Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell and Noble Corp. have teamed up to design and build two innovative new deepwater drilling rigs. The Noble Bully I and Noble Bully II were built in Singapore at a cost on the order of $600 million each. These ships can drill ultradeep wells in 10,000 foot oceans. They feature a system of dynamic propeller thrusters that can hold the ship steady against harsh ocean conditions. The Bully I will join Shell's five semi-submersible deepwater-capable rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. It will soon start drilling a prospect near Shell's Mars-Ursa megafield. The Bully II will be deployed to Brazil next year. An unusual feature of the drillships is the lack of a standard derrick structure. Instead, they have something called a multi-purpose tower which gives workers more room to operate and houses automated pipe-handling equipment, reducing the need for handling pipe by hand. Shell says the tower mode reduces required workers by 40% and improves safety.
The two rigs were among six (plus a floating production vessel) that Noble acquired from Frontier Drilling in a $2.1 billion deal last year. Similar drillships contract out at a rate on the order of $300,000 per day. At a rate like that it would take 6 years for the Bully rigs to earn back their construction costs.