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Top Offshore Drilling Companies

A large part of your success and future in the offshore drilling industry depends on the company with which you work. There are a large number of drilling companies in the world but some stand out as compared to others with respect to their work practices, experience, technology and sheer size. Opinions differ on whether it is best to start with a small company where theoretically you can learn more or with a large well established company where you are sure your training and future is secure. As you ponder over this decision, here are some of the most respected and top performing offshore drilling companies in the industry.

Summing Up

For many the charm of working offshore lies in the prospect of international travel. Conversely most of the workers who exit the industry do so because they are so far from home spending much of their time in the middle of the ocean. That said, it is an irretrievable and unchangeable component of working in this industry so unless you are willing to travel to these locations and work under the demanding conditions that they impose, this is certainly not the career for you. On the flipside, many oil workers today relish the opportunity to visit new and exciting locations, places they never dreamed of visiting in their lifetimes. As oil exploration extends to new frontiers, the prospect of visiting new continents and regions will always be one of the key reasons for new and existing workers to serve in the oil drilling industry.


The Arctic Region

The Arctic region is known for its freezing temperatures, high winds, little or no sunlight and never-ending whiteness. A little less known fact is the amount of oil lying underneath it all. It is estimated that the 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas lie in this region making it one of the most exciting prospects for oil companies.

The interesting aspect about drilling in the Arctic is that the oil is not located in deepwater. It is just 500 meters below the surface. However the conditions are extremely harsh since it is all comprised of sea ice. In addition, environmental groups strongly insist that given the region’s lack of accessibility, responding to disasters and mishaps like oil spills can be impossible or extremely complex.

Totally 8 different nations share the rights to the Arctic region’s 30 million square kilometers and each of them have different stands with respect to oil exploration. On the Russian side of the Arctic, BP is in negotiations with the government to proceed with their oil drilling plans however this got waylaid after the Gulf of Mexico mishap. Negotiations have now been revived.

On the US side, Shell had obtained the rights to begin exploration but after a number of protests and challenges were posed by Alaskan native and conservation groups regarding clean air permits, Shell has deferred its drilling plans to 2012.

Norway on the other hand was proceeding full steam ahead until environmental groups forced them to defer plans until 2013, after the next elections. However with their reserves in the North Sea fast depleting, they are expected to move forward sooner than the other countries.

One thing is certain about drilling in the Arctic. It is an eventuality given its massive potential. A total of 90 billion barrels of oil is expected to lie underneath. However given the strong resistance by so many nations and interest groups, many believe that the only way it will ever progress is through deliberate and fruitful international negotiations.

Offshore drilling ban could be a blow

President Barack Obama’s announcement Thursday that work at 33 deepwater drilling operations would be suspended immediately was like sealing the region’s economic death from the ongoing oil plume gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. This affects many offshore jobs.

Sixteen companies have operations that will be affected by the six-month shutdown, including Shell, Chevron, BP, Marathon, Eni, Petrobras, Hess and LLOG Exploration, a Metairie-based division of Hess.

After oil prices crashed in 1999, deepwater drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico didn’t really get going again until 2004.

Source: Nola.

The Gulf of Mexico

While the Gulf of Mexico has always been known for its offshore oil, it finds a place on this list because experts believe that there is a tremendous potential for more oil in deeper and further from the coast. It is estimated that there are about 13 billion barrels of unrecovered oil in the region in an area called as the Lower Tertiary. This area is 200 miles off the coast and stretches from Alabama to Mexico. It consists of probably the oldest rock formation, approximately 60 million years old, and poses a unique set of challenges to reach. When the formation is so old, it needs to be fractured before oil can be extracted and this is not an easy process because of a number of reasons. The primary concern is that no one has ever fractured rock in deep water before and for this particular extraction; massive amounts of hydraulic horsepower will be needed.

Given the recent oil extraction debacle, BP has not yet received approval to proceed with exploring this Lower Tertiary region to which it currently holds rights. However it is expected to proceed with approval in due course.

West Africa

Currently the most active newer offshore oil wells are off the coast of West Africa, specifically Nigeria and Angola. Combined, the two regions have a proven reserve of over 20 billion barrels of oil. Further the geological factors are extremely favorable. The rock is young permitting easy extraction of up to 100,000 barrels a day. Drilling experts claim that the only restraint is the size of the conduit bringing up the oil.

