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West Callisto Drills for Total Offshore Myanmar

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Total recently started drilling operations offshore Myanmar at the Yadana field, using Seadrill’s jack-up rig, West Callisto.

According to the Seadrill’s Fleet Status Report for May, Total has hired the rig on a three-month contract. The contract, expiring in mid-July, will bring approximately $12 million to Seadrill.

Total operates the Yadana field (31.2%). Located on offshore Blocks M5 and M6, this field produces gas that is delivered mainly to PTT (the Thai state-owned company) to be used in Thai power plants.

The Yadana field also supplies the domestic market via a land pipeline and, since June 2010, via a sub-sea pipeline built and operated by Myanmar’s state-owned company MOGE.

Following the completion of drilling operations in Myanmar, the rig will leave south-east Asia in which it has been operating since 2010. West Callisto will move to Middle East to commence drilling operations offshore Saudi Arabia under a three-year contract with Saudi Aramco. The drilling program is scheduled to start in September 2012

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USA: Hercules Offshore Secures Contract for Newly Bought Rig

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Hercules Offshore, Inc. announced yesterday the execution of a definitive agreement to acquire the offshore drilling rig Ocean Columbia from Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc.

The purchase price is $40 million in cash. Ocean Columbia is a LeTourneau Class 82 SD-C jack-up drilling rig registered and flagged in the Marshall Islands. Subject to customary closing conditions, the Company expects the acquisition to close in May 2012.

“Hercules approached us with an offer to acquire the Ocean Columbia, and we found the terms to be compelling,” said Larry Dickerson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Offshore. “We are principally a floater company, and this transaction will further augment our funds for potential investments in deepwater and ultra-deepwater assets.”

Saudi Aramco contract

Hercules Offshore also announced that it has entered into a three-year drilling contract with Saudi Aramco for the use of the Ocean Columbia. Over this three-year period, the Company expects to generate total revenues of $160.0 million, including a lump-sum mobilization fee, assuming a utilization rate of 98% for the rig. Under the drilling contract, Saudi Aramco has the option to extend the term for an additional one-year period. Prior to commencing work under the contract, the Company expects to spend approximately $45.0 million for repairs, upgrades and other contract specific refurbishments to the rig and to mobilize the rig from the Gulf of Mexico to the Middle East. The Company expects the rig to commence work under the contract in November 2012.

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Saudi Aramco Ready to Spud its First Deepwater Well in Red Sea

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Saudi Arabia’s state run oil giant, Saudi Aramco, has decided that the company is ready for deepwater exploration in the Red Sea.

 

At the Ceraweek 2012 conference in Houston, Amin H. Nasser, Senior vice president, Upstream Operations in Saudi Aramco, unveiled the company’s plans to start the Red Sea deepwater drilling operations by the end of 2012.

“We are optimistic about the potential for significant discoveries. We expect to start drilling in the deepwater by the end of this year,” Dow Jones quotes Nasser as saying.

Nasser, who joined the company in 1982, said that Saudi Aramco was working to increase its oil recovery levels from 50% to 70% in the years to come. He also highlighted the importance of deepwater and shallow water drilling in the company’s long-term plan to unlock “at least 100 million barrels of energy resources within the Saudi Arabian kingdom in the next several decades,” Dow Jones reports.

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Saudis face waning power in North America

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While the green movement naively harbors hopes it will be able to shut down unconventional oil and gas development, in Saudi Arabia they are already contemplating a time when North American fossil fuel will replace their oil.

Looking past the din of protesters, state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco is resigned to the fact that its influence will wane because of the massive unconventional fossil-fuel development underway in North America. As such, Saudi Arabia has no plans to raise its production output to 15 million barrels per day from 12 million, said Khalid Al-Falih, the powerful chief executive of Aramco.

“There is a new emphasis in the industry on unconventional liquids, and shale gas technologies are also being applied to shale oil,” Al-Falih, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, warned a domestic audience in a speech in Riyadh Monday.

“Some are even talking about an era of ‘energy independence’ for the Americas, based on the immense conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon resources located there. While that might be stretching the point, it is clear that the abundance of resources and the more ‘balanced’ geographical distribution of unconventional’s have reduced the much-hyped concerns over ‘energy security’, which once served as the undercurrent driving energy policies and dominated the global energy debate.”

Aramco is the powerful state entity that manages the Kingdom’s nine million barrel-plus oil output. Saudi Arabia has long dominated oil markets by leveraging its spare oil capacity and, as the OPEC kingpin, striking a delicate balance between the interests of oil consumers and the exporter group.

