Cobalt resumes drilling in US Gulf

US independent Cobalt International Energy has resumed drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico after receiving approval from US authorities.

The US Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement gave Cobalt the okay to drill the Ligurian-2 exploration well, located in Green Canyon Block 814. It is the company’s first operated well since the US lifted a deep-water drilling moratorium in the Gulf.

Cobalt said the Ensco 8503 semi-submersible rig has returned to the Gulf after being sublet to Tullow Oil to drill the much ballyhooed Zaedyus-1 probe off French Guiana.

The rig will carry a special dayrate of about $210,000 for a couple of weeks while it undergoes upgrades and will then begin a two-year commitment with Cobalt on 12 January at a rate of about $535,000, according to Ensco’s latest fleet status report.

Cobalt plans to spud Ligurian-2 by the end of this year.

After drilling Ligurian-2, Cobalt said it will move the semisub to drill the North Platte-1 exploration well in the Garden Banks area.

Each well will take about six months to drill, Cobalt said.

Cobalt operates Ligurian-2 with a 45% working interest. Other interest owners include Total with 30% and Sonangol on 25%.

Cobalt also said it will spend between $500 million and $550 million in cash in 2012, up from the $170 million to $190 million it spent this year.

The increase comes as a result of more US Gulf and offshore Angola drilling activity, as well as the payment of the first social bonus contribution associated with Angola Block 20, where Cobalt was on Tuesday awarded a production sharing contract.


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