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US GOM: Rig market stalls development

Despite a rush to build new vessels, a lack of ultra-deep-water drilling units will hinder GOM development for at least four years, writes Anne Feltus

SIGNIFICANT discoveries and technological advances have lowered the cost of exploiting reserves and fuelled interest in the US Gulf of Mexico's (GOM) ultra-deep waters. In recent years, tracts in waters at least 2,000 metres deep have attracted around a fifth of successful bids at US Minerals Management Service (MMS) lease sales. The number of wells drilled in water depths ranging from 1,500 to 2,300 metres has nearly doubled in the last two years, says the MMS – in mid-2007 a record 15 rigs were operating in water depths of at least 1,500 metres. And the pace of activity in deep offshore US waters could pick up further if Congress lifts a 27-year-old ban on drilling off most of the country

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