Other countries in the region have also revealed oil reserves off their coast. Ghana is fast becoming a popular site with its Jubilee well, which is expected to hold approximately 2 billion barrels of oil. Oil extraction from this region began in late 2010. Another find was discovered in March 2011 indicating that this could be the area to watch out for in coming years.

The Sierra Leone Liberian basin is hot spot for oil exploration and experts hope that the 700 mile stretch from the Jubilee well to this region will have similar properties and billions of barrels of oil lying beneath. Finally Liberia recently signed a deal with Chevron to conduct exploratory efforts on three different locations off its coast.

The only thing affecting oil production in the region appears to be political issues. While Nigeria was historically Africa’s largest oil producer it lost its spot to Angola due to the political unrest. Unfortunately Angola too has problems of its own relating to oil production particularly due to political battles in the oil rich province of Cabinda. The other countries also have similar political structures and might face similar challenges in the future.


Originally Brazil was known as a biofuel producer thanks to the sugarcane ethanol, which is used as fuel for most of its transportation service. However as late as 2007, the discovery of the Tupi field about 200 miles off the coast of Rio in the Atlantic Ocean changed all that. The field has now been renamed to Lula and is expected to contain about 6.5 billion barrels of oil. Apart from the Lula field, it is estimated that Brazil has another 36 billion barrels of oil located 2000 feet below sea level off its coast and most of it is light and easy to refine.

However the challenge lies in the layer of salt that exists above the oil. The layer of salt is severely thick and possesses a major set of challenges. Since the salt is immediately above a layer of rock, it has caused the underlying rock to become unstable. As a result, when drilling through it, the rock gets broken into smaller pieces, which interfere with the circulating mud. All this can cause major drilling disasters that can have monumental economic and environmental effects.

Oil exploration off the coast of Brazil is an eventuality however it is expected to be delayed until the constraints and challenges are ironed out.

New Frontiers of Oil Exploration

Oil will continue to be the primary source of energy until 2035. Despite all efforts to replace it with more fuel-efficient approaches and alternative fuels, demand for oil is still expected to grow by 18% over the next 25 years. That said, the older oil fields are depleting and there is a growing need to explore new frontiers. Most of those that have been discovered are under the sea. In addition the quantum of oil produced from under the sea is substantially more that the amount that gets generated from onshore rigs. While onshore produces 10 barrels a day, offshore rigs produce 1000s of barrels a day. All this makes offshore drilling an extremely lucrative industry with excellent career prospects. Here are some of the newer frontiers that are quickly gaining importance in today’s world.

The Persian Gulf

The Persian Gulf located in the heart of the Middle East accounts for the largest concentration of crude oil reserves in the world. The Safaniya Oilfield located here is generally accepted as the largest oil field in the world. As per assessments in 2002, the middle east nations of Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, all having rights to the Persian Gulf accounted for over two thirds of the world’s crude oil reserves.

The United States

The US, specifically the areas off the coast of Texas, California and Louisiana all account for a large portion of the word’s offshore oil. Oil fields in the seabed near California have been producing between 35000 and 65000 barrels of oil a day, making it an extremely lucrative and profitable location. Its proximity to the mainland also enhances its appeal. The most well known oil fields in the region are The Ellwoood Oil Field and the Dos Cuadras Field.

The Gulf of Mexico, which comprises the area off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi accounts for over 25% of the US oil production. The region produces about 500 million barrels of oil each year and this is only expected to increase as new sites within the area emerge. The most notable oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico are the Atlantis Oil Field and the Tiber Oilfield. Interestingly the eastern portion of the Gulf, the coast of Florida has never been known or considered to contain oil reserves.

The Pacific Northwest and the East coast of the United States, specifically the regions off the coast of Washington, Oregon and Alaska have also been known for their oil producing properties. However they have turned out to be not as lucrative as the areas just up the coast of Canada where oil production has been more successful.

The Great Lakes of the United States are also excellent reserves of crude oil however so far only Michigan has permitted offshore oil drilling in their state. Canada on the other hand has allowed for a substantial amount of oil exploration in their portion of the Great Lakes making this an excellent offshore drilling location for job seekers.