Noble provides clarity on Globetrotter II drillship, during and after hurricane Ida

By Kurt Abraham, Editor-in-Chief on 9/2/2021
Noble Globetrotter II drillship
Noble Globetrotter II drillship

Published Sept. 2, 3:15 pm     Updated Sept. 2, 6:00 pm

As many industry professionals and the public are aware, there has been considerable confusion and a number of discrepancies in various accounts of what happened to the Noble Globetrotter II drillship, as it tried to evade Hurricane Ida offshore Louisiana and then had to ride out severe weather. There have been conflicting reports about potential damage to the drillship, as well as any injuries sustained on it, whether the vessel can move on its own power, the condition of systems on the ship, and under what conditions crew members are living. Indeed, there have been some rather sensational reports on a few television stations.

Noble’s side of the story. Accordingly, to try to gain some clarity of the details, World Oil reached out to Noble Corporation, owner of the drillship, for further comment. Thursday afternoon (Sept. 2), we received further explanation from Noble’s Vice President, Investor Relations, and Treasurer, Craig Muirhead. His comments, in full, are as follows (in italics), and have been updated to reflect a further release that the company sent out to the media some three hours later:

“The Noble Globetrotter II ultra-deepwater drillship continues to operate under its own power with functional marine and safety systems following its recent encounter with Hurricane Ida in the Gulf of Mexico.  The vessel’s crew is safe and all personnel have been accounted for.  Nine crew members sustained minor injuries during the storm and were treated onboard the rig, four of whom have since been transported to shore for evaluation.

“Noble is in frequent communication with the ship’s crew and is working to facilitate additional transport for some crew members to shore, as well as replacement personnel to support ongoing operations.  The living quarters of the vessel continue to function normally with food service, climate-control, water, power, and internet systems functional.  The vessel’s helideck is fully operational, and teams are working through logistical challenges across the Gulf Coast region to resume normal levels of transportation to and from shore.

“Initial findings from the ship’s ongoing condition assessment confirm that several riser joints and the lower marine riser package separated from the rig during the storm and sank to the seabed. Efforts are underway to locate and recover that equipment, and the company believes that, if necessary, it can replace any missing or damaged equipment promptly. Additionally, one of the ship’s cofferdams in the moonpool area sustained damage during the weather event. The damaged cofferdam does not compromise the stability or structural integrity of the rig nor the safety of personnel onboard. The vessel successfully secured the well and detached from the blowout preventer in place on the well as part of its departure procedures.

“Noble provided a force majeure notice to its customer in accordance with the governing drilling services contract. The contract does not contain a right of termination for force majeure. The Company does not expect any impact to its previously issued preliminary 2022 financial guidance and, at this time, is unable to estimate the impact on its 2021 guidance. Noble has insurance coverage for property damage with a $10 million deductible.

“Noble holds the safety of everyone aboard our vessels as the highest priority. We will continue to work closely with the Noble Globetrotter II’s personnel and their families to provide all necessary support, as we all recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.”

Providing context. A few additional explanatory comments beyond Mr. Muirhead’s remarks are in order. First, there were general media reports that 2,400 ft of marine drilling riser were still attached to the drillship, as it tried to move along and evade the hurricane. This did not prove to be true, per the company’s final news release on Thursday. Indeed, several riser joints and the lower marine riser package actually detached from the rig during the storm and sank to the seabed. The company is actively working to retrieve or replace the missing and/or damaged equipment.

Second, we should explain that the cofferdams mentioned are void spaces surrounding the moonpool on the drillship. So, it makes perfect sense that one of the cofferdams could be damaged and take on water but not hamper the vessel’s stability or safety in a measurable way.

Third, there have been insinuations in some media reports that the drillship was damaged in such a way that it could not move well under its own power and would have to be towed in to port. That is not true---the vessel is able to move under its own power and will proceed accordingly.

Fourth, and finally, Noble Corporation is a veteran company. The firm and its predecessors have been engaged in the contract drilling of oil and gas wells since 1921. They are in a far better position to gauge the drillship’s situation and any remedies than some television crews and their over-sensationalizing producers. Noble today performs contract drilling services with a fleet of 24 offshore drilling units, including 12 drillships and 12 jackups (including four jackups that are set to be sold to ADES International Holding Ltd.). The company focuses largely on ultra-deepwater and high-specification jackup drilling projects worldwide.

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