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Transocean Ltd.
Publicly traded limited company
Traded as
Industry Oilfield services, offshore drilling & equipment
Predecessor Sonat Offshore
Founded 1973
Headquarters Vernier, Switzerland
Key people
Jeremy D. Thigpen (President and CEO)
Merrill A. "Pete" Miller, Jr.(Chairman)
Products Lease and operation of semi-submersible and jack-up drilling rigs and drillships
Revenue Decrease US$ 9.174 billion (2014)[1]
Decrease US$ −1.378 billion (2014)[1]
Profit Decrease US$ −1.966 billion (2014)[1]
Total assets Decrease US$ 28.413 billion (end 2014)[1]
Total equity Decrease US$ 13.982 billion (end 2014)[1]
Number of employees
Decrease 13,100 (end 2014)[1]
Greenway Plaza, the location of Transocean's Houston offices

Transocean Ltd. is one of the world's largest offshore drilling contractors. The Swiss-based company rents floating mobile drill rigs, along with the equipment and personnel for operations, to oil and gas companies at an average daily rate of US$282,700 (2010).[2] Transocean's day rates extend as high as US$650,000 for its deep-water drillships, which house dual activity derricks and can drill in ultra-deep ocean depths of 10,000 ft (3,000 m).[3] In 2010, Transocean has been implicated in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill resulting from the explosion of one of its oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Transocean employs more than 18,000 people worldwide and has a fleet of 135 offshore drilling units and two ultra-deepwater units under construction, as of December 2011.[4] The company is based in Vernier, Switzerland near Geneva, and has offices in 20 countries, including Switzerland, Canada, United States, Norway, Scotland, Brazil, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. The firm owns nearly half of the 50 or so deepwater platforms in the world.[5]

On 23 November 2015 Transocean announced that it intent to delist its shares from the SIX Swiss Exchange due to financial reasons. The delisting will be effective in the 1st quarter of 2016. After the delisting the shares will be dropped-out from the Swiss blue-chip index Swiss Market Index.[6]


Early years and evolution : 1953 - 2008[edit]

Transocean traces its roots back to 1953, when the Birmingham, Alabama-based Southern Natural Gas Company, later Sonat, created The Offshore Company after acquiring the joint drilling operation DeLong-McDermott from DeLong Engineering and J. Ray McDermott. In 1954 the company launched the first Jackup rig in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1967, the company went public. In 1978, SNG turned it into a wholly owned subsidiary. In 1982, it was changed to Sonat Offshore Drilling Inc., reflecting a change in its parent's name. In 1993, Sonat spun it off.[7]

In 1996, the company acquired Norwegian group Transocean ASA for US$1.5 billion. Transocean started in the 1970s as a whaling company and expanded through a series of mergers. The new company was called Transocean Offshore. The new company began building massive drilling operations with drills capable of going to 10,000 feet (as opposed to 3,000 feet at the time) and operating two drill operations on the same ship. Its first ship, Discoverer Enterprise, cost nearly US$430 million and was 834 ft (254 m).[8] The Enterprise class drillship is the largest of the drilling ships.[9]

In 1999, Schlumberger proposed a merger of equals with Schlumberger's offshore subsidiary Sedco Forex. The deal was valued at US$3.2 billion. The new company was renamed Transocean Sedco Forex. (The name was simplified to Transocean in 2003.) Sedco Forex had been formed from a merger of two drilling companies, the Southeastern Drilling Company (Sedco), founded in 1947 by Bill Clements and acquired by Schlumberger in 1985 for $1 billion,[10] and French drilling company Forages et Exploitations Pétrolières (Forex) founded in 1942 in German occupied France for drilling in North Africa.[7] Schlumberger first got a foothold in the company in 1959 and then assumed total control in 1964, and renamed it Forex Neptune Drilling Company.[10] The spun-off Houston-based Transocean was part of the S&P 500.

