THE END OF A TWENTY-YEAR STORY FOR THE SEMI-SUBMERSIBLE LEIV EIRIKSSON

Transocean recently advised that its ultra-deepwater semi-submersible Leiv Eiriksson was now retired and held for sale.
Leiv Eiriksson was a Trosvik Bingo 9000 ultra-deepwater semi-submersible built at Dalian, China, by CSIS. The state-of-the-art drilling rig was delivered to its owner, Ocean Rig UDW, in 2001. Built at the same shipyard, the sister vessel Eirik Raude was delivered to Ocean Rig in 2002.
The Leiv Eiriksson is just the latest on the long list of the modern offshore drilling units that have not survived the recent slumps the oil industry has had to contend with.
However, the short life and history of the drilling rig have been remarkable from several points of view.
It was named after a hero who was the first European to set foot on the American continent
It was one of the first semi-submersibles designed for the most hostile sea conditions of the northern and southern oceans.
It was the first semi-submersible built for Ocean Rig UDW, a young and remarkable company that bet on technological progress and operations beyond known borders.
Leiv Eiriksson conducted exploration drilling in remote and hostile seas from Greenland to the Barents Sea and the Falkland Islands.
Massive, the indefinable light green color gave a unique touch to its hull. Darkening under tough conditions it turned emerald under the slanting rays of the sun.
The semi was named after Leiv Eiriksson a Norse explorer from Iceland. He is thought to have been the first known European to have set foot on continental North America (excluding Greenland), approximately half a millennium before Christopher Columbus.
The life of the Leiv Eiriksson drilling rig was rich in voyages and discoveries.
In July 2003, BP and the Leiv Eiriksson made the Saturno oil discovery in the ultra-deepwater Block 31, offshore Angola and a few months later the Cesio 1 discovery in Block 18.
In 2011 Cairn secured the green semi-submersible for a drilling campaign offshore Greenland. As soon as released by Cairn the Leiv Eiriksson headed south to the remote Falkland Islands to drill exploration wells for Falkland Oil & Gas (FOGL) and Borders and Southern.
In February 2012, Ocean Rig UDW signed a three-year contact with RWE DEA Norge for operations in the Norwegian North Sea. The unit was successfully used offshore Norway by RWEW DEA, Total and Ithaca.
By the end of 2014 the rig was secured by Maersk Oil to drill offshore Norway. In 2015 it was Tullow’s turn to hire the rig.
In March 2016 the semi was at the Westcon shipyard to prepare for a new program in the Barents Sea with Lundin. Discoveries were reported in the Joan Castberg area.
In 2017 the Leiv Eiriksson was still active in the Barents Sea.
Then came the time when the sky began to darken over the world of offshore drilling. The frenzy of newbuilds that began in the early 2010s was already leading to dramatic oversupply. Several companies would simply disappear.
In September 2018 Transocean acquired Ocean Rig UDW for $2.9 billion. About 6 months later, the sister vessel Eirik Raude being stacked for two years was sold for scrap.
As for the Leiv Eiriksson, the semi’s last gig was a successful one. It was contracted by ConocoPhillips to drill on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, helping the US giant strike large gas condensate and oil discoveries in November and December 2020, respectively.
Currently anchored in Aagotnes in Norway, the Leiv Eiriksson will probably be sold for scrap.
(Sources: Ocean Rig/Transocean/InfieldRigs – Image: Leiv Eiriksson and northern lights in Norway/Westcon)