But the oil chief’s remarks reveal Saudi fears that the market dynamics are changing and its dominance over energy markets is under threat by new unconventional finds.

OPEC estimated in a recent report that global reserves of tight oil could be as high as 300 billion barrels, above Saudi Arabia’s conventional reserves of 260 billion barrels, which are currently seen as the second-largest in the world after Venezuela.

Global output of non-conventional oil is set to rise 3.4 million bpd by 2015, still dominated by oil sands, to 5.8 million bpd by 2025 and to 8.4 million bpd by 2035, when tight oil would be playing a much bigger role. By 2035, the United States and Canada will still be dominating unconventional oil production with 6.6 million bpd, the group forecasts.

Last year, even as the world consumed nearly 30 billion barrels of oil, not only was the industry able to replace this production but global petroleum reserves actually increased by nearly seven billion barrels, as companies increasingly turned toward higher risk areas, Al-Falih noted.

Clearly, the Kingdom is preparing for new market realities as the discussion on energy has changed from scarcity to abundance, particularly due to the new finds that can be produced feasibly and economically.

In the past, Saudi Arabia, along with its OPEC allies, could drive prices down by opening the taps to ensure unconventional fossil fuels remained firmly buried in the ground. But most analysts now expect oil prices to remain high, at least over the medium term, thanks to tight supplies and continued demand from emerging markets. That’s great news for Canadian oil sands developers, which need prices around US$60 to US$70 per barrel to make their business models economically feasible.

Saudi Arabia’s own break-even oil price has also risen sharply in the past few years, making it less likely to pursue a strategy of lower prices. The Institute of International Finance estimates that Saudi Arabia’s break-even price has shot up US$20 over the past year to US$88, in part due to a generous spending package of US$130-billion announced this year to keep domestic unrest at bay.

The Saudis now find themselves between a shale rock and a hard place: While high crude prices mean the Saudis can maintain their excessive domestic subsidies for citizens, in the long run that means the world is developing new sources, making it less dependent on Saudi oil.

Although the Saudis have vigorously fought the Ethical Oil ads, which paint them in a negative light, they already know their oil is less welcome in the Americas – Saudi oil made up a mere 9.3% of U.S. oil imports last year, down from 11.2% five years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

But while Saudis would be cheering on the green groups with ‘No KXL’ signs, they don’t hold out much hope for renewable energies either. Calling them ‘green bubbles,’ Al-Falih says governments should stop focusing on unproven and expensive energy mix, as there is frankly no appetite for massive investments in expensive, ill thought-out energy policies and pet projects.

“The confluence of four new realities – increasing supplies of oil and gas, the failure of alternatives to gain traction, the inability of economies to foot the bill for expensive energy agendas, and shifting environmental priorities – have turned the terms of the global energy dialogue upside down. Therefore, we must recast our discussion in light of actual conditions rather than wishful thinking,” the pragmatic chief said.

Somebody should explain this wishful thinking to the green movement.

yhussain@nationalpost.com

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USA: Hercules Offshore Posts USD 17 Million Loss in 3Q 2011

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Hercules Offshore, Inc. today reported a loss from continuing operations of $17.0 million, or $0.12 per diluted share, on revenue of $163.0 million for the third quarter 2011, compared with a loss from continuing operations of $16.1 million, or $0.14 per diluted share, on revenue of $157.6 million for the third quarter 2010.

John T. Rynd, Chief Executive Officer and President of Hercules Offshore stated, “Activity levels in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico Shelf are on the rise, as operators increasingly focus on liquids rich drilling opportunities. Concurrently, several jackup rigs have departed for international opportunities, resulting in a tight environment for rig availability in the region. Hercules Offshore has been the primary beneficiary of the improving fundamental trends in the shallow water U.S. Gulf of Mexico, which have accelerated during the third quarter. Average dayrates in our Domestic Offshore segment have increased by nearly $10,000 per day over the past year, with leading edge rates suggesting further upside for our domestic jackup fleet.

“Our International Offshore segment was recently successful at securing several contracts, including attractive, long term extensions for the Hercules 261 and Hercules 262 in the Middle East. These contracts are a testament to our strong performance and relationship with the customer, Saudi Aramco. Tempering our international success was the recently announced damage to the Hercules 185, where we are anticipating approximately six months of downtime for repairs.”

