SEC Filings

HORNBECK OFFSHORE SERVICES INC /LA filed this Form 10-K on 02/28/2018
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The Deepwater Offshore Energy Industry
The modern quest to explore for and produce energy resources located offshore began in the 1940s. While these offshore operations began in shallow waters, relatively close to shore, technological advances have permitted them to migrate to ever deeper waters and well depths. Until the late 1970s, most offshore activity was technologically and logistically restricted to that which was accessible on the continental shelf, or waters of up to about 500 feet of depth. Since that time, a number of advances have opened drilling regions in deepwater. The initial push into deeper waters was facilitated through the development of “floating” drilling units that could be positioned over a drilling site without being fixed to the seafloor. Petrobras pioneered these techniques in Brazil beginning in the late 1970s as it lacked an accessible “shallow water” continental shelf. The first deepwater project in the United States Gulf of Mexico was completed in 1993 in nearly 3,000 feet of water by Shell Oil Company. That Shell facility produced a then unheard of 46,000 barrels per day from a reservoir tapped at 25,000 feet. Today, exploration and production activities have pushed into the ultra-deepwater, where wells are routinely drilled in water depths of more than 8,000 feet, the deepest having been drilled in approximately 10,000 feet of water.
In addition to the ability to operate in very deep water, technological advances have also allowed hydrocarbon resources to be detected, drilled for and produced at extreme well depths. “Pre-salt” discoveries in Brazil are being drilled and produced in waters exceeding 5,000 feet and at well depths of more than 35,000 feet. In 2014, Chevron announced first oil from its Jack/St. Malo facility in the GoM, which is expected to produce previously undetectable lower tertiary hydrocarbons at a rate of 94,000 barrels per day from deposits more than 20,000 feet below the seabed situated in 7,000 feet of water. In addition to contending with extreme deepwater and deep well depths, these projects present challenges involving high temperatures and pressures within reservoirs and the associated difficulties of safely bringing those resources to the surface and then transporting them to shoreside locations. Despite these challenges, today deepwater production accounts for approximately 85% percent of all offshore production in the United States. The GoM production is expected to account for 16% of total forecast U.S. crude oil production in both 2018 and 2019.
Deepwater Regions
The energy industry has had success in many deepwater regions throughout the world. Deepwater drilling efforts are underway in the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean and Asia. However, the so-called “golden triangle” of deepwater activity is comprised of deposits found offshore West Africa, the Eastern coast of South America - dominated by Brazil and more recently, Guyana - and the GoM. Our core markets are the U.S. GoM, Mexico and Brazil.
As large international oil companies were pushed out of participating in many regions of the world by national oil companies intent upon retaining for themselves the economic benefits of national exploitation, the deepwater GoM grew in significance. The deepwater GoM is among the most abundant hydrocarbon regions in the world. Political stability in the United States and accessibility of deepwater lease blocks allows major oil companies to plan, execute and finance the significant long-term commitments that deepwater success requires. While the scale and complexity associated with deepwater projects is considerable, the significant size of the resource discoveries allows companies to replenish reserves on a large scale from relatively few projects. Unlike most on shore exploration and production projects, deepwater projects require long-lead times to plan and execute, but also enjoy long production lives once online. For instance, the first exploratory wells at the Jack/St. Malo fields were drilled in 2003 and 2004 and first oil was not produced until 2014. Now online, Chevron projects that the Jack/St. Malo fields are expected to produce an estimated 500 million oil equivalent barrels over 30 years. Consequently, short term fluctuations in oil and gas prices typically do not have the same impact on sanctioned deepwater projects as such fluctuations may have on other on shore and continental shelf projects. As a result of the severity and length of current on-going commodity price declines, some previously sanctioned deepwater projects have, nevertheless, been deferred and the pace of newly sanctioned projects in the deepwater GoM has slowed considerably since 2015.
Emerging opportunities for the deepwater offshore energy industry are presented by recent changes in Mexico and Brazil, two of our core markets, which have both recently expanded access to their deepwater regions to foreign operators. In December 2013, the Mexican congress ended PEMEX's 75 year-old monopoly on drilling activities in Mexico and voted in favor of allowing the government to grant contracts and licenses for exploration and production of oil and gas to foreign firms, which previously had been prohibited under Mexico’s constitution. In December 2016, Mexico conducted its first ever deepwater auctions, which drew bids from several major integrated oil companies on 10 deepwater opportunities. In January 2018, Mexico completed a second round of deepwater auctions, awarding 19 of 29 deepwater blocks. Mexican officials have indicated their intention to proceed with additional deepwater auctions in the