Kosmos Energy has taken delivery of an Atwood Oceanics newbuild drillship that is set to spud a controversial well off Western Sahara in the next few months.
The ultra-deepwater unit Atwood Achiever has left Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering in South Korea and begun mobilising for Dallas-based Kosmos, which has it on a three-year deal.
Houston-headquartered Atwood said on Wednesday that the sixth generation drilling unit, its second of four such deliveries, should reach the north-west coast of Africa in December.
Although Kosmos had said earlier this year that delivery was expected at the end of August with drilling to begin by the end of the year, it was thought the unit could spud its first well as soon as October or November.
Although the first well to spud with the Atwood Achiever is not known, one probe it is lined up for is the highly contentious Gargaa-1 wildcat on the Cap Boujdour block in the Aaiun basin off Western Sahara.
Drilling off Western Sahara is controversial because the territory is claimed by the Polisario government in exile as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which is also recognised as a sovereign state by the African Union
Kosmos was licensed by Morocco’s state-owned National Office of Hydrocarbons & Mines of Morocco (ONHYM) which, as the occupying power, claims sovereignty over the former Spanish enclave, which the United Nations (UN) designates a non self-governing territory, potentially subject to a formal decolonisation process.
ONHYM and Kosmos signed a joint declaration of principles in December, acknowledging the UN legal office opinion, which referred to the paramount interests and wishes of the Sahrawi people. The declaration emphasises that, in the event of commercial hydrocarbon development, local populations will benefit efficiently, effectively and transparently.
Kosmos has the Atwood Achiever on charter for three years at $595,000 a day, with a gross rate of up to $660,000 inclusive of taxes for work off Morocco.