National Oilwell Varco (NOV) has acquired 97% of the shares in Seabox for an undisclosed amount from a group of shareholders led by HitecVision.
Seabox is a Norwegian subsea technology company founded around the patented SWIT technology (Subsea Water Intake & Treatment). The technology enables treatment of raw seawater on the seabed (as opposed to on a platform) for injection into oil & gas wells for pressure support and increased oil recovery.
The company was established in 2004, and has, through a series of Joint Industry Projects backed by the Norwegian Research Council and by potential end-users such as ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Total, Statoil, GDF Suez and others, developed the technology to a level where it is now ready for commercialization. Seabox has 12 employees.
Helge Lunde, CEO of Seabox comments: “We are very excited to team up with NOV’s global organization, which will significantly increase our reach and chances of succeeding in commercializing our technology. We are both proud and happy for their recognition of our efforts and technical solutions, and their commitment to backing us through the coming growth phase. We are convinced that our growth will be faster and stronger together with NOV.”
Michael Hjorth, President of Flexibles and Subsea Production Systems, comments: “NOV has a strong history and presence in Norway, where some of our key technologies for drilling, turret mooring and deck cranes have been developed, and to a large degree also manufactured. When it comes to subsea, which is an area where NOV wants to develop and expand, Norway is pretty much the “Silicon Valley” of the industry, so it is natural for us to search for new technologies and ideas here. In Seabox we have found what we deem to be innovative yet robust technical solutions, which offer more cost effective solutions but more importantly will offer the oil & gas companies greater flexibility in optimizing their reservoir drainage and field profitability. This is a huge market, with some 250 million barrels of seawater injected daily world-wide, which is almost three times the daily oil production. We are excited to explore these market opportunities together with Seabox.”
GustoMSC presented the Magellan-class drillship, the next step in deep-water drillship design.
Named after Ferdinand Magellan who was the first sea explorer to circumnavigate the earth, GustoMSC developed the Magellan-class drillship in the explorer’s own tradition of endurance, perseverance and determination. The Magellan is outperforming the current generation fleet with respect to redundancy, autonomy, safety and load carrying capacity.
Advanced new drilling techniques and developments in drilling equipment, together with the growing interest in units that could drill in deeper water and have more operational flexibility and capability, prompted thinking about a new class of drilling vessel. “The design is the result of a specific focus on operators’ requirements. We also received feedback on our existing products and, of course, learn from the industry in general. After the Macondo incident in 2010, for example, there were many recommendations concerning operational procedures and rig design – with an emphasis on safety. We naturally wanted to incorporate that information into the new design,” says Sjoerd Hendriks, Design Manager of the Magellan project.
The Magellan is the largest drillship that GustoMSC has designed to date. The design backbone of the ship consists of the well-established and field-proven principles of its predecessors. The most important step forward is that the Magellan design is equipped for 20,000 psi well-control systems, including the associated increases in capacity, such as high hook loads and setback capacities. Magellan’s ability to accommodate higher pressure, high variable loads, mud volumes and setback capacities and incorporate any type of advanced drilling techniques – such as managed pressure drilling and dual gradient systems, means it is equipped to drill well beyond the current market limit of 12,000 feet.
Press Release, June 16, 2014
05/21/2014 by Tyler Durden
There was some trepidation yesterday when after the first day of Putin’s visit to China the two countries did not announce the completion of the long-awaited “holy grail” gas dead, and fears that it may get scuttled over price negotiations. It wasn’t: moments ago Russia’s Gazprom and China’s CNPC announced, that after a decade of negotiations, the two nations signed a 30 year gas contract amounting to around $400 billion. And with the west doing all it can to alienate Russia and to force it into China’s embrace, this is merely the beginning of what will be a far closer commercial (and political) relationship between China and Russia.
So far there have been no public pricing details on the deal which accrording to Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller is a “commercial secret”, and which is believed to involve Russia supplying 38 billion cubic metres of gas per year to China via a new eastern pipeline linking the countries.
According to Itar-Tass, the compromise between Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom and Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) on Russian gas price is estimated at $75 billion, citing the Deputy Head of the National Energy Security Fund Alexei Grivach. The differences on the price for 38 and 60 billion cubic meters supplies a year were $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion, he added, so the subject of the negotiations is quite a significant one.
