In case you're feeling drained by all the talk of deepwater drilling, let's pull closer ashore and look at the quarterly results of Rowan Companies (NYSE: RDC). I think you'll agree that there's some nice depth to this operation.

Rowan's offshore rig utilization dipped sequentially in the quarter, to 91%. That's not as bad as it sounds, because the primary culprit was a pair of rig relocations. As is the case with other shallow-water operators, Rowan is steadily moving many Gulf of Mexico jackups to more promising international basins. One such unit is now with Saudi Aramco, in that other gulf, for a three-year job. Another rig moved out of the North Sea, having won a very strong contract offshore Angola.

These magnificent international markets are doing great things for Rowan's average dayrates, which are up 11% over last year. This pricing, along with improved utilization, has helped drilling costs drop from 51% to 46% of revenue. Income from drilling operations is up 14% over last year, despite the mediocre Gulf of Mexico.

Actually, there are a few bright spots even here at home. One Gulf rig's recent contract with Apache (NYSE: APA) improved upon a previous engagement with Helix Energy Solutions (NYSE: HLX). Ditto for another jackup's engagement with Stone Energy (NYSE: SGY).

We've also seen a recent pickup in interest in deep-shelf drilling, and Rowan has top-quality gear fitted for this purpose. One example is the job that Rowan's doing at BP's (NYSE: BP) El Dorado prospect. McMoRan Exploration (NYSE: MMR) and Eni (NYSE: E) are also re-entering their Blackbeard well with the help of one of Rowan's Gorilla-class premium jackups.

With natural gas prices finally asserting themselves this year, drilling activity ought to perk up noticeably over the coming months. I wouldn't regard Rowan as an also-ran. The shallow-water players are getting theirs, too.

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