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Noble Corporation plc (NYSE: NE) is a major contract driller of oil and natural gas wells. It is the corporate successor of Noble Drilling Corporation, by which it was known through the 1990s. The company is part of the S&P 500 stock market index.
In 1985, its parent company, Noble Affiliates, Inc. (now known as Noble Energy, NYSE: NBL), spun off its subsidiary Noble Drilling Corporation to shareholders and began publicly trading on the NASDAQ, later being renamed Noble Corporation.
1921 - 1936 Samuel Lloyd Noble was born in 1896 in Ardmore, Chickasaw Nation, the child of a pioneer merchant family. After a brief stint as a schoolhouse teacher and service in the Navy during World War I, he attended the University of Oklahoma to study law. But when oil was struck on the family farm, Noble persuaded his mother to co-sign a note for $20,000 to purchase a drilling rig and start the business with Art Olson. Noble met the congenial Norwegian while Olson was drilling on the Noble family lease in Carter County, Oklahoma.
On April 1, 1921, Noble and Olson drew up a limited partnership agreement. Olson was to run the drilling operations and Noble the business end. A year earlier, Oklahoma fields had produced more than 18 million barrels of oil. So, backed with little capital and lots of enthusiasm, Noble and Olson set out to stake their claim.
Their first rig was used to drill a well for the father of one of Noble’s childhood friends. During the next two years, they expanded to dozens of rigs working in every major field in Oklahoma. With the discovery of the Seminole field in 1926, the largest in Oklahoma reaching nearly 527,000 barrels a day, the Company's growth soared, and in the late 1920s, Noble expanded his operations into Kansas.
Early in its history, Noble Drilling chose to lead rather than follow. There was a reason that the Company began making holes twice as fast as competitors in the same field where drilling previously had been slow and difficult: Noble was working with Hughes Tool Company experimenting with the use of coarse-cone bits instead of the generally used fine-tooth cones. It was one of many firsts in the Company's long history of innovation.
Noble followed booms from Oklahoma City to Kansas to West Texas to New Mexico. In 1927, Noble Drilling recorded its first well more than one mile deep in Logan County, Oklahoma. Another major drilling venture took the Company outside the boundaries of not only Oklahoma but also the United States, as Noble drilled its first foreign well in Canada's Turner Valley field in Southern Alberta. And while Noble Drilling would not start work in the bayous of Louisiana until 1936, its first "offshore" job was undertaken in the South Canadian river near the town of Saskawa, Oklahoma, in 1928.Noble continued to be instrumental in early New Mexico and West Texas oil history. The Company drilled the discovery well in Monument Pool, southeast of Hobbs, New Mexico, and in 1930 brought in the immense Cowden pools in Ector County, Texas.
After acquiring 38 rigs, Noble and Olson decided to go their separate ways in 1930. In an amicable departure, they split the company assets. "Mr. Noble said he wanted his choice of the people and Olson could have his choice of the equipment. And that's how it started. The company has always valued its people above anything else. Anybody can own iron, but not everybody has good people," says Charles Copeland, retired Vice President of Administration and Corporate Secretary. A month later, on May 19, 1930, Noble Drilling Company was formed. By late fall of 1930, however, Noble Drilling was facing hard times. The price of oil had plummeted to 20 cents a barrel and production companies, finding it difficult to recoup the cost of drilling, began to curtail activity.
Then, out of the depths of depression, came a miracle in East Texas. On September 5, 1930, wildcatter Dad Joiner struck oil. The field proved a lifesaver to Noble Drilling and the oil industry in general. Noble's idle rigs were moved without delay from Oklahoma City and Hobbs to Kilgore, Tyler and Paris, Texas.
Noble moved into the Gulf Coast in 1933, sending the first rig to the Conroe field, about 30 miles north of Houston. Noble continued on the forefront of new technology and pioneered new drilling areas, using its first submersible type barge in Galveston Bay in 1935.
The first 15 years of Noble Drilling's history provided a glimpse of the nature of the oil business. If drilling played out in one area, a boom was around the corner. New drilling environments meant new challenges to overcome. Better technology meant greater access to harder-to-reach reserves, both on land and offshore. In 1921, Lloyd Noble had set out for a future in a very volatile industry. And, through the ups and downs, the problems and the promises, he had survived.
1937 - 1948 Business continued to flourish during the late 1930s. But it was the discovery of oil in Britain during 1939 and 1940 that would take Noble Drilling on the adventure of a lifetime. Lloyd Noble was among the American drilling contractors called to Washington, D.C. to meet with representatives of D'Arcy Exploration Company, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Ltd., to discuss helping Great Britain develop its oilfields to their full potential.
