KENAI — A drilling company is disputing Buccaneer Energy’s version of the end of the two companies’ relationship, and filed a lawsuit seeking payment for what it says are past-due bills.
Buccaneer Energy and the Archer Drilling Company severed ties this month. Buccaneer said it fired Archer. Archer officials said that’s not true, and that Archer terminated its contract with Buccaneer on Dec. 13.
Buccaneer hired Archer to operate the $100 million jack-up rig Endeavour, which has been plagued with problems after being transported to Alaska to drill for oil and gas in Cook Inlet.
Buccaneer told the Peninsula Clarion that Archer was fired for performance reasons and for failing to pay local subcontractors, but Archer official said they moved first.
“We actually terminated it first,” said David Walker, quality, health, safety and environment manager with Archer in Houston. Archer filed suit in Texas.
The 400-foot-tall jack-up rig, one of the largest such rigs in the world, arrived from Singapore in August. The plan was for the rig to stay a week or two before heading north to drill near Tyonek.
A series of problems has since dogged the rig. Buccaneer took action after watching it sit in Homer delayed for months, miss a drilling window and rack up a large bill in harbor fees.
Walker said all of Archer’s vendor relationships are current and it is not delinquent in payments to vendors or employees. He said he couldn’t speak to any payments owed by Buccaneer to vendors or employees not affiliated with Archer.
Walker said Archer had almost terminated its relationship with Buccaneer twice before, most recently in October, and made its decision after it sent a letter of intent to Buccaneer outlining issues, including unpaid bills.
When Buccaneer executives failed to show up at a meeting in Houston, Archer pulled the plug.
“After a year of experiencing delays in getting paid and witnessing shortages in scopes of work for the refurbishment of the Endeavour, Archer in its experience believes those conditions had not been met and cannot agree to crew and operate the Endeavour in its current conditions and under its current ownership,” Archer said in its lawsuit.
Buccaneer officials told the Peninsula Clarion that they were aware of the lawsuit.
Buccaneer is a partner with Kenai Offshore Ventures — a joint venture project that owns the Endeavour with Ezion Holdings and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
A Buccaneer Energy spokesman said Spartan Offshore Drilling has signed a letter of intent to assume operations of the Endeavour.
Homer City Manager Walt Wrede said the announcement got the city’s attention and prompted a Friday morning teleconference with Buccaneer officials.
Wrede said he had initial concerns about the status of those rig workers and who would be left to look after a giant piece of infrastructure the city had no way of moving otherwise.
“They seemed very, very motivated to make sure all the contractors got paid,” he said.