Gazprom expected a base price of $400 for 1,000 cubic meters, an expert of the Eurasian Development Research Center of the Chinese State Council said in April, whereas the CNPC’s proposal was $350-360 for 1,000 cubic meters.
A memorandum of understanding was signed in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of China Xi Jinping on the second day of Putin’s two-day state visit to Shanghai. The price China will pay for Russian gas remains a “commercial secret” according to Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller. Gas will be delivered to China’s via the eastern ‘Power of Siberia’ pipeline.
RT producers were informed of the landmark energy deal prior to its signing after a conversation with Miller.
Under the long-term deal, Gazprom will begin providing China’s growing economy with 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year for the next 30 years, beginning in 2018. The details of the deal were discussed for more than 10 years, with Moscow and Beijing negotiating over gas prices and the pipeline route, as well as possible Chinese stakes in Russian projects.
Just ahead of Putin’s visit to Shanghai, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave reassurance that the agreed price would be fair.
“One side always wants to sell for a higher price, while the other wants to buy for a lower price,” Medvedev said. “I believe that in the long run, the price will be fair and totally comparable to the price of European supplies.”
A major breakthrough in negotiations came on Sunday as Gazprom chief Aleksey Miller sat down with his CNPC counterpart, Zhou Jiping, in Beijing to discuss final details, including price formulas.
Although Europe is still Russia’s largest energy market – buying more than 160 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas in 2013 – Moscow will use every opportunity to diversify gas deliveries and boost its presence in Asian markets.
“I wouldn’t look for politics behind this, but I have no doubt that supplying energy to the Asia Pacific Region holds out a great promise in the future,” Medvedev said.
In October 2009, Gazprom and CNPC inked a framework agreement for the Altai project which envisions building a pipeline to supply natural gas from fields in Siberia via the western part of the Russia-China border.
In March 2013, Gazprom and CNPC signed a memorandum of understanding on Russian gas supplies to China along the so-called eastern ‘Power of Siberia’ route. When both pipelines are activated, Russia can supply Asia with 68 billion cubic meters of gas annually.
Last year, China consumed about 170 billion cubic meters of natural gas and is expected to consume 420 billion cubic meters per year by 2020.
Regardless of what the final price ended up being, and whether or not China got the upper hand in the negotiations, the final outcome is there and it is real: as a result of his disastrous foreign policy in the past two months, Barack Obama finally pushed Russia into China’s hands, culminating with a deal that was ten years in the making and was never certain, until the Ukraine crisis.
And yes, this was all predictable from day one. Here is what we said precisely two months ago:
If it was the intent of the West to bring Russia and China together – one a natural resource (if “somewhat” corrupt) superpower and the other a fixed capital / labor output (if “somewhat” capital misallocating and credit bubbleicious) powerhouse – in the process marginalizing the dollar and encouraging Ruble and Renminbi bilateral trade, then things are surely “going according to plan.”
For now there have been no major developments as a result of the shift in the geopolitical axis that has seen global US influence, away from the Group of 7 (most insolvent nations) of course, decline precipitously in the aftermath of the bungled Syrian intervention attempt and the bloodless Russian annexation of Crimea, but that will soon change. Because while the west is focused on day to day developments in Ukraine, and how to halt Russian expansion through appeasement (hardly a winning tactic as events in the 1930s demonstrated), Russia is once again thinking 3 steps ahead… and quite a few steps east.
While Europe is furiously scrambling to find alternative sources of energy should Gazprom pull the plug on natgas exports to Germany and Europe (the imminent surge in Ukraine gas prices by 40% is probably the best indication of what the outcome would be), Russia is preparing the announcement of the “Holy Grail” energy deal with none other than China, a move which would send geopolitical shockwaves around the world and bind the two nations in a commodity-backed axis. One which, as some especially on these pages, have suggested would lay the groundwork for a new joint, commodity-backed reserve currency that bypasses the dollar, something which Russia implied moments ago when its finance minister Siluanov said that Russia may refrain from foreign borrowing this year. Translated: bypass western purchases of Russian debt, funded by Chinese purchases of US Treasurys, and go straight to the source.