In 2000, Transocean acquired R&B Falcon in a deal valued at $17.7 billion.[11] With the acquisition, Transocean gained control of what at the time was the world's largest offshore operation. Among R&B Falcon's assets was the Deepwater Horizon. R&B Falcon was formed in 1997 from the merger of Reading and Bates Exploration, which had been founded by John Wesley Bates and George Reading in 1946 and headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Falcon Drilling, which had been founded in 1988 by Steven A. Webster with a $300,000 investment and headquartered in Houston.[12]

In 2005, Discoverer Spirit set a world record for the deepest offshore oil and gas well of 34,189 ft (10,421 m).[13]

In 2007, the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a case against Transocean, alleging violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The case alleged that Transocean paid bribes through its freight forwarding agents to Nigerian customs officials. Transocean later admitted to approving the bribes and agreed to pay USD $13,440,000 to settle the matter.[14]

On 23 July 2007, Transocean announced a merger with GlobalSantaFe Corporation for US$17 billion. The merger was completed on 27 November 2007. At the time, the two companies were the world's two largest offshore rig operators.[15] As part of the move, Robert E. Rose, who was non-executive chairman of GlobalSantaFe, was made Transocean's chairman. Rose had been chairman of Global Marine prior to its 2001 merger with Santa Fe International Corporation.[16]

Transition to a Swiss holding co. and expansion  : 2008 - till date[edit]

In 2008, Transocean was replaced on the S&P by Equitable Resources after the company announced plans to move its headquarters to Switzerland, making it ineligible to be in the S&P index.[17] In October 2008, the company board approved the move to Switzerland.[18] On 9 December 2008, the shareholders approved the move to Switzerland.[19] On 19 December 2008, the company completed the process of changing its place of incorporation from the Cayman Islands to Switzerland. Transocean's top management was scheduled to move to Switzerland from Houston. [20]

In September 2009, its Deepwater Horizon rig established a 35,050 ft (10,680 m) well, the deepest well in history – more than 5,000 feet deeper than its stated design specification.[21]

Over the years, Transocean has moved its incorporation location to take advantage of lower taxes in some jurisdictions. Transocean was originally incorporated in the US state of Delaware, but moved its corporate registration to the Cayman Islands in 1999. In 2008, it moved its registration to the canton of Zug, Switzerland, where it is currently incorporated. Only 12 of its employees work in the Zug office, according to a company spokesperson. The registration move allowed Transocean to lower its corporate income tax rate from 35 percent in the US to 16 percent in Zug.[22]

August 2011: Transocean Announces $2.23 Billion Takeover Of Aker Drilling, 15 August 2011. Aiming to supplement its drilling fleet in the harsh arctic environment, US drilling giant Transocean Ltd (RIG) plans to acquire Norwegian drilling rig operator Aker Drilling ASA (AKD.OS) at a 62% premium to current valuation in a deal valued at $2.23 billion. Under the transaction, Transocean, which owned the rig at the center of 2010's catastrophic US Gulf of Mexico oil spill, has made a voluntary NOK26.50 ($4.83) per share cash offer for all outstanding shares in the company.[23]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Transocean Leader accident (2002)[edit]

On 2 March 2002, a Scottish man was killed in an accident aboard the drilling rig Transocean Leader operated for BP, located about 86 miles west of Shetland, Scotland.[24]

Galveston Bay explosion (2003)[edit]

On 17 June 2003, one worker was killed, four others were hospitalised and 21 were evacuated after an explosion on a Transocean gas drilling rig in Galveston Bay, Texas.[25]

Transocean Rather (2005)[edit]

On 24 August 2005, the UK Health and Safety Executive issued a notice to Transocean saying that, it had failed to maintain its "remote blow Out preventor control panel … in an efficient state, efficient working order and in good repair."[26] On 21 November 2005, Transocean was found to be in compliance for this matter.[26]

Bourbon Dolphin/Transocean Rather accident (2007)[edit]

On 12 April 2007, the Bourbon Dolphin supply boat sank off the coast of Scotland while servicing the Transocean Rather drilling rig, killing eight people. The Norwegian Ministry of Justice established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the incident, and the commission’s report found a series of "unfortunate circumstances" led to the accident "with many of them linked to Bourbon Offshore and Transocean."[27][28]

2008 fatalities[edit]

