The second quarter wasn't a blowout for Noble (NYSE:NE) but it was an incremental improvement without the help of new drilling rigs to boost results. It really sets a solid foundation until new rigs commanding high dayrates will begin contributing to revenue.

Overall, second-quarter revenue was up 13%, to $1.02 billion, assisted by an $18-million contract cancellation fee. Net income improved 10%, to $176.6 million, or $0.69 per share, although results were flat when the cancellation fee was included. 

The big improvement was higher utilization of drillships and jackups during the quarter. But if you're buying Noble,or any deepwater driller, you have to have an eye on growth.

An eye on the future
Noble took shipment of two ultra-deepwater drillships this quarter, and they'll begin contributing to revenue later this year. There will also be one more ultra-deepwater rig delivered this year, and two more next year, and to add to the impact, the company has contracts signed for all of its newbuilds, and a backlog of $16 billion.

Noble isn't the only company betting big on new ultra-deepwater rigs for growth. Transocean (NYSE:RIG) has seven rigs under construction, Ensco (NYSE:ESV) has four, and SeaDrill (NYSE:SDRL) has a whopping nine new ultra-deepwater rigs being built. If dayrates of $600,000 per day can be maintained despite the increased supply, these companies could see $219 million in additional revenue for each new rig. 

Utilization rates don't always translate across the industry, so watch earnings reports to see how competitors did getting rigs to work this quarter. What is good for competitors is that dayrates were strong, and they look to continue at high levels because demand for offshore drilling is high right now. 

In Noble's case, if conditions continue to improve, its contracted newbuilds could add 25% to revenue by the end of next year. The expectations are high already, though. Analysts are expecting earnings to jump from $2.77 this year, to $4.49 per share in 2014. A strong quarter and strong outlook will help it reach that level, and next quarter, we should see some impact from new rigs on results.

Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Seadrill. The Motley Fool recommends Seadrill. The Motley Fool owns shares of Seadrill and Transocean. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.