Petrobras has issued a brand new tender for the charter of up to five deep-water drilling rigs for work off the Brazilian coast, as the oil giant seeks to replenish a fleet that has more than 80% of its units with contracts expiring by the end of next year.

The state-controlled player invited numerous drillers that are expected to include Valaris, Noble Corporation, Transocean, Seadrill, Maersk Drilling, Diamond Offshore, Stena Drilling, Pacific Drilling, Frigstad Offshore, Odfjell Drilling, China Oilfield Services Limited, Constellation Oil Services, Ocyan, Petroserv and Etesco to submit bids on 15 March.

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Tender scope

The tender — the largest in scope launched by Petrobras since the company chartered six drilling rigs in mid-2019 for dayrates of between $136,000 and $160,000 – will see contractors this time fighting to supply more modern units.

Industry sources said Petrobras is shopping for high-specification dynamically positioned rigs capable of operating in water depths of up to 2400 metres.

The oil giant has split the tender into a pair of packages. Lot 1 calls for the contracting of as many as two rigs equipped with managed pressure drilling (MPD) systems. Petrobras is offering three-year charter agreements with operations set to start in September 2022.

As for Lot 2, Petrobras is seeking up to three rigs to be contracted for periods of 1040 days each and scheduled for delivery in December 2022, while MPD is not mandatory.

Cancellation clause

According to the bidding rules, Petrobras has committed to contract at least one rig per lot. Each charter will also feature a six-month option after the initial fixed term.

However, all contracts will carry a clause that will allow Petrobras to cancel them earlier with the payment of a termination fee, being on the 580th day for rigs chartered in Lot 1 and on the 760th day for units contracted in Lot 2.

One source suggested the rigs will mainly be used to perform development drilling in the giant Buzios pre-salt field ahead of the next batch of floating production, storage and offloading vessels that are being contracted for the area.

Rig tender flurry

The new bidding opportunity is the second related to the contracting of drilling rigs launched by Petrobras in the past two months.

In late December 2020, Petrobras issued a tender to contract up to two rigs equipped with MPD to conduct exploration and development drilling in the Campos and Santos basins.

Petrobras is offering three-year contracts in that tender. After a few postponements, the oil company is set to welcome proposals on 10 March, with drilling operations due to begin in the first quarter of 2022.

The operator is also in advanced negotiations with SacAnb Offshore for the charter of the cylindrically shaped semi-submersible rig Sevan Developer.

Sacanb originally offered a dayrate of $139,360 and a mobilisation fee of $7.9 million from China to Brazil to try to land a contract with Petrobras for a period of three years.

A month ago, Petrobras rejected a final appeal submitted by Diamond to try to disqualify the proposal presented by Sacanb.

Current fleet

Petrobras currently has a fleet of 19 drilling rigs operating offshore Brazil, of which 16 have contracts expiring by December 2022.

Companies with rigs in such condition are expected to have an edge in the new tender, said a source, adding mobilisation costs can play a decisive factor in price formation.

Two more units are expected to join Petrobras’ fleet soon. The Diamond semisub Ocean Courage and the Constellation drillship Brava Star are due to start their respective 810-day contracts with the state-controlled company in April and June.