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An offshore oil revival brews in the Gulf

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Deepwater oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico came to screeching halt two years ago in the wake of the BP oil disaster. Today, rig counts have not only recovered, they're poised to hit a new record.

Deepwater oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico came to screeching halt two years ago in the wake of the BP oil disaster and the offshore drilling moratorium that followed. Today, it appears offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is poised for a revival.

The number of offshore rigs in the Gulf is approaching a pre-oil spill level and is expected to grow another 50 percent by 2014, according to a Barclays Equity Research note first reported by the Houston Chronicle's EnergyWatch blog.

There are 29 active rigs in the Gulf, just below the pre-spill numbers. Barclays projects another 45 to 50 rigs could be active in the Gulf by 2014.

"We believe it is game on (again) in the Gulf of Mexico for the offshore drillers and supply vessel companies," Barclays wrote.

The evidence suggests Barclay's projection is on track. Eleven rigs have been contracted for the upcoming year and there are another 39 uncontracted new builds under construction, Houston Chronicle reported.

Rental rates for rigs also are on the rise. Earlier this month, Transocean announced it had landed a $595,000-per-day contract for one its ultra-deepwater rigs. The per day price of the contract -- which is 32 percent higher than its previous rate -- provides another sign of the increasing demand in the area.

Photo: BP

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure