All Systems GO!


The Discoverer Clear Leader, Transocean’s first enhanced Enterprise-class drillship, has all the bells and whistles to achieve outstanding results for client Chevron in the Gulf of Mexico. As the rig prepared to go on contract in June, Beacon’s Guy Cantwell went on location to hear the “sounds of success.”



The automated voice alerted the helicopter pilot that another helicopter was nearby, about to land on the newbuild ultra-deepwater drillship Discoverer Clear Leader as the rig’s crews preparing for their first assignment for Chevron in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.


Yet another helicopter arrived just minutes later as the first one settled safely on the drillship’s helipad, leaving the two other choppers hovering patiently up to 1,000 yards away.

On a morning in late June, the helicopters plus three work boats maneuvered in harmony, bringing people, parts and supplies to the first of Transocean’s five newbuild enhanced Enterprise-class drillships.

With more than 180 personnel onboard the rig from Transocean, Chevron, catering crews and service companies, a beehive of activity broke out everywhere.

“It’s a lot of work, and everyone is excited about being on a newbuild rig,” said Radio Operator Maureen Drexel.

Excited and proud
Added Rig Manager Dan Haslam: “Our personnel on the DCL were hand-picked to launch Transocean’s first newbuild rig since 2001. This attention to people, along with a great job by the DSME shipyard, our project team in Okpo, South Korea, our engineers, our client and vendors were two of the keys to get us in position to deliver outstanding performance for our client, Chevron.”

The first of 10 Transocean newbuild ultra-deepwater rigs scheduled to begin operations over the next two years, the DCL is designed to operate in water depths of up to 12,000 feet and construct wells up to 40,000 feet deep.

The rig is a technological marvel. Some 1,600 miles of cable and wiring, two 1,250-ton top drives, a high-pressure mud system and a first-of-its-kind power-management system are just a few of the rig’s many high-spec features.

“We’re going to set the performance bar for ultra-deepwater drilling,” noted Captain John Anderson. “We’re part of something special and something new, and we want to be the Clear Leader, not just in the drilling area but in all areas of working safely and effectively.”

One thing he knows well, the drillship can mobilize and maneuver.

When the DCL left the DSME shipyard in South Korea in March 2009, the vessel’s top speed exceeded 17 knots on the leg from Durban, South Africa, to Trinidad and Tobago.

“We got a pretty good current and went over 17 knots and averaged 12 knots for that part of the trip,” Anderson said. “She makes pretty good time.”

Today, sidling up to the drillship, the “Stone Buccaneer” boat off-loads new diesel supplies. Senior DP Operator Greg Stanfield keeps a close eye on the smaller vessel, which has no use of its radar during the 18-hour operation.

“It is a privilege to be asked to work on the first of these new vessels, but there is also pressure on us, because we have to come up with new procedures and policies as the equipment differs in many cases from the Enterprise-class vessels,” Stanfield said.

Stanfield should know. This is his second newbuild to work on, having helped the Discoverer Deep Seas go from a Spanish shipyard to another yard in Texas and then start operations in 2001, also for Chevron. Dozens of labels on the center’s multi-million-dollar control instrumentation hint at the rig’s complexity: “Cargo System,” “Bilge System,” “Machinery System,” “Power System,” “DP System,” “Safety System” and so on.

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