleet to become more technologically advanced.

Infield Systems’ Global Perspective Specialist Vessels Market Report To 2016 is dedicated to the construction and construction support vessels that are employed in the development of offshore oil and gas fields. The third edition of this ground breaking report provides an in depth analysis of global and regional trends and the supply and demand dynamics for the period 2007 through to 2016.

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CGGVeritas’ Results Rise on High Demand for Seismic Equipment

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CGGVeritas, the world’s largest seismic surveyor of oil fields, surged to a two-month high after reporting a profit in the third quarter and strong demand for equipment.

Net income was $41 million compared with a loss of $33 million a year earlier, the company said today in a statement. That beat the $23 million average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Sales climbed 21 percent to $797 million.

The French seismic company said it is “confident” in achieving its objectives this year.

CGGVeritas rose as much as 11 percent to 18.10 euros, the highest intraday price since Sept. 1, before paring gains to trade up 90 cents at 17.15 euros at 9:48 a.m. in Paris. The shares are down 25 percent since the start of the year.

Rates for surveying vessels are likely to rise in the second half of this year as oil companies plan to spend more on exploration and production, CGGVeritas, which conducts seismic studies and sells equipment to estimate the size of oil and natural-gas deposits, has forecast. President Barack Obama’s administration yesterday announced plans for 15 offshore oil- lease sales from 2012 to 2017 in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska’s coast.

‘Strong’ Demand

CGGVeritas’ “good set of results” combined with the U.S. offshore leasing plan is positive for the company, Bertrand Hodee, an analyst at Kepler Capital Markets, said in a note today. Kepler has a “buy” rating on the stock.

The company’s backlog at the end of the quarter fell to $1.24 billion compared with $1.31 billion the previous quarter.

CGGVeritas reported a group operating margin of 12 percent, compared with 4 percent a year earlier. The measure of profitability grew to 32 percent for its Sercel seismic equipment division from 30 percent a year earlier and was 9 percent for the service business from a negative 4 percent.

“We expect demand for seismic equipment to remain strong, activity to build globally in key basins and marine overcapacity to progressively be absorbed,” Chief Executive Officer Jean- Georges Malcor said in the statement. “Strong underlying oil and gas fundamentals” are expected to drive “high levels” of demand for seismic surveys.

The seismic company seeks to achieve a positive free cash flow this year and has forecast that a performance plan will help raise operating income by $75 million.

The French surveyor, created in 2006 when Massy, France- based Compagnie Generale de Geophysique SA bought Houston-based Veritas DGC Inc., has about 65 percent of the global market for seismic equipment and around a third of the market for services, executives have said.

By Tara Patel (Bloomberg)

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