Here is what will likely happen next, as explained by Reuters:
Igor Sechin gathered media in Tokyo the next day to warn Western governments that more sanctions over Moscow’s seizure of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine would be counter-productive.
The underlying message from the head of Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft, was clear: If Europe and the United States isolate Russia, Moscow will look East for new business, energy deals, military contracts and political alliances.
The Holy Grail for Moscow is a natural gas supply deal with China that is apparently now close after years of negotiations. If it can be signed when Putin visits China in May, he will be able to hold it up to show that global power has shifted eastwards and he does not need the West.
* * *
To summarize: while the biggest geopolitical tectonic shift since the cold war accelerates with the inevitable firming of the “Asian axis”, the west monetizes its debt, revels in the paper wealth created from an all time high manipulated stock market while at the same time trying to explain why 6.5% unemployment is really indicative of a weak economy, blames the weather for every disappointing economic data point, and every single person is transfixed with finding a missing airplane.
To conclude with the traditional geopolitical balance of power summary: Putin wins (again), Obama loses (again), and the monument to the dollar’s status as world’s reserve currency gets yet another tarnishing blow.
02/04/2014 by Tyler Durden
Today’s modest bounce in stocks – considerably removed after-hours – does not provide much hope for those looking to buy the dip with the Dow still down over 1000 points year-to-date. In fact, as we discuss below, troubling news just continues to pour in from all over the world… consider the following…
Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,
Overall, the Dow has now fallen more than 1000 points from the peak of the market (16,588.25) back in late December. This is the first time that we have seen the Dow drop below its 200-day moving average in more than a year, and there are many that believe that this is just the beginning of a major stock market decline. Meanwhile, things are even worse in other parts of the world. For example, the Nikkei is now down about 1700 points from its 2013 high. This is causing havoc all over Asia, and the sharp movement that we have been seeing in the USD/JPY is creating a tremendous amount of anxiety among Forex traders. For those that are not interested in the technical details, what all of this means is that global financial markets are starting to become extremely unstable.
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be much hope on the horizon for investors. In fact, troubling news just continues to pour in from all over the planet. Just consider the following…
-Major currencies all over South America continue to collapse.
-Massive central bank intervention has done little to slow down the currency collapse in Turkey.
-Investors pulled more than 6 billion dollars out of emerging market equity funds last week alone.
-The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) has risen above 20 for the first time in four months.
-Last month, new manufacturing orders in the United States declined at the fastest pace that we have seen since December 1980.
-Real disposable income in the United States has just experienced the largest year over year drop that we have seen since 1974.
-In January, vehicle sales for Ford were down 7.5 percent and vehicle sales for GM were down 12 percent. Both companies are blaming bad weather.
-A major newspaper in the UK is warning that “growing problems in the Chinese banking system could spill over into a wider financial crisis“.
-U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is warning that the federal government could hit the debt ceiling by the end of this month if Congress does not act.
-It is being reported that Dell Computer plans to lay off more than 15,000 workers.
-The IMF recently said that the the probability that the global economy will fall into a deflation trap “may now be as high as 20%“.
-The Baltic Dry Index is now down 50 percent from its December highs.
If our economic troubles continue to mount, could we be facing a global “financial avalanche” fairly quickly?
That is what some very prominent analysts believe.
Below, I have posted quotes from five men that are greatly respected in the financial world. What they have to say is quite chilling…
#1 Doug Casey: “Now is a very good time to start thinking financially because I’m afraid that this year, in 2014, we’re going to go back into the financial hurricane. We’ve been in the eye of the storm since 2009, but now we’re going to go back into the trailing edge of the storm, and it’s going to be much longer lasting and much worse and much different than what we had in 2008 and 2009.”
#2 Bill Fleckenstein: “The [price-to-earnings ratio] is 16, 17 times earnings,” Fleckenstein said on Tuesday’s episode of “Futures Now.” “Why would you pay 16 times for an S&P company? I don’t care about where rates are, because rates are artificially suppressed. Why isn’t that worth 11 or 12 times? Just by that analysis, you’d be down by a quarter or 30 percent. So there’s a huge amount of downside.”
