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Earning a good return on investment from deepwater developments has never been easy, given the enormous costs associated with finding and producing oil and gas from water depths measured in thousands of feet. Sky-high commodity prices obviously changed the calculus of deepwater development. Deepwater projects are projected to increase by 18% in the next five years, Fig. 1.
But just as prices are now collapsing, a major obstacle could remain: If current predictions hold true, a severe shortage of sophisticated drilling equipment will soon cool the deepwater market - and force every E&P company with deepwater programs to factor these shortages into their long-range planning.
E&P companies are no strangers to cyclical shortages, of course, and their management teams know from experience that markets typically respond to shortfalls by generating new sources of supply. But deepwater drilling rigs bear little resemblance to their onshore cousins, and the tools required for ultra-deepwater development are among the most complex found in any industry.
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