In 2008, two Transocean workers were reportedly killed on the company's vessels.[29]

Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion (2010)[edit]

On 20 April 2010, a fire was reported on a Transocean-owned semisubmersible drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon. Deepwater Horizon was a Reading & Bates Falcon RBS8D design, a firm that was acquired by Transocean in 2001. The fire broke out at 10:00 p.m. CDT UTC−5 in US waters of Mississippi Canyon 252 in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig was 41 mi (66 km) off the Louisiana coast. The US Coast Guard launched a rescue operation after the explosion which killed 11 workers and critically injured seven of the 126 member crew.[30][31] Deepwater Horizon was completely destroyed and subsequently sank.

As the Deepwater Horizon sank, the riser pipe that connected the well-head to the rig was severed. As a result, oil began to spill into the Gulf of Mexico. Estimates of the leak were about 80,000 barrels per day - for 87 days.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency on 29 April, as the oil slick grew and headed toward the most important and most sensitive wetlands in North America, threatening to destroy wildlife and the livelihood of thousands of fishermen. The head of BP Group told CNN's Brian Todd on 28 April that the accident could have been prevented and focused blame on Transocean, which owned and partly manned the rig.[32]

Transocean has also come under fire from lawyers, representing the fishing and tourism businesses that were hit by the oil spill and the Department of Justice for seeking to use an Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 to restrict its liability for economic damages to $26.7 million.[33]

During Congressional testimony, Transocean and BP blamed each other for the disaster. It emerged that a "heated argument" broke out on the platform 11 hours before the accident, in which Transocean and BP personnel disagreed on an engineering decision related to the closing of the well.[34] On 14 May 2010, US President Barack Obama commented, "I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle… executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton [the firm responsible for cementing the well] falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn't."[35]

Transocean later claimed that 2010, the year in which the disaster occurred, was "the best year in safety performance in our company’s history." In a regulatory filing, Transocean said, "Notwithstanding the tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico, we achieved an exemplary statistical safety record as measured by our total recordable incident rate and total potential severity rate." They used this justification to award employees about two-thirds of the maximum possible safety bonuses.[36][37] In response to broad criticism, including from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the company announced that its executives would donate the safety portion of the bonuses to a fund supporting the victims' families.[38]

Offshore drilling leak off the Brazilian coast (2011)[edit]

The offshore drilling facility "Frade" began to leak in November 2011. The Frade field is located 370 km off the coast of Rio de Janeiro in the Northern Campos Basin, Brazil. The heavy oil and gas field lies at a water depth of 1,128m and is estimated to contain 200m-300m barrels of recoverable oil. The field is operated by Chevron,[39] which has a 51.74% interest. Other partners include Petrobras, with 30%, and Frade Japá o Petròleo, with 18.26%. The partners invested approximately $3bn in developing the field. First production was in June 2009. In September 2010, production reached 65,000bpd. Peak output of 90,000 barrels of crude oil and natural gas liquids a day is expected in 2011.[39] The field will be operational until 2025.

Oil began leaking from the seabed at a depth of approximately 1100 to 1200m. Damage included an oil slick (oil floating on the ocean surface) covering an area of approximately 80 km2 and growing. This put the oil at a distance of about 370 km from Rio de Janeiro, but other beautiful beaches are much closer (estimated 140 km).

Industry reputation[edit]

Transocean was rated as a leader in its industry for many years. However, since the company's merger with GlobalSantaFe in 2007, Transocean's reputation has suffered considerably, according to EnergyPoint Research, an independent oil service industry rating firm. From 2004 to 2007, Transocean was the leader or near the top among deep-water drillers in "job quality" and "overall satisfaction." In 2008 and 2009, surveys ranked Transocean as last among deep-water drillers for "job quality" and as next to last in "overall satisfaction." In 2008 and 2009, Transocean ranked first for in-house safety and environmental policies, and in the middle of the pack for perceived environmental and safety record.[40] The Deepwater Horizon explosion and massive oil spill, starting in April 2010, further hurt its reputation. "Transocean is dominant, but the accident has definitely tarnished its reputation for worker safety and for being able to manage and deliver on extraordinarily complex deepwater projects," said Christopher Ruppel, an energy expert and managing director of capital markets at Execution Noble, an investment bank.[5]


