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Offshore Oil & Ocean Engineering


May 2011 Issue

Drilling Activity Falls 25 Percent Across UK Continental Shelf
North Sea offshore drilling activity fell 25 percent in the first quarter of 2011, according to the latest oil and gas industry figures released by Deloitte LLP (London, England).

The North West Europe Review, which documents drilling and licensing in the U.K. Continental Shelf (UKCS), reported just five exploration and four appraisal wells were spudded in the U.K. sector between January 1 and March 31, compared to a total of 12 during the fourth quarter of 2010.

Analysts at Deloitte said while the drop cannot be attributed to the recent U.K. budget announcement, which proposed increased tax rates for oil and gas companies, it could set the pattern for activity in the future.

"It is important to clarify that we are talking about a relatively small number of wells that were drilled during the first quarter of the year—the traditionally quieter winter months—so this is not, in itself, an unexpected decrease," Graham Sadler, managing director of Deloitte's petroleum services group, said. "What is clear is that despite the decrease in drilling activity towards the end of last year, and during the first months of 2011, the outlook for exploration and appraisal activity in the North Sea appeared positive."

The review shows the central North Sea has seen the highest level of drilling activity, with the region representing 55 percent of all exploration and appraisal wells spudded on the UKCS during the first quarter of 2011.

Deal making has also experienced a downturn compared to the first quarter of last year, Deloitte said. For more information, visit www.deloitte.com.

BP-Rosneft Arctic Drilling Plans May Fall Apart After Opposition
BP plc's (London, England) share swap deal with state oil company Rosneft (Moscow, Russia) faced the possibility of collapse in April after BP partners in Russia objected.

The deal, which also would have opened up the Russian Arctic to drilling, was rejected by Russian directors at TNK-BP, BP's main business vehicle in Russia. TNK-BP said the deal violates TNK-BP's shareholder agreement and would create conflicts of interest, as Rosneft is one of its main competitors. Under the proposed $16 billion share swap agreement, Rosneft was to hold five percent of BP's ordinary voting shares in exchange for approximately 9.5 percent of Rosneft's shares.

Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) shareholders, which own 50 percent of TNK-BP shares, rejected the deal in March, saying "there are no talks ongoing or planned between BP and TNK-BP with respect to solving the situation."

In April, an arbitral tribunal put in place an interim injunction prohibiting the closing of the share swap transaction. Opportunities in the Arctic remain under injunction pending further hearings, BP said, adding it was disappointed the agreements would not go ahead in the form intended. BP said it would honor the TNK-BP shareholders' agreement and would respect the decision of the arbitrators.

Should the deal expire on its May 16 deadline, analysts said, Rosneft could drop BP in favor of other oil companies interested in drilling in the region. As of press time, one of the TNK-BP partners told the British Broadcasting Corp. that there was a possibility of AAR selling their shares.

UK Industries Anticipate Growth In Next Five Years, Study Reports
A study released in March reported more than 80 percent of North Sea companies surveyed expect to grow their business during the next five years, with approximately half of those surveyed expecting large growth in 2011.

The industry study found 90 percent of companies are anticipating a rise in international activity. A further 67 percent expect to see growth as a result of decommissioning, and 63 percent forecast a rise activity in relation to wind power. The research was conducted by oil and gas industry training bodies OPITO and the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), which supplemented the report with its parallel study.

More than 50 percent of respondents said attracting appropriately skilled staff was the biggest challenge to their ability to deliver their project opportunities. The study also found demand for appropriately skilled or experienced staff continues to outstrip supply, with vacancies for engineers (graduate and chartered) and managers the hardest to fill.

More than 110 companies spanning the construction, drilling, engineering, geoscience, marine, science, inspection and operations sectors contributed to the survey. The majority anticipate growth in the workforce in the next five years, with 12 percent expecting to take on more than 50 people in the next year and five percent looking to recruit more than 200 in the same period, the survey said.

Although many parts of the industry sought to recruit in 2010, a third of the respondents cut their workforce numbers, with drilling, manufacturing and fabrication sectors suffering the most. Reduced exploration activity and lack of visibility of future project development for those sectors could explain a short-term reactive approach. For more information, visit www.subseauk.org.

New Wireline Conveyance Tool Reduces String Friction, Costs
A new wireline conveyance tool from Wireline Engineering (Aberdeen, Scotland), designed to reduce tool string friction in deviated oil and gas wells, was successfully used in the U.K. North Sea for the first time, the company announced in March.

The tool, the Open Hole Roller Bogie, was used by well management company Applied Drilling Technology Inc. (Aberdeen) to perform wireline runs in the Catcher field operated by EnCore Oil plc (London, England).

The new technology is capable of conveying the longest tool strings and has been successful at up to 75° deviation, the company said. The ability of this technology to remove tool string friction at high deviation extends wireline capability and can mean the difference between acquiring critical well data or not, the company said.

The tool was directly responsible for operational savings of about £150,000 per wireline operation, Wireline Engineering said, through time saved and reducing the need for the deployment of other more expensive techniques. For more information, visit www.wireline-engineering.com.


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