Sustained Low Oil Price Sinks Deepwater Projects


By MarEx 2016-03-10 11:30:39

Douglas-Westwood (DW) forecasts deepwater expenditure to total $137 billion between 2016 and 2020. This represents a 35 percent decline compared to DW’s previous edition of the deepwater forecast issued March 2015.

The prolonged low oil price has impacted the deepwater market, with operators considering alternative development options and delaying the sanctioning of new projects, whilst trying to protect returns on their existing investments in the sector. However, projects already under construction are unlikely to be affected. 

The largest proportion (38 percent) of the total spend will be attributed to drilling and completion. Subsea production equipment, subsea umbilicals, risers and flowlines, pipelines and trunklines will represent 34 percent of total expenditure combined; whilst floating production units will account for 28 percent of spend over the forecast period.

Expenditure will predominantly be driven by Africa and the Americas, which will account for a combined 87 percent of total deepwater Capex. Though all regions will be adversely affected by low oil prices, projects that were sanctioned before the oil price downturn will help sustain activity levels in these regions and in addition we expect to see the development of East African gas basins towards the end of the forecast period.

Record levels of backlog established over the 2011-2014 period have somewhat insulated subsea hardware manufacturers from the oil price downturn. However, DW expects a further decline in subsea hardware installations in 2017 and 2018 with backlog falling rapidly and new orders trickling in at very low levels. 

DW expects that the subsea original equipment manufacturers will feel the full impact of the downturn in 2016/2017 and will face strong competition for the lower volume of projects. In total, it is forecast that the number of deepwater wells to be drilled over the next five years will decline by three percent compared to the preceding five-year period.

From a supply-chain perspective, this point in the cycle is an opportunity to bring through new approaches and technology for deepwater developments to improve efficiency and lower cost. 

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.