#3 Egon von Greyerz of Matterhorn Asset Management: “Nothing goes (down) in a straight line, but the emerging market problems will accelerate and it will spread to the very overbought and the very overvalued stock markets and economies in the West.
So stock markets are now starting a secular bear trend which will last for many years, and we could see falls of massive proportions. At the end of this, the wealth that has been created in the last few decades will be destroyed.”
#4 Peter Schiff: “The crisis is imminent,” Schiff said. “I don’t think Obama is going to finish his second term without the bottom dropping out. And stock market investors are oblivious to the problems.”
“We’re broke, Schiff added. “We owe trillions. Look at our budget deficit; look at the debt to GDP ratio, the unfunded liabilities. If we were in the Eurozone, they would kick us out.”
#5 Gerald Celente: “This selloff in the emerging markets, with their currencies going down and their interest rates going up, it’s going to be disastrous and there are going to be riots everywhere…
…So as the decline in their economies accelerates, you are going to see the civil unrest intensify.”
Those that do not believe that we could ever see “civil unrest” on the streets of America should take note of what just happened in Seattle.
After the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, fans celebrated by “lighting fires, damaging historic buildings and ripping down street signs“.
If that is how average Americans will behave when something good happens, how will they act when the economy totally collapses and nobody can find work for an extended period of time?
We are rapidly approaching another great financial crisis. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn any of the lessons that we should have learned last time. It is being projected that the debt of the federal government will more than double during the Obama years, the “too big to fail banks” have collectively gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years, and the big banks have become more financially reckless than ever before.
When the next great financial crisis arrives (and without a doubt it is inevitable), millions more Americans will lose their jobs and millions more Americans will lose their homes.
Now is not the time to be buying lots of expensive new toys, going on expensive vacations or piling up lots of debt.
Now is the time to build up an emergency fund and to do whatever you can to get prepared for the great storm that is coming.
As you can see from the financial headlines, time is rapidly running out.
This week the SubseaIQ team added 4 new projects and updated 22 projects. You can see all the updates made over any time period via the Project Update History search. The latest offshore field develoment news and activities are listed below for your convenience.
Jan 31, 2014 – Production from the Guendalina field remains down according the 4Q 2013 Operational Update provided by Mediterranean Oil & Gas (MOG). Low manifold pressure necessitated the shut-in of the GUE 3ss well in August 2013. Eni, the field operator, determined that the reservoir was in good condition and that a blockage in the production string was causing the poor performance. Remedial operations were undertaken in December but progress was hampered by poor weather conditions in the Adriatic. Intervention operations were completed Jan. 11, 2014 and the well returned to a low-production rate. The flow rate will improve as the well cleans up. Eni and MOG maintain 80% and 20% stakes respectively.
Project Details: Guendalina
Asia – SouthEast
Jan 31, 2014 – In December 2013, Roc Oil submitted a Field Development Plan (FDP) to Petronas concerning the Bentara field in the Balai Cluster offshore Malaysia. The FDP outlines a two-phase development and approval is being sought for the first phase which involves early production utilizing the existing wells and facilities established during the pre-development phase. The company expects the FDP to be approved during 1Q 2014.
Project Details: Balai Cluster
Jan 31, 2014 – Salamander Energy sees production from the Bualuang field recommencing in early February after it was stopped in November 2013 when bad weather caused the Rubicon Vantage FPSO to drift off location and damage the production riser. Since then, divers have completed a full inspection and replacement riser and spool materials are being moved to location. While progress is being made, poor weather conditions have slowed repair efforts. A development drilling program being carried out by the Atwood Mako (400′ ILC) has not been interrupted by the event and two production wells have been drilled since the shutdown. Salamander’s production forecast for the field remains unchanged and is expected to average between 13,000 and 16,000 boepd.
Project Details: Bualuang
Jan 31, 2014 – Pan Pacific Petroleum was advised by Premier Oil, operator of Block 07/03 offshore Vietnam, that the Ocean General (mid-water semisub) spudded the 07/03-CD-1X wildcat well on Jan. 28, 2014. The well is being drilled in 426 feet of water and is expected to reach the proposed depth of 12,522 feet. The well is designed to test the Miocene clastic reservoirs of the Silver Silago prospect.