On 30 October 2002, Transocean Inc. reported that its diluted earnings per share for the three months released from 29 October 2002 to 30 September 2002, was understated by $0.01 per share.[41]

In February 2015, CEO Steven Newman quit following a $2.2 billion quarterly loss.[42]

In early April 2015, six activists with the environmental group Greenpeace boarded the ship Blue Marlin while at sea, which was carrying one of Transocean's rigs, the 400 foot tall Polar Pioneer, and camped out in superstructure of the rig. The activists promised to continuing their protests as the rig undergoes final outfitting while it is anchored in the Port Angeles harbor in Washington State and then later in Puget Sound.[43]


According to Transocean's fleet report, as of 30 April 2010 the company has 25 ultra deepwater rigs plus 3 under construction, 16 deepwater rigs, 5 harsh environment, 25 midwater floaters, 10 high specification jackups, 55 jackups, 2 swamp barges, and 1 other.[44]

Ultra deep water[edit]

Ultra deepwater rigs are the largest and deepest rigs drilling 2,300 metres (7,500 ft) and greater. Enterprise class ships are named after Discoverer Enterprise, the first of the large drill ships, and operate in the lower reaches of the Bathyal zone. All of the craft possess Dynamic positioning capabilities.

Name Type Entered service Water depth Drilling depth Location Customer Comment
Cajun Express semi 2001 8,500 ft (2,600 m) 35,000 ft (11,000 m) Ivory Coast CNR
Deepwater Champion ship 2011[45] 12,000 ft (3,700 m) 40,000 ft (12,000 m) Gulf of Mexico[46] ExxonMobil
Deepwater Discovery ship 2000 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Brazil Devon
Deepwater Expedition ship 1999 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Malaysia Petronas/BHP
Deepwater Frontier ship 1999 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Jansz Field Australia Reliance
Deepwater Horizon semi 2001 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Gulf of Mexico BP Destroyed April 2010
Deepwater Millennium ship 1999 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Mozambique Anadarko
Deepwater Nautilus semi 2000 8,000 ft (2,400 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Gulf of Mexico Shell
Deepwater Pathfinder ship 1998 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Gulf of Mexico Eni
Development Driller III semi 2009 7,500 ft (2,300 m) 37,500 ft (11,400 m) Gulf of Mexico BP Drilling relief well and Deepwater Horizon clean-up[47]
Dhirubhai Deepwater KG1 ship 2009 12,000 ft (3,700 m) 35,000 ft (11,000 m) Brazil Petrobras
Dhirubhai Deepwater KG2 ship 2010 12,000 ft (3,700 m) 35,000 ft (11,000 m) India Reliance
Discoverer Americas ship 2009 12,000 ft (3,700 m) 40,000 ft (12,000 m) Gulf of Mexico Statoil
Discoverer Clear Leader ship 2009 12,000 ft (3,700 m) 40,000 ft (12,000 m) Gulf of Mexico Chevron Deployed to Deepwater Horizon oil spill (target date of mid-July 2010)[48]
Discoverer Deep Seas ship 2001 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 35,000 ft (11,000 m) Gulf of Mexico Murphy
Discoverer Enterprise ship 1999 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 35,000 ft (11,000 m) Gulf of Mexico BP Oil being pumped into it in the Deepwater Horizon clean-up[47]
Discoverer India ship 2010 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 35,000 ft (11,000 m) Gulf of Mexico Chevron
Discoverer Inspiration ship 2010 12,000 ft (3,700 m) 40,000 ft (12,000 m) Gulf of Mexico Chevron
Discoverer Luanda ship 2011 7,500 ft (2,300 m) 40,000 ft (12,000 m) Angola BP
Discoverer Spirit ship 2000 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 35,000 ft (11,000 m) Gulf of Mexico Anadarko
GSF C.R. Luigs ship 2000 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 35,000 ft (11,000 m) Gulf of Mexico BHP Billiton
GSF Development Driller I semi 2004 7,500 ft (2,300 m) 37,500 ft (11,400 m) Gulf of Mexico BHP Billiton
GSF Development Driller II semi 2004 7,500 ft (2,300 m) 37,500 ft (11,400 m) Gulf of Mexico BP Drilled relief well in the Deepwater Horizon clean-up[47]
GSF Explorer ship 1972/1998 7,800 ft (2,400 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Indonesia Marathon-led Consortium Formerly the US Navy ship Glomar Explorer used in Project Azorian for the recovery of a Soviet nuclear submarine
GSF Jack Ryan ship 2000 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 35,000 ft (11,000 m) Nigeria Total
Petrobras 10000 ship 2009 10,000 ft (3,000 m) 37,500 ft (11,400 m) Brazil Petrobras
Sedco Energy semi 2001 7,500 ft (2,300 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Ghana Tullow
Sedco Express semi 2001 7,500 ft (2,300 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Mediterranean Sea Noble Energy
Transocean Barents semi 2009 7,500 ft (2,300 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Norway Det Norske Oljeselskap ASA Aker H-6e sixth generation dual activity dynamically-positioned DP Class 3 semi-submersible
Transocean Spitsbergen semi 2009 7,500 ft (2,300 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Norway Statoil ASA Aker H-6e sixth generation dual activity dynamically-positioned DP Class 3 semi-submersible