Two drilling contractors from California immediately withdrew from the discussions and, after lengthy consideration, Lloyd Noble and Oklahoma City drilling contractor Frank Porter, declined as well. Noble had just concluded a contract with the U.S. government to drill a number of wells near the Arctic Circle. But the British representative was determined and traveled to Ardmore for one last appeal to Noble, who eventually agreed on the condition that Porter would join him. And he had another condition: he would not take any profit out of the work. As was the Canol Project in the Arctic, this was to be Noble Drilling's contribution to the war effort.
Driller Lewis Dugger was among 42 workers recruited for the secret project. He had started with Noble Drilling in February, 1940 as a roughneck in north Louisiana. "England was desperate for fuel. German U-boats were sinking tankers carrying supplies from Canada and the United States left and right, Dugger remembers. "At first, Mr. Noble didn't want the job because he needed all the people he had working on rigs in this country. But he was very patriotic and he felt this was something he could do to help win the war."
"We were put up in an English monastery very close to where we would be drilling," Dugger continued. "We lived under blackout conditions and worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week. I was on the first rig, and we drilled the well in record time. We spudded in one afternoon and the next morning the well was about 1,200 feet deep. Our driller told the Englishmen to get some pipe out here. They were surprised. It took them about three months to drill a well. We had done it in seven days."
In all, the Noble crews completed 106 wells, 94 of them producers. Britain's production rose to a record of more than 3,000 U.S. barrels of oil per day. On the home front, Noble Drilling crews worked tirelessly to keep U.S. production going.
In the fall of 1939, Noble Drilling rigged up its first submersible barge for the California Company near DeRidder, Louisiana. In the mid -'40s, the Company experimented with directional drilling to control a hazardous well blowout. Noble Drilling had 40 active rigs during the war years, and when the conflict ended in 1945, actively increased.
In 1945, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey contracted with Noble Drilling for a novel undertaking to drill a well on Cape Hatteras Island off the coast of North Carolina, using what was believed to be the largest drilling barge in the world at that time. The well, located in the shadow of the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, attracted much attention on the Atlantic coast.
After the war, Noble bought three surplus landing ship tanks (LSTs) from the U.S. Navy and converted them to service barges. "We loaded them up with enough supplies for six months -- mud, cement, pipe," says Johnnie Hoffman, retired Vice President and General Manager of the Gulf Coast Division. "You worked 12 hours on a rig and then tried to rest 12 hours on that rolling LST in the rough Gulf waters. It could get miserable at times."
Hurricanes also wreaked havoc for Gulf Coast drillers. Hoffman was a roughneck on a derrick barge in Grand Isle in September 1948 when he experienced his first hurricane. "We got caught out there for two days and ended up across the Gulf in Galveston Bay. The winds swept the barge clean. We tied ourselves together with rope to the A-frame hoist on the barge to a 12xl2-foot sill laying on the deck. But it finally calmed down and we were picked up by plane."
1949 - 1969 Tragedy struck the Company in 1950 when Lloyd Noble died of a heart attack in Houston. The reins of Noble's oil and gas company shifted to his son Sam Noble, a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Oklahoma and Dartmouth. Cecil Forbes, who was the current President of Noble Drilling, kept the operations focused during the transition period, along with retired Vice President
Lloyd Noble left the bulk of his estate to the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, created in memory of his father. Initially, its primary purpose was to assist farmers and ranchers with the use and preservation of their land. Today, it has contributed in excess of $145 million to worthwhile causes around the world.
Lloyd Noble's somewhat gruff exterior couldn't mask his inward kindness. He was known to give a rig superintendent a $1,500 bonus for cleaning up a fishing job, but was quick to let him know he would have been fired for not doing a good job. Or he would offer an employee a share in a well, and then loan him the money to pay for it. During World War II, he instituted one of the first profit sharing plans in the oil industry for all his employees.
Because Noble put people first, that devotion was returned in kind by loyal workers. "You didn't punch any clocks. If you came in from a boat landing and there were 500 sacks of mud on the bank that needed to go to the rig, you loaded that mud on the boat in your street clothes," says Johnnie Hoffman.
The legacy of the man who founded Noble Drilling would live on - not only in the Company's reputation as an industry leader; but also in the respect held for its people. To keep the best people on the payroll during the late 1950s and '60s when Middle Eastern imports severely depressed domestic exploration and drilling, everyone was "bumped" back. "Drillers went to roughnecking, toolpushers went to drilling and superintendents went to pushing tools. It was a step backwards for everybody, but we still had a job. Eventually, it paid off because Noble had good people when the rigs picked back up," Hinds says.
