With extreme challenges, long-term attractive returns and a large reserves base, the offshore space is ripe for innovation, according to Jeremy Thigpen, president and CEO of Transocean Ltd.

“Now more than ever, it is imperative that we in the offshore drilling space continue to focus on opportunities to innovate,” he said to a sold-out Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) lunch crowd in May.

The contractor’s focus has been on how to transform offshore drilling and to become an attractive piece in its customer’s portfolio, he said.

“Innovation has been going on in the industry for multiple years, ever since the downturn. It has been quite healthy for the industry,” he said. “It has forced innovation across the industry. We have been innovating, whether it has been reorganizing our business so we’re more efficient, streamlining automation and processes or changing commercial models.”

For example, since 2014 the contractor has transformed its fleet with the divestiture of 64 older units and the addition of new ones through its acquisition of rival contractors Songa Offshore and Ocean Rig in 2018. Five harsh environment floaters joined Transocean from Songa Offshore, while the Ocean Rig acquisition added eight ultradeepwater drillships, two ultradeepwater newbuild drillships and one harsh environment semisubmersible, according to a May presentation by the company at the UBS Global O&G Conference held in Austin, Texas.

In 2014 the average age of Transocean’s fleet was 21 years, with 45% of the fleet comprising ultradeepwater/harsh environment floaters. This year the fleet is 93% ultradeepwater/harsh environment, with an average age of 11 years (about 8 years for its ultradeepwater units), according to the presentation.

In 2017 the company installed its Automated Drilling Control (ADC) systems on the Transocean Enabler harsh environment semisubmersible on contract to Equinor. The drilling control package has delivered tangible improvements in efficiencies, drilling up to 30% faster than before, Thigpen noted in his OTC presentation. In February of this year, Transocean announced that it entered into an agreement with Equinor to license and install ADC systems on four high-specification, harsh environment rigs currently on contract in Norway and a fifth semisubmersible that is expected to commence operations in the Norwegian Sea this summer. In addition to the Transocean Enabler, the upgraded floaters will include the Spitsbergen, Norge, Encourage, Equinox and Endurance, according to Thigpen.

The drilling contractor purchased two 20,000-psi rated BOP stacks from National Oilwell Varco (NOV) in June, according to an NOV press release. Initial deployment is expected in 2021 on a 20k Gulf of Mexico well.