PETROBRAS is ordering 12 new ultra-deepwater drilling rigs capable of operating in waters 2,400-3,000m of water.
The Brazilian company said that 10 of the 12 drilling units are to be owned by Brazilian companies. They will cost an estimated $600million each to build. So, at more than $7billion, this will be the largest, most expensive semi-submersible build programme ever attempted.
Though no details have been revealed as to the nature of the links between Petrobras and the new entities, it would be no surprise if they turned out to be thinly disguised subsidiaries, so signalling that oil-company ownership of drilling units may be coming back into fashion.
However, due to the lack of capacity among Brazilian shipyards, all 12 will be constructed abroad, though the hope had been that some might be built locally.
Petrobras, which initially signalled the massive programme at the 2008 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, said in early-June that delivery of the first of these new-builds would be completed and operationally ready not later than 2012.
Speaking at OTC before details of the build programme were made public in June, group president Jose Sergio Gabrielli said: “As we are developing very large demand for new drilling rigs, we have to think about non-traditional ways to get those critical resources, because for the next several years, we’re going to need a lot of drilling rigs.
“In the short-term, we have already contracted three rigs from Seadrill. Two rigs will arrive in February/March next year (2009) and the third one at the end of next year or beginning of 2010. They are brand new … we think new rigs will be more effective.”
The Brazilian national oil company said that the construction of these 12 ultra-deepwater drilling rigs was the first phase of the company’s plan for 40 drilling units and to have the entire fleet operational by 2017.
Speculation is that the next batch of rigs could be built in Brazil, though this will require major investments in infrastructure, rather than relying on imports.
Besides the huge rig build programme, Petrobras also plans to add a further 175 vessels to its fleet, including 122 supply ships and 44 very large crude oil carriers. It also needs a large number of floating production storage and offloading units (FPSOs).