Noble Drilling' s fourth-quarter net flat as costs offset drilling services
BY KRISTIN JONES
SUGAR LAND, Texas -- Noble Drilling' s fourth-quarter earnings were roughly flat from a year earlier as the offshore oil driller' s higher revenue from contract drilling services was offset by repair costs and other operating expenses. Noble has been investing billions of dollars in fleet upgrades over the past year as worldwide drilling activity accelerates, but the company said that the effort has been rocky.
"A company transformation as extensive as we are undertaking can be challenging, and as we saw in the fourth-quarter, can produce inconsistent operating performance," said CEO David Williams. While the company added three drillships to its fleet, and put two others in service following upgrades, "initial operations on these five rigs have not been as seamless as we had hoped, particularly with respect to certain critical components," Mr. Williams said, noting downtime attributed to the rigs.
Noble said in December that a United States coast guard inspection found issues with several components and systems on its Discoverer drillship, including with its safety-management systems. One of the offshore rigs managed by Noble made its way into United States news headlines when it ran aground in Arctic waters after breaking free from tow ships. Shell was using the rig, the Kulluk, to drill exploratory wells off Alaska' s northern coast.
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