Retired Oklahoma City Office Manager Ann Hammond, who started her career as a secretary/receptionist in the Midland office in 1953, says people accepted the highs and lows in activity as the nature of the industry. "If our crews were working on a rig and it was moved several hundred miles away for the next job, it was real common for drillers and toolpushers to leave their families and follow that rig. They had to endure a lot of hardships back in those days.
1953 saw a change in leadership when Percy Johns was named as President of Noble Drilling upon the retirement of Cecil Forbes. Johns served in this capacity through 1963. Innovation kept the Company going during tough times. In the early I950s, Noble Drilling became the first company to drill offshore using electrical power from shore in Bay Marchand off Louisiana. The Company also ventured to Jamaica to drill for Amoco and in 1955, the Company built its first mobile offshore drilling rig. In the early '60s, activity for Noble remained fairly stable. Red McCarty, a 26 year veteran of the Company, stepped into the role of President upon the promotion of Percy Johns to Vice Chairman in 1963. McCarty's untimely death in 1965 would bring about another period of transition for the Company. George Matetich was named President of the Company in 1967, serving in that capacity until his retirement in 1983.
Activity picked up again in 1965 as Noble rigs were kept busy in new fields discovered in North Dakota, but by the end of the decade, activity had slowed significantly. "We did a lot of experimenting in the early '60s, especially with our drilling muds, to try and penetrate formations quicker," remembers Duke Hinds. "We also drilled in New Mexico at 13,000 feet using air and soap, which was a new technique. We prided ourselves that nobody could outdrill us. A lot of people tried, but they couldn't. It was due mostly to our employees' willingness to work hard and fast. We'd eat lunch with one glove on."
1970 - 1994 In 1969, Noble Drilling, Samedan Oil Corporation and B.F. Walker Trucking were combined under Noble Affiliates, Inc. and began trading publicly in 1972. This was a significant step for the Company, providing new access to the capital markets.
The Yom Kippur War in 1973 sent gasoline prices soaring and Americans into gas lines. However, Noble Drilling remained active during this period by expanding into new land markets. But the slump would soon turn into a boom in the late '70s and early '80s when political turmoil in Iran caused production to cease in the world's second-largest exporter and Saudi Arabia restricted its output. With oil prices soaring from $13 to $834 a barrel, Noble was well positioned to participate in the increased drilling activity. Once again, this boom of epic proportions was soon followed by a decline equally as significant. Noble Affiliates, recognizing that the stock market was giving no value to its drilling operations, began to plan for the spin-off of Noble Drilling. In 1983 James C. Day moved From Noble Affiliates to Noble Drilling. In the midst of the worst industry conditions in 50 years, Day was named President in 1984 and took Noble Drilling public in 1985.
Under Day's leadership, four key objectives were established: re-enter the international arena, upgrade the drilling fleet by acquiring new units at discounted prices, sell obsolete rigs and expand the offshore fleet. These objectives were contrary to the view taken by most pundits in the industry who advised to merely try to survive during this difficult time. In 1988, the Company embarked on what would he a series of strategic transactions beginning with the acquisition of the rig fleets of Temple Marine Drilling, Inc. and R.C. Chapman Drilling Company, Inc. Later that year, the Company met its objective of re-entering the international arena with the acquisition of Peter Bawden Drilling Ltd. and subsidiaries, a Canadian-based contractor with activity in the North Sea, Canada, the Far East and East Africa.
By 1989, Noble had gone from a leading domestic drilling contractor to an international company with contracts in 12 countries on four continents. The Company ranked third largest in number of rigs, tenth in total assets and ninth in revenues of all publicly held drilling contractors and the fifth most active in the lower 48 states.
Noble Drilling continued to strengthen its operations in 1991 even as industry activity continued at minimal levels. The Company acquired 12 offshore drilling rigs from Transworld Drilling Company and mobilized four offshore rigs to Nigeria.
By mid-1992, the rig count fell to less than 600 working rigs - the lowest since downturns in 1942 and 1986. Noble continued to respond to the changing market by reducing overhead, focusing on key markets, being="3">involved in consolidation and diversifying operations. That year, international operations generated 72 percent of 1992 operating revenues.
In 1992, Noble Drilling was the first North Sea drilling contractor to receive ISO 9001 certification, illustrating its commitment to provide the highest quality of services to its customers. The Company continued to enhance its overall services and improve geographic diversification in 1993 by acquiring nine offshore jackup drilling rigs from The Western Company of North America and two submersible rigs from Portal Rig Corporation. The offshore drilling fleet was further enhanced with the merger acquisition of Chiles Offshore Corporation in 1994 which added 13 jackups to the Noble fleet. Also in 1994, Noble acquired Triton Engineering Services Company, a worldwide provider of engineering, consulting and turnkey drilling services.
