Gazprom hires Ekha jack-up for Bay of Bengal well

Vol 9, PW 11 (08 Sep 05) Exploration & Production

Gazprom has hired the Ekha 300-feet jack-up cantilever rig for its first exploration well at block NEC-OSN-97/1 offshore Orissa in the Bay of Bengal, where it is operator in an alliance with GAIL.

Russian-built Ekha - formerly known as the Ekhabi is scheduled to spud its first well on 10th October to a target depth of 2400 metres in a drilling programme lasting between 30 to 35 days. Ekha - owned by Cyprus-based Seatankers Management Ltd - is drilling for the National Iranian Oil Company in the Persian Gulf, where she will finish her assignment on 16th September, before sailing to Haldia from Dubai.

Brokers in London confirm that rig carrier Asian Atlas has been booked to ship Ekha to India, where she will spud her first well at a location exactly 150 nautical miles from Haldia. Built in Singapore in 1984, Ekha can drill in water depths of up to 92.5 metres and up to 6500 metres below the seabed.

Seatankers is believed to have paid $22m for Ekha, one of four rigs bought from the Sakhalin Oil Field Company. Gazprom plans a second well at NEC-OSN-97/1 to a target depth of 5000 metres and is on the look out for a semi-submersible rig.

Gazprom was originallylooking for a semi submersible for both wells but was unable to find one because of the global shortage of rigs and the huge mobilisation cost of nearly $1.5m. Gazprom originally wanted to club this well programme with two others - one in the Middle East and the other one in Vietnam.

Day rates for Ekha are believed to be approximately $70, 000 - $75, 000. The rig is contracted for only one well at NEC-OSN-97/1, after which she will sail to Singapore and her next assignment in Southeast Asia in the first week of December.

Gazprom hopes to complete both wells by the end of the Phase-II exploration programme on November 13th even though Phase-II only commits the consortium to one well.