Upstream Online article: New US GOM Venture to Stress Safety in Drilling

By Allison Satterwhite

Safety is the name of the game for Tommy Travis, the man behind a new venture into the US Gulf of Mexico's deep-water drilling market.

Travis, who has played multiple roles over 38 years in the offshore-drilling business, has teamed with safety-solutions specialist Check-6 to form what they hope will be the latest entrant into the deep-water drilling space.

TD Inc, as the company will be known, will be incorporated in Oklahoma but will have offices in Houston. To start, Travis is looking to acquire one dynamically positioned ultra-deepwater drillship that is capable and certified to work in the US Gulf.

Above all, Travis says he is committed to running a rig and training a crew that reinvents existing safety standards.

"I wanted to do something that I felt made a difference in the industry," he told Upstream. "I really care about the people, the process and safety, and I want everybody who works with me, and everybody period, when they go to work, to actually come home from work healthier and better off than when they arrived."

He added: "My goal in life is to enable people to have a safe, friendly work environment that has a management system in place that protects them and allows them to do their jobs safely, and to be able to live long enough to meet their grand kids."

 New venture: offshore veteran Tommy Travis wants to reinvent safety standards New venture: offshore veteran Tommy Travis wants to reinvent safety standards

Travis plans to tap into the resources of Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Check-6, which pulls from military, aviation and aerospace experiences to train leaders and crews involved in the sorts of high-risk operations seen in the oilfield.

"I want to work with Check-6 to take the best pieces from the processes that are used in (these other industries) and create a new management system that works in the oil business as a drilling contractor," he said.

He called Check-6 "one of the best training companies and safety companies in the industry" and said the company would have "an integral role" in forming the safety and environmental management system he envisions and growing the leadership capabilities of the crew.

Travis brings decades of experience to TD Inc and has worked for several major drillers aboard 20 different deep-water vessels. Most recently, he served as the Vice President and Division Manager for Noble Corporation.

Travis has yet to start discussion about securing a rig or a drilling contract. He said the process of acquiring a rig will begin in earnest next month. He is considering multiple options, including placing an order with one of the "big three" shipyards in Asia or possibly in China.

However, he is eager to find a rig as soon as possible, so he will also look for any vessels that are under construction that might be available in a one-to-three-year window. He said he ultimately plans to have a fleet of "multiple" rigs, but is immediately focused on procuring the first one.

When asked about TD Inc's financing strategy, Travis said he was not prepared to discuss financial matters.

The ultra-deepwater market is an inherently risky arena, and recent signs have indicated a plateauing of dayrates in the sector.

Analyst Brian Uhlmer of Global Hunter Securities wrote in a research note this week that the market "has turned even more sour" for offshore drillers in light of "a modest pace" in recent ultra-deepwater contracts, and awards showing returns "less attractive than those of contracts signed last year".

"The consensus view, which we agree with, is that ultra-deepwater rates have plateaued," Uhlmer said. "However, we argue that is not necessarily a bad thing as at current rates the drillers are high-grading their asset bases at returns above their WACC (weighted average cost of capital) and with quick cash paybacks."

He added that softening dayrates make it less likely a new entrant will make a move into the ultra-deepwater space.

But Travis is undaunted.

"The deep-water market and rig market are doing very well now and can sustain that for years to come," he said. "I don't see it getting any downturns."