Island Innovator rig; Source: Island Drilling

Operator pulls the plug on Island Drilling rig’s campaign off Africa due to safety issues

Oil and gas company Trident Energy and its joint venture (JV) partners have decided to hit the brakes on a three-well infill drilling campaign on Block G offshore Equatorial Guinea, located on the west coast of Central Africa. These drilling activities will resume once a new rig is secured for the job, as the deal with Island Drilling has been broken off, citing safety concerns.

Island Innovator rig; Source: Island Drilling

Originally, Trident hired the Island Innovator rig in September 2022 for two firm and five optional wells. Afterward, the company exercised two of these options for development drilling and workover in July 2023, adding another 85 days to the contracted work in Equatorial Guinea. The semi-submersible rig’s backlog was extended further in September 2023 after Trident exercised one more option on behalf of another operator in Equatorial Guinea. 

The 2012-built rig started the planned three-well infill drilling campaign at Block G last month. At the time, the first of these new infill wells was expected on stream around the end of the first quarter of 2024 while all three wells were anticipated to be online by mid-year. However, the rig contract has now been terminated per Trident’s recommendation. Depending on how fast a new rig can be procured to continue the work, a change in drilling and production start-up schedule is on the cards.

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Trident Energy (40.375%) is the operator of Block G, covering both the producing Ceiba and Okume Complex fields in shallow and deep water in the Rio Muni basin. The company’s partners in this block are Kosmos Energy (40.375%), Panoro Energy (14.25%), and GEPetrol (5%). According to Panoro, the decision to terminate the current rig contract comes as a result of the joint venture’s belief that the rig is “not operationally in a condition to safely” drill these wells. 

John Hamilton, CEO of Panoro, commented: “The joint venture will not compromise on safety, which is of paramount importance, and has acted decisively and responsibly in taking this course of action. Based on our current estimates, the pause in drilling is not expected to affect Panoro’s shareholder distributions, financial and operational targets for the year. The postponement of the drilling campaign results in a more beneficial phasing of capital expenditures on a group-wide basis.”

Trident has now started evaluating alternative options that will allow for the restart and completion of the drilling campaign, including the Kosmos-operated Akeng Deep exploration well at the earliest opportunity. This is potentially targeted during 2Q 2024, subject to rig availability and terms of alternative options.

As part of Trident’s plan to further develop its assets in Equatorial Guinea, the first drilling campaign in the country was completed in 2021 and consisted of three wells – OG-01, OB-15, and OB-14The drilling of the first of these three infill wells at the Okume Complex was finished back in August 2021. The drilling operations were done by the Vantage Drilling-owned Sapphire Driller jack-up rig.

Located in the Gulf of Guinea, the Ceiba field and Okume Complex assets comprise six oil fields. Situated on the slope of the southern Rio Muni Basin some 35 kilometers offshore, the Ceiba field was developed in phases with the production wells tied back to the Ceiba FPSO.

The Okume Complex consists of five separate oil fields – OkumeEbanoOvengAkom North, and Elon – tied back to a central processing facility (CPF) at one of the Elon platforms. The processed oil from the CPF is transported via a 25-kilometre pipeline to the Ceiba FPSO for export.