The Massive Deep-Water Drill Rig That's Searching for Cuban Black Gold

Despite the Deep Water Horizon fiasco, deep-water drilling remains one of the worlds' primary sources of crude. And among deep drilling rigs, this 56,860 ton Scarabeo 9 is king.


Deep-water drilling—resource exploration in waters deeper than 500 feet—is a huge industry with an estimated market value of $145 billion in 2011. In the Gulf of Mexico alone there are roughly 600 deep-water wells. One of the largest of these rigs is the "Frigstad D90" semi-submersible "Scarabeo 9", a drilling unit owned by Italian conglomerate Saipem. It is currently en route to the Cuban coastline to dig exploratory wells. The USGS estimates that there are roughly 4.6 billion barrels and 10 trillion feet of gas beneath the seafloors surrounding the island nation.

The D90 is currently being employed by a consortium of oil companies, including Spain's Repsol YPF, which had previously discovered oil deposits back in 2004, however, finding equipment that doesn't violate limits on use of US-developed technology as dictated by the trade embargo has been nearly impossible.

The Scarabeo 9 has an overall length of 115 meter and displaces 31,000 tons of water. Though it is only drilling in 5,000 feet of water, this rig can actually drill in a maximum of 12,000 feet. The Scarabeo employs dual Top Drive drills for the actual boring while a series of eight, 4.3MW Azimuth thrusters keep the rig directly over the bore hole. These thrusters can be changed out, on the fly, with the rig's two 150 MT revolving deck cranes. Power for these, and the rest of the Scarabeo's utilities, are provided by an array of eight 7720 HP diesel engines which crank out a combined 62,000 HP. The Scarabeo can comfortably house up to 200 workers at a time. [Wikipedia - Asiaville - CIMC - Reuters]

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I always wondered why they don't use turbine engines for things like generating electricity and stabelizing the rig. They could theoretically use the crude they're pumping or natural gas as fuel for the station itself. Just the electricity for 200 workers, why not use the fuel you're getting to reduce costs?