Noble Corp rig leaving the Gulf

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Another deep-water drilling rig is leaving the Gulf of Mexico amid a continued slowdown in activity in the U.S. offshore basin following the BP oil spill last year.

Noble Corp. said its rig, called the Noble Paul Ramano, has taken a 180-day contract with Gujarat State Petroleum Corp. Ltd. to drill six wells offshore Egypt, with an option for four additional wells.

The semi-submersible rig, which has been idle in the Gulf of Mexico since June 2010, is expected to start work in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in October, the Zug, Switzerland-based drilling contractor said in a statement.

Many deep-water projects in the Gulf of Mexico remain stalled in the wake of BP’s deadly Macondo well blowout in April 2010. After the accident, which killed 11 workers and unleashed the nation’s worst oil spill, the Interior Department banned most deep-water drilling activity, idling 33 rigs doing such work. Though the moratorium was lifted in October, regulators have been slow to approve new drilling permits as they factor in new offshore safety and environmental rules.

In response, some oil companies have relocated contracted rigs to other offshore areas including Brazil and Nigeria and offshore drilling contractors have negotiated new contracts elsewhere.

The exit of the Noble Paul Ramano marks the eighth deep-water rig to leave the Gulf since the BP spill.

Noble also announced that its Noble Max Smith deep-water rig had received a five-month extension to keep working for Mexico’s Pemex in the Mexican portion of the Gulf.

Also, the company’s Noble Driller semisubmersible rig started work Aug 1. in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico under a contract with Shell Oil.

Font – Brett Clanton / Freerepublic.com

By Rodrigo Cintra

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