Project Details: Ca Duc (Silver Sillago)
Jan 31, 2014 – Through an agreement with Mubadala Petroleum, KrisEnergy acquired a 60% operating interest in Block G3/48 in the Gulf of Thailand. The block covers an area of 1,126 square miles with water depths ranging from 65 to 165 feet. Partners in the block include Tap Energy (30%) and Northern Gulf Oil Company (10%). The agreement is subject to the customary regulatory approvals.
Project Details: Pathum
MidEast – Persian Gulf
Jan 31, 2014 – Technip was awarded an engineering, procurement, construction and installation (EPCI) contract by Dubai Petroleum Establishment (DPE) concerning the Jalilah B field development project. Work scope includes construction and installation of the Jalilah B platform, the addition of 13 new risers on existing platforms and the installation of 68 miles of 6 to 24-inch pipeline. The project will be executed from Technip’s fast-track center in Dubai and is scheduled for completion in the second half of 2014.
Project Details: Al Jalilah
Europe – North Sea
Jan 31, 2014 – Lundin Petroleum is in the process of completing a sidetrack well at its Torvastad prospect in license PL501 near the Johan Sverdrup discovery. Well 16/2-20A is being drilled by the Island Innovator (mid-water semisub) to investigate the potential of an up-flank continuous Jurassic reservoir. Oil shows were seen in the main target but reservoir quality was poor. Lundin operates the license and carries 40% stake. Its partners include Statoil (40%) and Maersk Oil Norway (20%).
Project Details: Torvastad
Jan 30, 2014 – Through an oversubscribed share placing, Parkmead Group was able to raise $66 million in an effort to bolster some of its activities in the UK North Sea. Parkmead, operator of the Athena field in License P1293, will use a portion of the funds to enhance production from the field. The group plans to carry out a workover of the P4 well. If successful, the operation could increase field production to 9,000 bopd. Locations are also being evaluated for an additional production well that has the potential to add 1,100 bopd to the production stream. Proceeds from the placing will also allow the group to test several prosepcts in its portfolio such as Skerryvore, Possum, Blackadder and Davaar. Well planning is already underway for Skerryvore.
Project Details: Athena
Jan 30, 2014 – Operator Faroe Petroleum announced an oil and gas discovery at its Novus prospect in license PL645 in the Norwegian Sea. Well 6507/10-2S was drilled by the West Navigator (UDW drillship) to a depth of 9,701 feet. A 39-foot net gas column and 41-foot net oil column were encountered in high quality Garn reservoir. Secondary targets in the Ile and Tilje formations proved to be water wet. Results from pressure and fluid sampling indicate the discovery reservoirs hold between 6 and 15 MMboe. Additionally, the results will be integrated into the existing geologic model of the area to de-risk the remaining prospects and leads in the license.
Project Details: Novus
Asia – Caspian
Jan 31, 2014 – Production activities at the West Chirag platform are underway according to the BP-operated Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC). The platform is part of the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG) development in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea. On January 28, 2014 oil began flowing from the J05 development well. Production will increase throughout the year as additional wells are brought on line. As a whole, the ACG fields have produced over 2.3 billion barrels and, with future development, is expected to be a viable project for many decades. The West Chirag platform was installed in 557 feet of water and has a designed processing capacity of 183 thousand bopd. Startup of West Chirag is the final phase of the Chirag Oil Project and is expected to greatly enhance the deliverability of the ACG development.
Project Details: Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli
Jan 31, 2014 – Karoon Gas reports that total depth has been reached at the Grace-1 exploration well in license WA-314-P offshore Western Australia. The well was drilled by the Transocean Legend (mid-water semisub) to a measured depth of 16,630 feet. High gas levels seen while drilling and pressure samples taken from logging while drilling (LWD) equipment Karoon and ConocoPhillips (the operator) to run wireline logs over the zone of interest. Logging and sampling results are expected during the coming weeks.
