The Future of the Oil Biz

Where is the future of the oil industry? Offshore driller Transocean just took delivery of a new ultra-deep-water drilling ship named Discoverer Clear Leader. This sixth-generation drill ship is currently under long-term contract to Chevron.

The new vessel is 835 feet long and 125 feet wide, or about the size of a World War II aircraft carrier. It generates 40 Megawatts of power, enough to light about 40,000 homes. The derrick is 226 feet high. The ship can drill wells in 12,000 feet of water, which is the depth of seafloor where the Titanic sank. The ship can operate and hold its position steady in waves up to 30 feet high.

Clear Leader can drill to a total depth of 40,000 feet, which surpasses the limits of any previous technology. By comparison, almost no airliners fly above 40,000 feet altitude. So imagine flying across the country and looking down at the ground from, say, 36,000 feet. Now imagine you’re on a ship at sea, dangling a drill string that goes farther than that into the earth.

If you want to see an excellent animation of deep-water drilling from Transocean, here’s a nice visual demonstration that gives you a perspective on what it’s all about…

I hope you can see why the deep-water developers, and equipment and service suppliers, are such a unique brood. There are just so few of these kinds of companies out there, and it’s such a difficult technical field. But deep water is where the ‘big’ oil is being found these days (along with unconventional plays like oil sands). So for investment purposes, we need to follow the oil.