Deepwater rigs drill 1,400 to 2,300 metres (4,600 to 7,500 ft). They operate in the upper reaches of the Bathyal zone. About half of the craft have Dynamic positioning capabilities.

Name Type Entered service Water depth Drilling depth Location Customer Comment
Deepwater Navigator ship 2000 7,200 ft (2,200 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) Brazil Petrobras
Discoverer 534 ship 1975/1991 7,000 ft (2,100 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) India Reliance
Discoverer Seven Seas ship 1976/1997 7,000 ft (2,100 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) India ONGC
GSF Celtic Sea semi 1982/1998 5,750 ft (1,750 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) Angola ExxonMobil
Jack Bates semi 1986/1997 5,400 ft (1,600 m) 30,000 ft (9,100 m) Australia Hess
Jim Cunningham semi 1982/1995 4,600 ft (1,400 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) Angola ExxonMobil
M.G. Hulme, Jr. semi 1983/1996 5,000 ft (1,500 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) India ONGC
Sedco 702 semi 1973/2007 6,500 ft (2,000 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) Nigeria Shell
Sedco 706 semi 1976/1994/ 2008 6,500 ft (2,000 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) Brazil Chevron
Sedco 707 semi 1976/1997 6,500 ft (2,000 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) Brazil Petrobras
Sedco 709 semi 1977/1999 5,000 ft (1,500 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) Malaysia Stacked
Sedco 710 semi 1983 4,500 ft (1,400 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) Brazil Petrobras
Sovereign Explorer semi 1984 4,500 ft (1,400 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) Brazil Repsol
Transocean Marianas semi 1979/1998 7,000 ft (2,100 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) NIgeria Eni
Transocean Rather semi 1988 4,500 ft (1,400 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) Angola ExxonMobil Formerly Sonat Rather
Transocean Richardson semi 1988 5,000 ft (1,500 m) 25,000 ft (7,600 m) Angola Chevron Formerly Sonat George Richardson.

Other notable rigs[edit]

Name Type Entered service Water depth Drilling depth Location Customer Comment
Sedco 135B semi 1965 50 m 3,600 m Shell sank on maiden voyage from Hiroshima to Brunei with 13 casualties in 1965.[49]
Sedco 135F semi 1967 50 m 3,600 m Gulf of Mexico Pemex destroyed at Ixtoc I in 1979.[50]
GSF Rig 127 jack up 1981 250 ft (76 m) 20,000 ft (6,100 m) Qatar (now stacked) Maersk Oil Qatar AS Drilled world record extended reach well of 40,320 ft (12,289 m) in May 2008—more than 20,000 ft (6,100 m) deeper than its design specification
Transocean John Shaw semi 1982 549 m 7,620 m North Sea Petrofac

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]