Noble Energy’s new drillship headed for the Mediterranean

Noble Energy said today it has entered into a 36-month contract with a subsidiary of Atwood Oceanics for a new drillship currently under construction in South Korea.

The Atwood Advantage is scheduled to be delivered by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. in September 2013, and will then be mobilized to the Eastern Mediterranean within 80 days, according to a statement from Atwood, which is based in Houston.

The companies said the contract calls for a rate of $584,000 per day.

David Larson, vice president of investor relations at Noble, said the new ship has dual blowout preventer stacks and will be capable of drilling in 12,000 feet of water.

The ship will first be used to drill in the Eastern Mediterranean, where Noble has made several major discoveries since 2009.

The day rate suggests that Houston-based Noble’s discoveries off the coast of Israel could be game-changing, said Fadel Gheit, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co.

“Highest risk, highest return,” he said. “Time will tell.”

Dual blowout preventer stacks are now the industry standard, Gheit said.

“It’s like airbags and seatbelts,” he said. “They cannot afford, no company can afford to go through another mess like the one that happened with BP (in the Gulf of Mexico). That could really set the industry back decades.”