Project Details: Grace
S. America – Brazil
Jan 31, 2014 – Shell announced its intention to divest 23% of its interest in the Parque das Conchas development to Qatar Petroleum International for approximately $1 billion. Once the agreement is approved by Brazilian regulators, Shell’s operating interest will be reduced to 50%. Parque das Conchas currently produces at a rate of 50,000 boepd since the Ostra and Argonauta B-West fields were brought on-stream in 2009 as part of Phase 1. Phase 2 was completed in October 2013 when oil production commenced at Argonauta O-North. In July 2013, Shell and its partner ONGC (27%) made the final investment decision regarding Phase 3 and will consist of subsea facilities tying the Argonauta O-South and Massa fields to the Espirito Santo FPSO.
Project Details: Parque das Conchas (BC-10)
Thursday, January 30, 2014 by Reuters – John Kemp
LONDON, Jan 30 (Reuters) – Cutting the cost of everything from salaries and steel pipes to seismic surveys and drilling equipment is the central challenge for the oil and gas industry over the next five years.
The tremendous increase in exploration and production activity around the world over the last ten years has strained the global supply chain and been accompanied by a predictable increase in operating and capital costs.
When oil and gas prices were rising strongly, petroleum producers and their contractors could afford to absorb cost increases.
But as oil and gas production have moved back into line with demand, and prices have stabilized, the focus is switching once again to cost control.
“Operational excellence,” a euphemism for doing more with less, is back in fashion and set to dominate industry thinking for the rest of the decade.
Paal Kibsgaard, chief executive of Schlumberger, one of the largest service companies, has been emphasising “smart fracking” and other ways to raise output and cut costs for two years.
Speaking as long ago as March 2012, Kibsgaard warned: “In the past ten years, exploration and production spend has grown fourfold in nominal terms, while oil production is up only 11 percent.”
“In this environment, we believe our customers will favour working with companies that can help them increase production and recovery, reduce costs, and manage risks,” he added.
Schlumberger’s website and those of its main competitors Halliburton and Baker Hughes all prominently feature technologies and processes intended to cut costs, such as dual-fuel diesel-natural gas drilling and pumping engines.
It is just a small example of profound industry shift from an emphasis on increasing production to controlling spending.
Issuing a shocking profit warning on January 17, Royal Dutch Shell ‘s new chief executive pledged to focus on “achieving better capital efficiency and on continuing to strengthen our operational performance and project delivery.”
On Thursday, the company cut its capital budget for 2014, and announced it was suspending its controversial and expensive Arctic drilling programme.
Shell is catching up with peers like BP and Chevron , as well as perennially tight-fisted Exxon, in promising to stick to a tighter spending regime and return more value to shareholders .
The problem is not unique to oil and gas producers. Miners like BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Anglo American have all axed projects and pledged to tighten capital discipline after costs spiralled out of control.
The worst over-runs have been on so-called megaprojects – investments costing over $1 billion, sometimes much more. In fact, the bigger project, the worse the cost overruns and delays have tended to be.
Pearl, Shell’s enormous gas to liquids project in Qatar, is now regarded as a success, but was seriously delayed and went wildly over-budget.
Other megaprojects like Chevron’s Gorgon LNG in Australia and the Caspian oil field Kashagan – which is being developed by an industry consortium including ENI, Shell, Total, Exxon and Conoco – have been similarly late and bust their original cost estimates.
It is convenient, but wrong, to blame poor project management for all the days and cost overruns. Some decisions have been flawed, but on projects of this size and complexity, at least some errors are to be expected.
Megaproject managers in 2013 were not, on the whole, worse than in 2003. Unfortunately, the economic and financial environment has become much less forgiving. When projects start to go wrong it has proved much harder to limit the delays and damage to the budget.
By their nature, megaprojects are so big they strain the global construction and engineering supply chain and pool of skilled labour. Megaprojects create their own adverse “weather,” pushing up the cost of specialist labour and materials worldwide.
Attempting to complete even one or two megaprojects with similar characteristics at the same time can strain the global supply chain to the limit. Attempting to complete several simultaneously is a recipe for severe cost escalation and delays. The multi-commodity boom over the last decade created a “perfect storm” for the megaproject industry.
