Shelf Drilling Barsk (former Noble Lloyd Noble) jack-up rig; Source: Jamie Baikie/Equinor

No clearance for Shelf Drilling’s rig to work in Norwegian waters hinders start-up of drilling gig

Offshore drilling contractor Shelf Drilling has disclosed plans to keep discussing options with the Norwegian offshore safety regulator in the wake of the watchdog’s rejection of its application to obtain an acknowledgment of compliance (AoC) for one of its jack-up rigs. This delays the rig’s pending assignment on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) with the country’s state-owned energy giant, Equinor.

Shelf Drilling Barsk (former Noble Lloyd Noble) jack-up rig; Source: Jamie Baikie/Equinor

According to Shelf Drilling, a subsidiary of Shelf Drilling North Sea (SDNS) has received notice from the Norwegian Ocean Industry Authority (Havtil) that its application for an acknowledgment
of compliance for the Shelf Drilling Barsk jack-up rig has not been accepted.

As an AoC expresses the regulator’s confidence that petroleum operations can be pursued in compliance with the regulations, this rejection throws a wrench into the works since the Shelf Drilling Barsk rig will not be able to begin its contract in Norway until the AoC has been obtained.

The rig secured a contract with Equinor in April 2023 for operations at the Sleipner Vest field. While the initial contract was for two wells, the deal entailed options for two additional wells and the planned start-up of operations was expected between May and July 2024. 

However, a two-well extension with an estimated duration of 254 days and options for three wells at the Gudrun field was awarded to the rig by the Norwegian energy heavyweight in April 2024. At the time, the rig owner confirmed the jack-up was scheduled to start work for Equinor at the Sleipner Vest field in May 2024.

The Sleipner Vest field in blocks 15/6 and 15/9 was discovered in 1974. The production of gas and condensate started in August 1996. This field is developed with two platforms: Sleipner B and Sleipner T. The Alfa Nord satellite field was tied back to the Sleipner T platform as part of the development.

Given the acknowledgment of compliance issues, Shelf Drilling highlights its intention to keep up the constructive dialogue with Havtil in a bid to obtain the AoC and embark on the announced drilling contract. Based on the Norwegian Ocean Industry Authority’s timelines, processing an application normally takes three months if the unit is to be used for drilling.

On the other hand, consideration can take less than three months when the application involves an extended AoC, where the same facility will be used for a new type of activity that requires an AoC. The 2016-built Shelf Drilling Barsk jack-up rig is of GustoMSC CJ70-X150-ST design and can accommodate 140 people.

The rig, previously known as the Noble Lloyd Noble jack-up rig, was bought by Shelf Drilling due to Noble’s efforts to remedy competition concerns related to its merger with Maersk Drilling, which was concluded in 2022.

Recently, Shelf Drilling got its hands on a new contract for another one of its jack-up rigs with an undisclosed North Sea operator for work on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).