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GOM future unclear in face of Well Control Rule, falling rig count

Operators seeking to reduce their capital and operating expenditures in the face of sustained low oil prices are facing difficult choices. When it comes to either greenlighting or scrapping drilling projects – particularly those in the prolific but expensive Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Lower Tertiary – many are choosing deferment or cancellation. In its Q4 2015 earnings call, held on 29 January, Chevron announced that it was canceling the Buckskin-Moccasin deepwater project, citing difficult economic conditions. Anadarko is also delaying final investment decisions on its Yeti and Shenandoah prospects, located in Walker Ridge and Middle Miocene areas. The company had drilled appraisal wells for both projects in 2015.

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Onshore drillers pull all available cost levers to economize wells

Even at the end of 2015, there had been some small hope that there would be a slight recovery in oil prices by mid-2016, lifting onshore drilling activities somewhat higher later in the year. However, when oil prices sank below $30/bbl in January, such optimism faded. Instead, the fall further motivated cost-reduction efforts across the industry. Operators were pressured to continue cutting back on their rig count and to seek additional ways to enhance efficiency throughout the well construction process. Drilling contractors appear to be ridding themselves of older rigs and directing resources toward maintaining their newer, high-spec assets.

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Competition for rig work ratchets up in Asia Pacific

As oil prices fell to less than $30/bbl earlier this year, the associated reduction in rig demand severely stressed drilling contractors worldwide. The Asia Pacific was no exception. “It has been relatively quiet,” said Yun Yun Teo, IHS Petrodata’s Principal Analyst for Rigs, Asia Pacific. “I don’t think we are going to see that 2016 will be much of an improvement over 2015. In fact, it will probably be worse.” For example, although operators in the Asia Pacific normally send out multiple new rig tenders during the winter budget season, this time around drilling contractors saw “only a handful,” Ms Teo said.

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Beyond ROP: Industry taking systems view to drilling optimization

Optimized drilling once meant drilling farther and faster to achieve high rates of penetration (ROP) using efficient, cutting-edge technologies and approaches like pad drilling. Today, with oil prices remaining low, that need for speed has given way to a more balanced approach, with operators taking a step back and a wider view of downhole drilling optimization.

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Global oil slump puts Africa’s drilling potential on hold

Although significant potential remains for increased drilling activity in Africa, the global oil price slump has left this market stagnant for now. Exploration activity throughout the continent was largely on hiatus in 2015, and if oil prices remain low through 2016, this trend is almost certain to continue. The drop in exploration activity is a result of reactionary budget cuts, as operator profit margins have become increasingly strained due to the still-falling oil prices. Such was the case for Total, an operator that spends a third of its total investments on the African continent. “The impact of the low-priced oil environment currently is that we have started the project of strong cuts and reduction of costs,” Benoît Ludot, Vice President Drilling & Completion for Total Exploration-Production, said.

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2016 Chairman: IADC to sustain engagement with public, regulators

When someone graduates with a DPhil (PhD) from the University of Oxford, a typical career choice might be to go into academia, or perhaps a research institute. But Tom Burke is not a typical guy making typical career choices. Instead of following such traditional paths, he decided to go offshore and work on drilling rigs. He didn’t have family in the business, and the year was 1994 – a difficult time in the drilling industry.

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Dayrates are down, but rig count remains steady in Middle East

While a downward trend in activity and rig count has been observed around the world in response to the oil price slump, the Middle East appears to be bucking this trend. According to numbers from Baker Hughes, the Middle East’s rig count has averaged 404 to date in 2015. That’s nearly the same as the region’s average rig count of 406 in 2014 and up from an average of 372 rigs in 2013.

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Raising the sand bar

In virtually every well worldwide, operators have to contend with some degree of sand production, a phenomenon that more often than not leads to erosion, sand accumulation, plugging, formation collapse and contamination. These issues have serious financial, safety and environmental implications for operators, often resulting in clean-outs, reduced flow rates and production, and unplanned shutdowns.

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Pressures mount as industry goes deep into survival mode

The upstream oil and gas industry has gone into survival mode, and analysts appear to agree that things are going to get worse before they get better. With low and volatile oil prices leading to more and more postponed drilling projects and lower and lower rig counts, operators, drilling contractors and service companies alike are cutting costs wherever possible. However, it’s the drilling contractors and service companies that have bore the brunt of these reductions, and analysts are urging the industry to increase collaboration to reduce costs in a balanced manner.

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Geopolitical concerns cloud short-term global oil forecasts

Geopolitical developments, including China’s economic slowdown, the Iran nuclear deal and the potential lifting of the US ban on crude exports, will likely continue to be factors that prevent the oil price from recovering significantly in 2016. The effect these developments will have on the global oil supply and demand balance is unclear, which only adds more uncertainty to an already unpredictable market. “The level of volatility has increased substantially,” said Sam Ori, Executive Director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). “That’s being driven by real uncertainty in the fundamentals of the oil market.”

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