While there is not an exact overlap, massive offshore oil fields like Kashagan, LNG facilities like Gorgon, floating LNG platforms like Prelude (destined for Australia), gas to liquids plants and even simple onshore shale plays like North Dakota’s Bakken, are all competing for the same limited pool of skilled engineers, construction workers and speciality steels.
The result has been a staggering increase in costs and wages. And once a project falls behind, there is no slack in the system to hire extra workers or procure additional or replacement components to get it back on track.
Supply Chain Responds
Rampant inflation and delays have been worst on megaprojects because they require a much higher proportion of very specialist components and the supply chain is least-elastic.
But even simpler projects like shale oil and gas have been plagued by a rapid rise in costs as they stretch the availability of drillers, rigs and pressure pumping equipment, as well as fracking sand, fresh water and guar gum.
Between the end of 2003 and the end of 2013, the number of employees engaged in oil and gas extraction in the United States increased by 70 percent, from 117,000 to 201,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Soaring demand for specialised workers has produced an entirely predictable surge in wages.
Employees in North Dakota’s oil, gas and pipeline sectors were taking home an average monthly salary of $9,000 in the fourth quarter of 2012, and staff at support firms were making an average of more than $8,000, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Their colleagues in Texas were doing even better: average salaries in the oil and gas extraction industry were over $15,000 per month, and $11,000 in pipeline transportation.
That made them some of the best-paid employees in the United States. Only financial services employees in New York ($28,000), Connecticut ($25,000), California ($17,000) and a few other states were routinely making more.
Rising wages and other prices were the only means to ration scarce workers and raw materials. But they were also the only way to attract more workers and supplies into the industry.
It takes a long time to train new drillers, petroleum engineers and construction specialists, and give them the experience needed before they can assume positions as experts and team leaders.
Similarly, the expansion of specialist construction facilities and manufacturing firms for items like oil country tubular goods takes years; and companies will only expand or enter the industry if they are convinced the upturn in demand will be durable rather than fleeting.
While the boom in oil and gas prices dates from around 2003 or 2004, the big expansion of exploration and production spending started much later, around 2006 or even 2007, and it has only filtered down to the labour pool and the rest of the supply chain much more slowly.
It is the long delay between an increase in demand for oil and gas, an increase in production and exploration activity, and an expansion of the whole supply chain, which explain the deep cyclicality of the petroleum industry and mining.
Extreme cyclicality is hard-wired into oil, gas and mining markets. Companies like Shell which have tried to ride through the cycle by ignoring short-term price and cost changes to focus on the long term have eventually been compelled by their investors to fall into line.
In the next stage of the cycle, oil and gas prices are set to remain relatively high but are unlikely to rise much further. For exploration and production companies, increasing shareholder value therefore means increasing efficiency and bearing down on costs, including compensation and payments to suppliers and contractors.
For the supply chain and oil-industry workers, capacity and the availability of skilled labour will continue to expand, while demand is set to stabilise or taper off. Major oil companies and miners have already cancelled some projects. Costs, wages and employment will fall, or at least start rising much more slowly.
Shell announces a successful exploratory well at Vicksburg in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The well is located 75 miles (120 kilometers) offshore in the De Soto Canyon Block 393 in 7,446 feet (2,269 meters) of water. It was drilled to a total depth of 26,385 feet (8,042 meters) and encountered more than 500 feet (152 meters) of net oil pay.
In total, the Vicksburg “A” discovery is estimated to hold potentially recoverable resources of more than 100 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe). It adds to the more than 500 mmboe of potentially recoverable resources that have already been discovered and appraised at the nearby Appomattox discovery. Vicksburg “A” is a separate accumulation from both Appomattox and the 2007 Vicksburg “B” discovery.
“The results of the Vicksburg well strengthen our existing deepwater Gulf of Mexico exploration portfolio and should contribute to the nearby Appomattox discovery,” said Mark Shuster, Executive Vice President Shell Upstream Americas Exploration.
Shell (the operator with a 75% interest) and Nexen, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CNOOC Limited, (25% interest), are following up the Vicksburg “A” well with a sidetrack well to test the Corinth prospect, a separate fault block from the Vicksburg discovery. Further exploration drilling targeting tie-backs to Appomattox will follow.
Press Release, July 03, 2013; Image: Shell