November 2021

First oil

Recovery is still moving forward
Kurt Abraham / World Oil

Our mid-year global drilling forecast was released in the September 2021 issue, and as we dive into the beginning of yet another forecast round for the winter, we continue to monitor activity. In that September issue, we forecast an 8.7% pickup in U.S. wells drilled during 2021, compared to 2020’s total. We are pleased to report that we believe the final 2021 result will be remarkably close to that figure, assuming that the Baker Hughes U.S. rig count continues to add a few (2 to 5) units per week. Back in the summer, as the count dithered around for a number of weeks, we began to wonder whether it would hit 550 by the end of December. Thankfully, it hit 550 on Nov. 5.

In Canada, we projected a 42.8% gain in wells drilled this year, which, so far, is holding up well. As of Nov. 5, the 2021 average for Canadian rigs was 128.6 vs. 88.3 for the same point in 2020. That’s a 45.6% gain, and it’s very close to what we’re projecting for the year.

Outside the U.S. and Canada, we had forecast a 5.7% increase in drilling. And while the average monthly rigs figure still trails last year’s 12-month average, it is encouraging that the October 2021 number is 22% ahead of the same point in 2020. We expect our forecast to hold and perhaps be exceeded.

Guyana remains impressive. Activity offshore Guyana continues to progress like a house afire. In just the last five months, ExxonMobil and partners Hess and CNOOC Ltd. have struck three more significant discoveries offshore the South American country on the Stabroek Block. On June 9, the operator announced the Longtail 3 discovery had been drilled in 6,100 ft of water and encountered 230 ft of net pay, including newly identified hydrocarbon reservoirs below the original Longtail-1 discovery intervals. Then, on July 28, ExxonMobil
announced that the Whiptail 1 find had been drilled in 5,889 ft of water and encountered 246 ft of net pay in high-quality oil-bearing reservoirs.

The third discovery of the trio was reported on Sept. 9. ExxonMobil said the Pinktail well had been drilled in 5,938 ft of water and found 220 ft of net pay. These three discoveries now bring the total number of high-quality oil finds on the prolific Stabroek Block to 22 in just over six years—world class by anyone’s standards. Not surprisingly, on Oct. 7, the operator and partners announced that they had raised the Stabroek resource estimate from 9 Bboe to 10 Bboe.

Meanwhile, the development juggernaut spawned by all these discoveries continues to move forward. ExxonMobil is targeting its Liza Phase 2 development to go online in early 2022. The firm also is working on the Payara development project, which it expects to go onstream during 2024. Indeed, the company has said repeatedly that it expects at least six projects to be onstream by 2027, and the firm “sees potential for up to 10 projects to develop its current discovered recoverable resource base.”

Indeed, SBM Offshore announced on Nov. 17 (just before this issue was finished) that it has been awarded contracts to perform FEED work for an FPSO for ExxonMobil’s Yellowtail development offshore Guyana. SBM will design and construct the FPSO, using its Fast4Ward program and building on its experience, to date, with the Liza Destiny, Liza Unity and Prosperity FPSOs. The new FPSO will be the sixth newbuild, multi-purpose hull that is combined with several standardized topsides modules.

This vessel will be designed to produce 250,000 bopd, feature associated gas treatment capacity of 450 MMcfd, and have water injection capability of 300,000 bpd. It will be spread-moored in a water depth of about 5,905 ft and be able to store around 2 MMbbl of crude oil. First oil at Yellowtail is expected in 2025. It is an understatement, to say that the work done by ExxonMobil, Hess and CNOOC Ltd. in the Stabroek Block has been an outstanding success.

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Kurt Abraham
World Oil
Kurt Abraham
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