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Total: Significant Oil Find in U.S. Gulf of Mexico

Total announces a significant oil discovery at its North Platte prospect on Garden Banks Block 959 in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The discovery well encountered several hundred feet of net oil pay in Lower Tertiary sands which included several high-quality intervals.

Total estimates this discovery can have a potential of several hundred million barrels of oil. Further appraisal will be needed to confirm its size and commerciality.

“The North Platte discovery represents another example of Total’s bold exploration strategy targeting large exploration opportunities. It also demonstrates the efficiency of our alliance with Cobalt signed in 2009,” said Marc Blaizot, Total’s Senior Vice President Exploration.

Total is in a strategic alliance with Cobalt International Energy to explore for oil in the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The North Platte discovery is the first Lower Tertiary Wilcox formation well drilled by the Alliance. The results of the well confirm the northern extension of the Wilcox formation and the presence of liquid hydrocarbons. Therefore, this validates the major potential of this new exploration area of the Gulf of Mexico in which Total holds a substantial acreage position with several follow-on prospects.

North Platte is located in a water depth of approximately 4,400 feet (1,340 m) and was drilled to a total depth of approximately 34,500 feet (10,520 m).  Total holds a 40% interest in the North Platte discovery along with Cobalt (60%, operator).

Total: Significant Oil Find in U.S. Gulf of Mexico| Offshore Energy Today.

Gulf of Mexico: Quest Offshore Sees Bright Future for Deepwater GoM (USA)

The Gulf of Mexico, more than any other major deepwater region in the world, has experienced massive changes in the last five years with long-term implications for the future of the region and the GoM’s supply & demand effects on the global deepwater oil and gas market, Quest Offshore says in its report.

The worldwide financial crisis and subsequent recession, shale gas’ implications on U.S. natural gas prices and the aftermath of the Macondo incident have led to significant changes in the outlook for the region. Despite those overwhelming obstacles, the U.S. GoM’s future is bright with a pronounced recovery expected in all major market segments from drilling to subsea, floating production and marine construction.

Overall spending in the region is expected to increase significantly starting in 2013 up nearly 30 percent to $40 billion. Total expenditures are expected to reach a significant $167 billion in the 2013 to 2016 period. For the first time, 2012 is expected to represent an investment shift with deepwater CAPEX and OPEX spending surpassing that in shallow water. In the under developed ultra-deepwater frontier areas of the region, challenging technical and reservoir conditions will result in increased spending across the board, a trend expected to continue through the foreseeable future.

Five years ago the region was a mix of major and independent oil companies executing both oil and gas standalone and subsea tieback projects. In 2013 and beyond, Quest sees more oil dominance with offshore gas waning. Large international oil companies will play a larger role with the execution of standalone (hub) projects with niche-focused independents looking to infrastructure-led drilling around existing hubs and mega-independents continuing to grow their strategic portfolios in select basins.

In Quest Offshore’s latest market report, Quest Deepwater Review: Gulf of Mexico 2013 and Beyond, the reader will gain a comprehensive understanding of current trends and expectations from one of the leading deepwater basins, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

Leasing Activity Positive for Deep and Ultra-deepwater

Leasing activity is rightly seen as the furthest leading indicator for prospective oil and gas activity not only in the Gulf but throughout the world. Due to the relatively long lead times between leasing, drilling and production, leasing trends can be expected to provide insight on future activity for years to come. With one-third of active deepwater leases, oil majors and national oil companies are expected to continue to be the driving force for pushing the boundaries of the Gulf of Mexico’s development. Excluding Anadarko and Conoco, all recent frontier projects have been undertaken through operatorship’s of one of the majors or national oil companies (BP, Chevron, Exxon, Shell, Total, Statoil, Petrobras), and we expect this theme to persist moving forward.

Drilling Permitting on an Upward Trend

Drilling permit approvals are showing noticeable increases over the past six months with total counts back to pre-Macondo levels. As of the end of September there have been 78 new exploration drilling permits and 36 new development drilling permits approved over the year.

While raw permit counts are showing positive movement this year, the comparison in permits issued per project highlights the underlying cause for such steep increases in the first half of 2012. Multi-well projects (defined as five or more wells) have seen a record permitting pace since late 2011; examples of this trend include Chevron’s Jack/St. Malo Project, Shell’s Mars B Project, Hess’s Tubular Bells project, Chevron’s Big Foot and most recently the BP’s Atlantis North development, while true wildcat exploration permit numbers are still well below levels seen prior to the drilling moratorium.

Drilling Market Accelerating

Notable discoveries of ultra-deepwater fields in the Lower Tertiary continue to increase the reserve and production expectations for the region. The shift in the Gulf is most apparent in the floating rig market with four operators now possessing 50 percent of the contracted rig fleet. Ninety percent of rigs operating are high-spec and rated for ultra-deepwater.

Robust Outlook for Deepwater Development

Since 2008, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico has undergone a shift in project development mix from heavy in small, independent-operated subsea tiebacks to one that is grounded in fewer, larger subsea tiebacks and high-investment standalone developments developed by international oil companies and mega-independents.

This shift towards fewer, larger subsea tiebacks as well as increased FPS units will have profound effects on the future of the subsea sector as the hardware installed evolves as a direct result of fewer gas developments and deeper, more challenging fields. Subsea equipment manufacturers will experience fewer, but larger scope, award opportunities through the forecast period. As these developments move into more challenging areas, the value of these subsea production packages are expected to increase significantly as HP/HT trees and subsea processing become an enabler for these complex, capital-intensive projects.

