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Atwood Orders $600 Million Deepwater Drillship

By Ryan Dezember Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES HOUSTON -(Dow Jones)- Atwood Oceanics Inc. (ATW) on Monday said it has ordered a $600 million ultra-deep-water drillship, the latest in a flurry of orders by contract drillers betting that high oil prices will push producers into increasingly deep waters. Houston-based Atwood also said that it has options with South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Ltd. (042660.SE) to buy two additional drillships. Atwood's purchase brings to 11 the number of drillships and semisubmersible rigs that have been ordered since the end of September. Along with those firm orders, eight companies have disclosed options for 14 more vessels capable of drilling in up to 10,000 feet of water. Like the drillship that Atwood has ordered, eight of the other rigs that are under construction will be able to operate in up to 12,000 feet of water--double the depth at which the Deepwater Horizon was drilling BP PLC's (BP, BP.LN) Macondo well when it blew out in the Gulf of Mexico last spring. The orders come despite the uncertainty of deep-water drilling in the U.S. Gulf, where such exploration was pioneered. The U.S. government has yet to issue any permits to drill new deepwater wells since the Deepwater Horizon accident. Atwood's new ship, the Atwood Advantage, is expected to be delivered in September 2013. The contract driller said it has nine months to decide if it wants to build either of the other two ships for which it has secured fixed prices. Shares of Atwood recently trade 1.45% higher at $39.79. -By Ryan Dezember, Dow Jones Newswires; 713-547-9208;

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