Since she was delivered to Transocean in 2009, the 6th generation drillship Discoverer Americas has been on contract with Norwegian energy major Statoil. Beginning with two wells in the Gulf of Mexico, she has since conducted exploratory campaigns off Egypt and now off Tanzania.
In March 2014, roughly three months before an incredible crash in oil prices began, she signed a new contract with Statoil at an astronomical day rate of $735,000.
She is the highest-earning rig in Transocean’s fleet by day rate.
Times have changed however, and with new rigs continuing to be delivered from Asian yards and Russian sanctions causing major problems for Seadrill, oversupply and plummeting day rates in the offshore drilling sector are the new reality.
In 2014, Statoil had dismal year with an admittedly failed campaign in the Barents Sea and offshore Angola. As a result, Statoil suspended or cancelled the contracts for four rigs, COSL Pioneer, Scarabeo 5, Songa Trym and Stena Carron. The cancellation of the Stena Carron cost Statoil $350 million in penalties.
Statoil’s campaign last year off Tanzania with the Discoverer Americas was successful however, uncovering a reservoir with an estimated 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Looking ahead, Statoil has indicated they will be cutting back their capital expenditures by $2 billion, with a focus on 15 licenses on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, 12 on UK Continental Shelf and 4 new permits in New Zealand.
Where does that leave the Discover Americas?
With such a massively expensive contract which doesn’t expire until March 2016, it could make more sense for Statoil to eat the cancellation fee and hire a far less expensive rig in whatever area of the globe they prefer at a day rate close to half that of the Discoverer Americas.
We have reached out to both Statoil and Transocean for comment, however both companies have been silent on the issue.
Update: This theory has been confirmed.
According to gCaptain sources, Discoverer Americas will be drilling one, possibly two more wells offshore Tanzania before heading back to the Gulf of Mexico to be warm-stacked, and taken off-contract with Statoil.
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