Bob Mankin
General Manager
View from the Top

The Experience of Drilling Supremus-1

Tue, 01/22/2013 - 17:33

Q: Seadrill is the only international company contracted for deepwater drilling operations in Mexico with international experience. What differentiates your approach?

A: As an international company working in Mexico, our standards are based on our experience in Norway, the Far East, West Africa, the North Sea, and the US Gulf Coast. We work according to our own procedures and the West Pegasus is the first rig ever to work for Pemex that has not used Pemex’s permanent work system. This is very important for us because our crew is used to our systems, not to Pemex’s, and the more familiar you are with systems and procedures, the more successful you will be. From Seadrill’s point of view, the rigs are not what determine the performance. It is the processes and the crew used. The West Pegasus is contracted by Pemex for four years, and we have three years left of the contract, which brings stability, time to plan, and also allows us to work the crews without too much turnover. We have a split crew of expats and Mexicans. The majority of the senior people are multinational – Americans, British, and Polish – while most of the junior crew is Mexican. Pemex has 5 or 6 representatives on the rig, who are there to oversee the drilling plan.

Q: How does the West Pegasus compare to other semisubmersibles being used in Mexico right now?

A: The West Pegasus is a sixth generation vessel that was completed in 2011. The hull was built in Europe and towed to Singapore, where it was finished. Seadrill purchased it in the latter stages of completion. The West Pegasus is a single derrick with offline capability, which allows us to build and make up stands of pipe without being on the critical path, and therefore without using up rotary table time. This is the standard for any sixth generation rig; because of the daily operating cost of the rig, companies have honed the operation to the point that they only do on the rotary table what they have to, and move any possible activities away from critical path.

West Pegasus also has a standard 18 3/4, 15,000 blowout preventor (BOP), with six-ram configuration. Seadrill has since decided to go with seven-ram configurations. The BOP on the West Pegasus cost somewhere between US$60-80 million: the cost means that replacements are not kept on hand. We do have a spare stack, but not here in Mexico. However, I can see that in the future we will have to, since BOPs will be subject to more and more inspections and these will be so intrusive that they will not be done online. Therefore, if a deepwater drilling company does not have a spare BOP on hand, they will have to face downtime. I predict that as an industry, we will eventually reach a stage where we will hot swap BOPs. It will require more investment, but we are a service industry and we deal with these big numbers all the time. Our goal is to keep the rig working. If we know that a US$600 million rig will be out of business for three months every five years, then the numbers speak for themselves. If companies have a few rigs, then they can even have one spare BOP and circle it between four rigs, in order to reduce costs even further.

Q: What are the highlights of Seadrill’s experience drilling the Supremus-1 well?

A: Although we had an issue with the very first casing we tried to run, the actual drilling of the well went relatively well. Since the rig is rather new, we had some teething problems with the blowout preventer on the seabed, so at one point we had to pull out the blowout preventer to the surface. In the end we were all very pleased with the well, even though we were at the edge of our technical ability due to the water depth. We had some problems, but nothing out of the ordinary, so we are all very pleased we were able to finish it for Pemex.

Q: Pemex has a deepwater success rate of 55%, which is very high by industry standars. Do you think it is feasible that Pemex will be able to maintain this success rate?

A: The technology used to choose deepwater drilling sites has improved immensely, so you should expect to see the success rate actually improving, but also foresee cost increasing significantly. Because Pemex started deepwater drilling quite late in comparison to other operators, it has benefitted from better technology, which helps explain why the NOC has such a high success rate. The reality is that you need technology and money to be successful: Pemex has the money, and multiple service companies have the technology, so expect Pemex’s success rate to either grow or stay the same.