When Dong in late 2012 was forced to cancel its plans to extract oil from the Svane field in the North Sea, it was quite simply because there was no existing technology that could handle the strain of drilling for oil in the region. The pressure and subsequent heat was far too high.
And according to BP, the limitations of current technology means that BP alone is cut off from oil reserves that could potentially amount to 10-20 billion barrels. As such, the effort to break the current so-called 1515 barrier - to reach 20K with the possibility of drilling at more extreme depths - has been a focus point for the industry as a whole. BP has been working with Maersk Drilling in an intense effort to be the first to develop this technology, and now the process has reached a sufficiently advanced stage for the two companies to reveal when they expect the new super-rig to be completed.
"We hope to be able to present the project in late 2014 or early 2015," CCO Martin Fruergaard, Maersk Drilling, tells ShippingWatch.
More than USD 600 million apiece
The new 20K rig can handle ultra-deep drillings, higher temperatures, and significantly higher pressure than the current 15K generation. Maersk Drilling is already in contact with specific yards concerning construction of the new super-rig, which will cost more than USD 600 million apiece, the price for a 15K rig today.
"The project fits well with our strategy to be strong in the ultra-deep segment, which is the major growth market. We've constructed things based on speculations about market potential before, but this is the first time we've sat down on day one with a customer to design and develop a drilling rig. But I think it's something we'd be willing to do again," says Martin Fruergaard.
The developing process is taking place in Houston and Lyngby (Copenhagen), respectively, and the project has now reached a sufficiently advanced stage that shipyards from Singapore (Keppels) and Korea have been brought into the process.
West Africa or Brazil
The most recent acquisitions at Maersk Drilling also illustrate the company's ambitions to be strong in the ultra-deep segment, namely the four drilling vessels, of which the first two have been delivered and are now deployed. The last two will be delivered within the next six months, and they have yet to secure contracts - a development likely connected to the fact that several of the major oil companies have slowed down their investments this year. But estimates indicate that the ships will land contracts, and a solid guess would be that the ships will be put to work off the coast of either Brazil or West Africa.
The new super-rig could be deployed in regions such as the Mediterranean, off West Africa or Brazil, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. And Maersk Drilling thus estimates that the first construction could be followed up by several more.
The design of the first type is not subject to requirements that subsequent units must be built by BP/Maersk Drilling together, which means that Maersk Drilling could form collaborations with other partners to build other 20K rigs, if there is sufficient