Offshore

Domestic Offshore revenue increased to $60.2 million in the third quarter 2011 from $25.1 million in the comparable period in 2010. Approximately 70% of the revenue increase is attributable to the acquisition of the Seahawk rigs, while higher utilization and dayrates on the legacy fleet contributed to the remaining revenue growth. Average revenue per rig per day increased by $9,722 per rig per day to $49,060 in the third quarter 2011 compared to $39,338 in the prior year period. Utilization in the third quarter 2011 increased to 74.2% from 62.9% in the third quarter 2010. However, operating days rose by more than 90%, largely as a result of the acquisition of the Seahawk rigs. Domestic Offshore operating expenses increased to $53.2 million in the third quarter 2011 from $38.7 million in the third quarter 2010, due to costs associated with the acquired Seahawk rigs. Domestic Offshore recorded an operating loss of $12.8 million in the third quarter 2011 compared to an operating loss of $32.1 million for the respective prior year quarter.

International Offshore revenue declined to $49.0 million in the third quarter 2011 from $74.4 million in the third quarter 2010. The decline was primarily driven by new contracts at lower market rates on the Hercules 208, Hercules 258, Hercules 260 and Rig 3, as well as the downtime related to transition between contracts. The reduction in revenue related to these aforementioned rigs was partially offset by the increased utilization on the Hercules 185. Overall, average revenue per rig per day declined to $96,388 in the third quarter 2011 from $138,344 in the third quarter 2010, and operating days declined to 508 days from 538 days, in the respective periods. Third quarter 2011 operating expenses were $29.1 million compared to $31.1 million in the third quarter 2010, as lower costs associated with new contract terms on the Hercules 258 and Hercules 260 were partially offset by higher costs on the Hercules 185. International Offshore general and administrative expenses during the third quarter 2011 include an $8.0 million benefit, compared to a $1.5 million benefit during the third quarter 2010, from the reversal of an allowance for doubtful accounts related to payments received from a customer in Angola. Operating income decreased to $12.9 million in the third quarter 2011 from $26.9 million in the third quarter 2010.

Inland

Inland revenue for the third quarter 2011 increased to $8.1 million from $5.7 million in the third quarter 2010, primarily driven by an increase in average revenue per rig per day to $31,008 in the third quarter 2011 from $21,357 in the third quarter 2010. Utilization of 94.9% during the third quarter 2011 is comparable to 97.5% for the prior year period. Third quarter 2011 operating expenses were $3.5 million, which includes approximately $2.6 million in gains for asset sales, compared to $8.3 million in the comparable period in 2010. Year ago results include an accrual of approximately $3.0 million related to a multi-year state sales and use tax audit. Inland recorded operating income of $0.9 million in the third quarter 2011 compared to an operating loss of $8.6 million in the third quarter 2010.

Liftboats

Domestic Liftboats generated revenue of $16.7 million in the third quarter 2011 compared to $24.6 million in the third quarter 2010. Year ago results were positively impacted by coastal remediation work related to the BP-Macondo incident. The absence of the BP-Macondo related work led to a decline in utilization to 69.8% during the third quarter 2011 from 91.6% for the prior year period. Average revenue per liftboat per day was down slightly to $7,443 in the third quarter 2011 compared to $7,684 in the third quarter 2010. Operating expenses were essentially flat at $11.4 million in the third quarter 2011. Operating income for Domestic Liftboats was $0.6 million in the third quarter 2011 compared to operating income of $9.4 million in the comparable prior year period.

International Liftboat revenue increased modestly to $28.9 million in the third quarter 2011 compared to $27.8 million in the third quarter 2010, largely due to higher utilization, which rose to 64.1% in the third quarter 2011 from 56.6% in the prior year period. This was partially offset by a decline in average revenue per liftboat per day to $21,325 from $23,176 in the same periods, respectively. Operating expenses increased to $14.1 million in the third quarter 2011 versus $13.0 million in the prior year period due to higher labor and maintenance costs. Operating income for International Liftboats was $8.5 million in the third quarter 2011, compared to $9.4 million in the same period of the prior year.

Discovery Offshore S.A. Investment

Since Hercules Offshore’s initial $10 million investment in Discovery Offshore S.A. (Oslo Axess: DISC), which gave the company an 8% ownership stake, the Company has completed several purchases of Discovery common stock, totaling approximately $24.2 million. The most recent purchase on September 13, 2011 increased Hercules’ holding in Discovery to 18.4 million shares, corresponding to 28.0% of Discovery’s share capital.

Additional Information

Headquartered in Houston, Hercules Offshore, Inc. operates a fleet of 49 jackup rigs, 17 barge rigs, 65 liftboats, two submersible rigs, and one platform rig. The Company offers a range of services to oil and gas producers to meet their needs during drilling, well service, platform inspection, maintenance, and decommissioning operations in several key shallow water provinces around the world. Hercules Offshore currently holds 28.0% of share capital in Discovery Offshore, a pure play, ultra-high specification jackup rig company.

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