'Bifurcation to sink rig utilisation'

Bifurcation: Atwood semisub Atwood Condor

Atwood Oceanics' chief financial officer Mark Mey expects utilisation rates of midwater and lower specification deep-water rigs to fall as much as 30% over the next few years on the back of an emerging bifurcation in the drilling floater market.

Eight out of 10 midwater floaters are on contract at present, as compared to nine out of 10 deep-water to ultra deep-water drilling units, Mey said.

Rig utilisation for midwater floaters could dip further to five or six out of 10 rigs if current market conditions continue to prevail, Mey opined.

The offshore drilling market has already witnessed an increasing bifurcation of rig operating dayrates, reflective of the differing demand conditions for older midwater to deep-water floaters and the newbuild ultra deep-water units entering the market.

Newbuild drillship Atwood Achiever has been contracted at $660,000 per day t(after tax) o Kosmos Energy for exploration drilling off Morocco, while the legacy floaters Atwood Eagle and Hunter are fetching dayrates of $460,000 and $515,000,respectively, Mey said in elaborating on the emerging bifurcation in the offshore drilling market.

Atwood Achiever's contract with Kosmos off Morocco is among the signs of increasing activity in new frontier areas outside the Golden Triangle of the Gulf of Mexico, West Africa and Brazil, according to Mey, speaking on the sidelines of the Pareto Securities Oil & Offshore Conference in Oslo.

Mey sees increasing opportunities from these previously less explored frontiers, which he said accounted for half of some 76 discoveries in "floater water depths". over the last two to three years.

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