ONGC examines rig bids for West Bengal and south

Vol 7, PW 24 (25 Feb 04) Exploration & Production

Drillers Transocean and Atwood Oceanics are frontrunners in the race to win the ONGC contract for a rig to drill in harsh conditions offshore West Bengal.

As we write, ONGC is evaluating technical bids submitted for the two-rig tender opened on 16th February before it opens price bids. The second rig is meant for an ongoing drilling programme offshore southeast India.

For the West Bengal tender, Transocean is offering Nordic Explorer, Shelf Explorer, CE Thornton and FG McClintock. Atwood is offering Atwood Beacon and Vicksburg.

ONGC wants a rig with a 15,000-psi stack, a minimum 315-feet leg length below the hull, and ability to handle mud weight of 20-ppg to deal with the strong currents, soft soil and high pressures in the shallow waters offshore West Bengal. The rig should also be able to drill in water depths between 30 feet to 250 feet to a target depth of about 6,000 metres.

Very few rigs are capable of drilling in the harsh conditions offshore West Bengal and ONGC has given bidders soil data collected by the last rig to drill in this region between December 1986 and July 1990: Hakuryu-9. Transocean rigs CE Thornton and FG McClintock do not have a 15,000-psi stack and can be safely ruled out.

Both are on contract with ONGC elsewhere. Nordic Explorer is drilling for Reliance eastern offshore and on 22nd February moved on to drill another well.

Atwood is offering Vicksburg subject to availability as she is currently drilling for ExxonMobil offshore Malaysia. Realistically, this leaves just three rigs in the race: Nordic Explorer, Shelf Explorer and Atwood Beacon.

ONGC hasnt said when it will open price bids, but we learn it wants to begin drilling very soon because its licence for the West Bengal block expires in September. The chosen rig will be on a two-year contract with ONGC at a day rate of anything between $70,000 and $80,000.

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