This next wave of FPS developments is, for the most part, in ultra-deepwater and in more remote areas not currently connected to shallow water or onshore infrastructure. These developments will materially impact the pipeline and marine construction markets (SURF) as these production hubs are connected to existing export infrastructure through 2016 and beyond. The subsea tieback potential for these hubs is most likely to be seen in the latter half of this decade and into the following, with these latest hubs laying the foundation for the next generation of deepwater developments in the region.

Quest Offshore Sees Bright Future for Deepwater GoM (USA)| Offshore Energy Today.

Houston, Texas: Deep Down Receives Multiple Services Contracts

Deep Down, Inc., an oilfield services company specializing in complex deepwater and ultra-deepwater oil production distribution system support services recently announced they have received multiple contracts from an international operator and a major international controls manufacturer for the manufacture of flying leads and associated services worth in excess of $2.3 million; pending finalization of engineering design for one of the projects.

The first contract is for additional flying leads, equipment and services in support of a project located offshore Ghana, West Africa with delivery scheduled in the third quarter 2012. The second contract, which is also scheduled for delivery in the third quarter 2012, is for installation on a project in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. The third contract is for a project on the Northwest coast of Australia, with delivery scheduled the first quarter 2013. The latter is a first-of-its-kind deployment with five electrical quads which integrate into the loose steel-tube flying lead (LSFL) bundle with end terminations serving as mini umbilical termination assemblies (UTAs). This configuration was chosen for its superior handling characteristics, as well as installation efficiency; a key advantage is that installation can be achieved with a single ROV assisted lay down instead of multiple lay downs.

Ron Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Deep Down, Inc. stated, “These awards reaffirm the efforts Deep Down has put into our flying leads to provide our customers with quality, affordability and most importantly, a more efficient and safer installation solution.”

Deep Down, Inc. is an oilfield services company serving the worldwide offshore exploration and production industry. Deep Down’s proven services and technological solutions include distribution system installation support and engineering services, umbilical terminations, loose-tube steel flying leads, distributed and drill riser buoyancy, ROVs and tooling, marine vessel automation, control, and ballast systems. Deep Down supports subsea engineering, installation, commissioning, and maintenance projects through specialized, highly experienced service teams and engineered technological solutions. The company’s primary focus is on more complex deepwater and ultra-deepwater oil production distribution system support services and technologies, used between the platform and the wellhead.

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Petrobras: Production Starts at Cascade Field (USA)

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Brazil’s Petrobras announced that, on February 25, 2012, production started at Cascade Field, U.S. Gulf of Mexico. The Cascade 4 well is connected to the FPSO BW Pioneer, located approximately 250 kilometers of coast of Louisiana in water depth of 2500 meters.

The BW Pioneer is the first FPSO to produce oil and gas industry in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and is capable of processing 80,000 barrels of oil per day. The ship has a disconnectable mooring system that allows moving to sheltered areas during hurricanes and storms.

Petrobras is the first company to develop an oilfield in the Gulf of Mexico with the use of a FPSO model already successfully applied systematically in Brazil.

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USA: Cobalt Excited About Return to Gulf Drilling

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Cobalt International Energy, Inc. announced today that the Ensco 8503 drilling rig, contracted to Cobalt, has returned to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico following a sublet of the rig to drill a well in French Guiana. Cobalt received the required U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Compliance and has subsequently received APD approval from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) for the Ligurian #2 exploratory well.

The company expects to spud Ligurian #2 by year end. Ligurian is located in the Southern Green Canyon Area immediately adjacent to the 2009 Heidelberg discovery in which Cobalt is a part owner. After drilling Ligurian #2, Cobalt plans to move the rig to the North Platte #1 well location in the Garden Banks Area to drill that prospect. Cobalt anticipates that each of the Ligurian #2 and North Platte #1 exploratory wells will take approximately six months to drill.

“Obtaining the approved APD for Ligurian #2 represents another significant milestone for Cobalt”, said Van P. Whitfield, Cobalt’s Chief Operating Officer. “Ligurian #2 will be our first company-operated well drilled in the Gulf of Mexico since the deepwater drilling moratorium was enforced in May 2010. We are definitely excited about our return to drilling and are confident in our ability to drill this well safely. Additionally, we look forward to obtaining the additional permits required to drill and evaluate the multiple other significant world class prospects we have in our Gulf of Mexico portfolio.”

Cobalt is the operator of the Ligurian #2 well located in Green Canyon Block 814, with a 45% working interest. Other working interest owners include TOTAL E&P USA, INC. with a 30% working interest and Sonangol Exploration & Production International, Ltd. with a 25% working interest.

2012 Cash Expenditure Forecast

Cobalt also announced that its 2012 cash expenditures will be $500-$550 million. This range is consistent with previous guidance for 2011-13 cash expenditures of $1.3-$1.4 billion and compares with $170-$190 million recently estimated for 2011. The increased cash expenditures for 2012 relative to 2011 anticipates increased U.S. Gulf of Mexico and offshore Angola drilling activity and the payment of the first social bonus contribution associated with Angola Block 20. Cobalt’s net expenditures for 2012 exploration and appraisal drilling are forecasted at $250-$300 million. Each range of cash expenditures excludes changes to restricted cash items such as escrow agreements and collateralized letters of credit.

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