Ocean Monarch to drill for BP-OVL off Vietnam

Vol 15, PW 9 (03 Nov 11) Exploration & Production

Diamond Offshore semi-submersible Ocean Monarch is on course to further inflame tensions between India and China over the right to explore in the South China Sea.

Houston-based Diamond is preparing to mobilise Monarch by the end of this month (November) to BP’s offshore Vietnam gas producing Block 6.1 in the Nam Con Son basin, where OVL holds a large non-operating stake. Monarch is sailing from the Gulf of Mexico to drill two gas producers in the Phase-III development programme.

BP plans to spud the first well by end-December at the discovered but not yet producing Lan Do field in water depths of 170 metres. It could take a month to drill the first well to 1200 metres TD and the same to drill the second to similar depths.

How much additional production will result from these wells is unclear, but first gas could land as early as the second quarter of next year, we hear. Operator BP has long been preparing for Phase-III at the block and hired Technip to supply and install ‘underwater umbilicals’ to link the gas producers to the Lan Tay platform.

Gas from the Lan Do field will be transported through a 25-km, 12-inch diameter pipeline to the Lan Tay platform and on to shore. Monarch’s drilling programme could further anger China, which criticised Indo-Vietnamese exploration in the South China Sea in September in an article in the state-owned People’s Daily.

China is concerned India could assume a leadership role in South and Central Asia with US backing. These fears were anything but allayed when US secretary of state Hillary Clinton encouraged India to “look East, engage East, and act East” during a state visit in July.

BP (35%) shares Block 6.1 with OVL (45%) and PetroVietnam (20%).