Pressure cooker

Every day is intense in the world of offshore drilling, where big money is at stake each time a decision is made.

Jason Montegut

This is something that Rowan Companies Vice President of Project Management Jason Montegut can tell you about. Responsible for new builds and upgrades, he’s just delivered the company’s first drillship and is watching over three others still at the shipyard, in addition to the existing fleet’s upgrade and repair work. 

Behind all of his decisions is the awareness that every hour a rig is out of service hits the bottom line. The risk of downtime is a major factor when considering the introduction of new technology, equipment or assets.

“Our costs on a daily basis are high, and that 24-hour period of being down or out of service is costly to the company,” he says. “And that’s only a fraction of what it costs our ultimate customers, the oil companies.” He continues, “You’re almost going through the fog every day, not knowing what’s around the corner. You plan for what you know, you mitigate the risks that you can only anticipate, and then every day you wake up and see what’s on your plate.” 

Montegut says that it’s how a project is approached, planned and executed that determines its success and, ultimately, its profitability. 

The four new drillships – Rowan’s entry into the deepwater market – are a massive investment. While the high daily rates currently enjoyed by rigs could offset this cost, they are not guaranteed. Given the uncertainty, how are decisions made with so much money at stake?

The process

Rowan’s process is systematic, regardless of whether it involves an upgrade or a new build.

“We evaluate our return over the lifetime of the asset, taking a blended rate into consideration,” says Montegut. 

Supporting the process is a central decision-making tool – the corporate risk register, which is a log of identified risks, their severity and the actions to be taken. 

“Through various studies and analyses, we identify what our risks are and how to best mitigate them. Those are things like the technological advances and equipment that can help aid us react to events more quickly, possibly even to avoid those events in the first place.” 

Rowan’s approach has been to design its own vessels, focusing on the high-specification end and incorporating advances and technologies that reduce downtime. “As a result, we deliver an asset at a decent cost but a good rate of return for the life of the vessel,” he says. 

One of those advantages is ABB’s new advanced power system featuring technologies such as the diesel generator monitoring system (DGMS) integrated into the power distribution fast protection and communication system. This in combination with the 3-bus 6-split design provides important advantages both in reduced downtime and ease of system maintenance. This combination has been used for the first time on Rowan’s dynamically positioned drillships. 

Montegut explains that the goal behind the decision to use these new technologies is high uptime and maintaining the operability of Rowan equipment. “The design of our entire power distribution system is geared to having redundancies in place so that we can realize a continuous in-service period,” he says. “And what ABB has been able to provide us with are the tools that allow us to do that.” 
Rowan was already familiar with parts of the technology used by the DGMS. “We felt that the next logical step was to add some more redundancy to our power management system,” says Montegut. “We had done our due diligence in all the failure analysis with ABB to identify where those risks were, and we felt it was best to put it on that first ship. The sea trials went really well. We had no issues, the system performed as it should have.”

“This is calculated risk – it’s understanding that there’s risk, but mitigating to the point where we could head any kind of issues off before we experienced them.”  Rowan now uses the ABB power system on a second drillship, Rowan Resolute. 

He says that a factor of the success of using these new technologies is the company’s way of working as one team with its supplier, ABB, and the other stakeholders in its newbuild program, including customers. “This was actually a risk-mitigating factor,” he says. “We’re either going to succeed or fail together, and it just makes sense. Now, that’s true across the board for all of our projects, not just with power distribution technology.”

Making a profit

Making a profit in the high-pressure offshore drilling environment is not a riddle to Montegut, who has his own recipe:

In addition to the all-important focus on minimizing downtime, he points to several other factors, not least, focusing on customers. “If you have a happy client, it’s easier meet your goals and make a profit because you can continue working your plan,” he explains. Competent people, the equipment used and having redundancies in place are also critical factors. 

Montegut rounds off by emphasizing again that planning is vital. “That’s the core of what we are doing.” But it’s the things that can’t be planned for that keep him up at night, he says with a smile. 


Rowan companies

– Founded in 1923 
– Headquarters in Houston, Texas
– Offices in Aberdeen, Kuala Lumpur and Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia 
– Listed on the New York Stock Exchange as RDC
– Mission to be the most efficient and capable provider of demanding contract drilling services
– Sold manufacturing and land drilling business in 2011 to focus on offshore
– Entered deepwater in 2013
– Owns four state-of-the-art drillships – the Rowan Renaissance was delivered in the first quarter of 2014 and is now in operation and the remaining three will deliver at regular intervals from 2014 to 2015 
– Has 30 jack-up rigs in operation at different sites around the world
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