Gazprom hires Galaxy Driller for Bay of Bengal block

Vol 10, PW 6 (13 Jul 06) Exploration & Production

Gazprom has hired the semi-submersible drilling rig Galaxy Driller to launch its exploratory drilling campaign at offshore block NEC-OSN-97/1 in the Bay of Bengal.

Gazprom (50% and operator) is working with GAIL (50%) on this NELP-I block off the Orissa coast in eastern India. Galaxy Driller has been hired to drill two wells and is being mobilised to reach location sometime this month (July).

Galaxy Driller will sit in water depths of 50 metres for a two-well programme. Gazprom needs all the luck it can to ensure the drilling programme does not meet the same fate as its earlier experience with jack-up rig Seadrill-5 (Ekha).

Seadrill-5 had been hired by Gazprom to drill one well at NEC-OSN-97/1 and was to spud the well on 10th October 2005 after finishing her contract for National Iranian Oil Company in the Persian Gulf. She arrived on location at the Gazprom block later than scheduled and was being jacked up before drilling to the assigned depth of 2400 metres when she suffered a punch-through because of soft soil.

Drilling was called off, the rig was moved out and the whole incident is now under litigation. Water depths at the first location warrant only a jack-up but because of the previous experience (with Seadrill-5) Gazprom does not want to take any chances, says a source connected with the drilling operation.

This will be Gazproms first well but second attempt in India. An industry source says ONGC suffered similar problems in this area because of the soft soil.

When it had hired Seadrill-5, Gazprom wanted a semi-submersible also to drill one additional well on the block to a depth of about 5000 metres. Now that a semi has been hired, both wells will be drilled by the same rig.

Gazprom is in the extended Phase-II of the work programme on this block. Phase-II actually ended on 13th November 2005 but a request was made for a years extension.

The oil ministry automatically gave six months extension (up to May 2006). Word is awaited from the ministry for the remaining six months to 13th November 2006.