It wasn’t so long ago that deep sea drillers were flat on their backs, victimized partly by their own hubris and hounded by Washington politicians and federal regulators.  Offshore drillers have had it tough for the past few years, following the ban on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

But that was then and this is now. A new report from the New York City-based Paragon Group said offshore drillers are rebounding nicely from that two-year term in regulatory purgatory, and the group is poised for stronger growth in 2012 and 2013.

“Nearly two years ago, the offshore-drilling industry was in danger of collapse under the pressure of lawmakers and regulators pushing to ban offshore drilling in reaction to BP's oil spill and Transocean’s rig explosion,” noted Paragon. “The industry persevered and now seems to be in the midst of a comeback as rising oil prices and depleted resources are forcing major oil companies to focus on exploration and development of offshore oil and gas reserves.”

Paragon added that oil companies are once again turning to the high seas as those regulatory burdens abate. But even more so, deepwater drillers are rising in numbers as the rush to get oil and gas out of the ground may be losing some steam, just as oil demand is picking up steam.

“Offshore oil and gas reserves have been an increasing focus for energy companies as significant oil discoveries on land are becoming less common,” explained Paragon. “With recent offshore discoveries and the large number of underdeveloped oil and gas fields, demand for mobile offshore drilling units (MODUs) are expected to increase dramatically. Major energy companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron have already reinvested earnings in offshore ventures. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects global oil demand will rise from 88 million barrels today to around 99 million barrels in 25 years' time.”

What do analysts see in both Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron as they kick-start drilling efforts in the Gulf? Great quarterly numbers, with reason to believe that outperformance will keep rolling on.

Royal Dutch Shell

The first quarter 2012 was a home run for Shell, with revenues and earnings both up, and significantly so, on a year-to-year basis.

Revenues were up to $119.9 billion. Analysts at S&P capital had pegged revenue growth at $107.6 billion.  Sales posted