1995 and Beyond Noble Drilling continued to pursue its strategies of upgrading its assets and relocating drilling units into stable international markets during 1995. The offshore rig fleet was further expanded and enhanced through single-rig acquisitions and capital upgrade programs on previously acquired assets. The Azteca and Maya, independent-leg, slot-type jackups capable of working in up to 300 feet of water, are scheduled to be converted to cantilever units during 1996 with work currently in progress on one of the units.
In early 1996, the Company purchased the Odin Explorer (to be renamed the Gus Androes), an independentleg cantilever jackup unit located in the Persian Gulf. Additionally, Noble received written notification of acceptance of its offer to purchase the rig Dana, a 250-foot independent leg cantilever unit, located in Qatar. These two units, along with the jackup George McLeod which was moved to Qatar in 1995, establish a significant presence for the Company in the Middle East marketplace.
The Company further strengthened its position in west Africa with the mobilization of two jackup rigs, the Percy Johns and the Lloyd Noble, from the Gulf of Mexico to Nigeria. Both rigs have long-term contracts with major operators in the area. In the Gulf of Mexico, jackups Eddie Paul and John Sandifer underwent extensive upgrades, including converting the Eddie Paul from a slot-type rig to a cantilever jackup with an extended reach cantilever, enabling the unit to extend up to 70 feet over a platform. Additional leg lengths were installed to enable the rig to work in up to 390 feet of water. The independent leg jackup John Sandifer was also converted from a slot-type unit to a cantilever jackup. Two additional jackups, the Nimitz and Coral Sea, are scheduled to be reactivated and modified as market conditions warrant.
The Company embarked on a program in the Gulf of Mexico designed to enhance the performance of the rigs through the Improved Drilling Efficiency and Accountability System (I.D.E.A.S.). I.D.E.A.S. was developed to improve drilling performance and is designed to increase planning, set measurable standards, improve conditions for worker safety and reduce drilling task time. Results to date have been well received by the operators. The program is currently being expanded to other areas of operations. These strategic acquisitions, upgrades and efficiency initiatives will continue to help Noble meet the challenges it will face in the future and to achieve its commitment to provide quality drilling services on a worldwide basis in order to enhance shareholder value.
On December 8, 2014, Noble Drilling plead guilty to eight felony charges related to operating drilling equipment in Alaska in 2012. Noble agreed to pay $12.2 million, implement an Environmental Compliance Plan, and was placed on probation for four years. 
Noble Today Noble is a leading offshore driller. The Company's proactive style of management has guided it from a one rig operation in 1921 to one of the largest offshore drilling contractors in the world today. The Company's growth since the time of its spin-off from Noble Affiliates in 1985 has come about through a series of strategic acquisitions of offshore drilling assets.
These acquisitions follow the goals originally set forth in 1985 - to gain a strong position in foreign drilling markets, to expand marine drilling operations and to move into new markets and segments of the industry, preparing the Company to take advantage of an improved marketplace.
Noble has been successful by maintaining a conservative financial policy, positioning itself to adapt to the ever changing world energy market and meeting customers' needs and demands. At the same time, the Company has assimilated an experienced and well trained work force. Lloyd Noble set the tone for the Company's employee-oriented attitude in A Legacy for Management when he said : It has been my further belief that it was the duty of the management, and to that end my mind has been constantly surcharged, to so build the organization that when men evidenced capabilities to give them a part of my work and find other tasks to do which might result in increased benefits to the organization, or step aside; and, on the other hand, should death intervene, to have matters so arranged that I would be missed personally, while the machinery continued to function smoothly.
- from the will of Lloyd Noble
Noble perpetuates this heritage by providing the highest quality service and performance; which its customers, employees and shareholders have come to know and expect.
Today, Noble is a leading offshore drilling contractor for the oil and gas industry. The Company owns and operates one of the most modern, versatile and technically advanced fleets in the offshore drilling industry. Noble performs, through its subsidiaries, contract drilling services with a fleet of 35 offshore drilling units, consisting of 20 semisubmersibles and drillships and 15 jackups, focused largely on ultra-deepwater and high-specification jack-up drilling opportunities in both established and emerging regions worldwide. Noble is a public limited company registered in England and Wales with company number 08354954 and registered office at Devonshire House, 1 Mayfair Place, London, W1J 8AJ England.
In 2014 Noble Corporation spun off its standard specification assets into a new independent entity called Paragon Offshore. As a result of the transaction, there is no longer any connection between Paragon Offshore and Noble Corporation. - See more at: http://www.paragonoffshore.com/#sthash.d2uBoe1J.dpuf
- "S&P 500 Reshuffling To Include Noble Corp.". Forbes. January 12, 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Noble Energy, History, Noble Energy.com