The bad news continues for offshore oil and gas

Offshore drilling has been one of the worst hit sectors during the oil price slump, with exploration expenditure having significantly dropped over the past two years and expected to continue to fall this year

Many vessels and rigs are now being built speculatively, without existing contracts for their use, and those speculative assets will not find customers until at least 2019.
Many vessels and rigs are now being built speculatively, without existing contracts for their use, and those speculative assets will not find customers until at least 2019.

The oil price bust, which resulted from the global crude oil glut, has created yet more oversupply, this time in the offshore industry, where a rig and vessel glut is forming, according to Oilprice.com.

Offshore drilling has been one of the worst hit sectors during the oil price slump, with exploration expenditure having significantly dropped over the past two years and expected to continue to fall this year. This has left an oversupply of vessels and rigs, and to make things worse, new-build assets are entering the market.

Many vessels and rigs are now being built speculatively, without existing contracts for their use, and those speculative assets will not find customers until at least 2019, a manager at a Norway-based company that specialises in preservation and corrosion protection in the oil, gas and shipping industries, has warned.

According to Allan Durham, managing director at Stavanger-based Presserv, at least 61 floaters are on order, including drill ships and semi-submersibles, and 85% of those are being built speculatively, mostly in southeast Asia, Energy Voice reports.

This will do little to ease the pain of the current asset oversupply in Singapore’s oil services sector, for example. According to analysts at Maybank Kim Eng quoted by The Business Times, 2017 will not be an easy year for the industry, and improved utilisation rates that may come from higher oil prices may not come fast enough to save some players from burning all their cash.

A total of 112 new jack-ups will become available from the second quarter of this year, while 32 jack-ups are set for retirement in 2017. The result: 80 new-build jack-ups in an already oversupplied market, Durham told Energy Voice.

According to an Evercore ISI offshore market update quoted by Offshore Magazine, the contracted floater count at the end of last year was 150, a 2.9% drop from November and a 30% slump from a year ago.

Still, some signs of improvement emerged, with the working floater count rising for the first time in five months. The working jack-up count rose for a second straight month, the first time this has happened since July 2014, according to Evercore.

As far as jack-up contracts are concerned, Evercore’s analysis showed that 160 deals were announced in 2016 at daily rates averaging $86,000. This rate was 18.2% lower than the 2015 average of $105,000 in 263 jack-up contracts.

Even at this lowered contracting pace, there are rigs sitting idle globally.

“The longer an asset lies unused, the more work and greater the cost involved in reactivating it when the market regains buoyancy,” Energy Voice quoted Durham as saying.

That said, energy consultancy Douglas-Westwood expects the global offshore maintenance, modifications and operations (MMO) expenditure on around 8,700 fixed and floating assets globally to increase by 4.1% annually between 2017 and 2021, from $81bn in 2017 to $95bn in 2021.

Ageing infrastructure and the need to stick to standards would drive this higher spending, Douglas-Westwood noted, adding that Asia and North America would be leaders in the spend from now until 2021 with 24% and 20% of expenditure, respectively.

While maintenance on offshore assets is seen rising this year and the next four, total oil and gas exploration investment is still expected to drop in 2017, according to a report by Wood Mackenzie.

“Overall investment will at best match 2016 year’s spend of around $40bn, and may yet fall further,” WoodMac said.

In 2017, the energy consultancy estimates that oil and gas exploration investment will drop to $37bn, the lowest exploration investment level since at least 2009. In comparison, exploration investment in 2014 was $100bn.

However, recovery is on the way in 2018, according to WoodMac, and by the following year investments in exploration should reach about $50bn, growing further still in 2020 to $60bn.

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