Chris Beckett


A dedication to excellence

This month, Total World Energy focuses the entrepreneurial limelight on Pacific Drilling CEO, Chris Beckett, who has over two decades of experience working within the Oil and Gas industry. “He’s grown a world-class team based on that entrepreneurial spirit, and he encourages his employees to make an impact by identifying novel approaches and seeing those ideas through to implementation,” testifies Mike Kacsmar, EY Entrepreneur of the Year Americas Program Director.

Pacific Drilling CEO, Chris Beckett has been enjoying a long and successful career in the Oil & Gas sector which started when he was in his early twenties working as a seismologist. Twenty years on and he has been involved in the first-ever commercialization process for deep-sea dual gradient drilling.

Working for Seismograph Service Ltd, which was later acquired by Schlumberger Limited in the 1990’s, Beckett spent the best part of 12 years refining and improving on his international management skills.As part of a unique project called Transition 2000, he headed the acquisition of the largest onshore seismic survey that has ever been completed in the USA.

Leaving Schlumberger in 2001, Beckett completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Rice University, Texas, leading him to work for the international firm, McKinsey & Company as a strategy consultant, providing advice to both global energy companies and governments.

“I had a great opportunity at McKinsey to study the way in which one of the major oil companies in the U.S. was using its refining assets and look for ways to help them maximize their returns from changes in regulations,” Beckett explained in an interview with The Maritime Executive in 2012.

However it was his move to Transocean, the major offshore drilling company, which became the cornerstone of Beckett’s illustrious career. Whilst working as the Director of Business Development and Corporate Planning, Transocean entered into an agreement with an investment group which was to become Pacific Drilling. With this transaction, Pacific Drilling approached Beckett to become its first employee.

Beckett accepted but of course, leaving behind a truly promising career with Transocean for a company which had no industry experience or client base was an enormous risk. Beckett however, revelled in an opportunity to build an industry-leading contract drilling company that would continue to meet the evolving and specific needs of customers, something he felt the current market was missing.

In an interview with the Oil Council, he explained: “One of the underlying premises of forming Pacific Drilling was to build a company that not only would have the newest generation of assets that met the new regulatory criteria but also would have state-of-the-art operating capabilities.”

A company with no customers, of course, is perhaps one of the biggest challenges that Pacific Drilling faced when it first started up. Beckett was intent on achieving a blue-chip customer base and so, with the dedicated persistence between him and his management team, they began to educate potential customers on the technological advantages of their drill ships and the services they could provide.

It wasn’t long before Pacific Drilling secured its first contract with Multinational energy corporation, Chevron. Today, Pacific Drilling includes Petrobras and Total amongst its customers.

Speaking to the Oil Council, Beckett explained safety was integral to the successful development of Pacific Drilling and securing the reputable industry leaders it works with today: “[Safety] is our most important accomplishment, and one that we continue to prioritize every day. Our first rig, Pacific Bora, has worked over 1,000 days without a lost time incident. This is industry leading safety performance, and to me, it’s the most important metric of our success as a company. It has been achieved through developing our own, proprietary operating and safety management systems from scratch, which are designed to be state of the art and optimized for ultra-deepwater operations.”

Held last month in Palm Springs, California, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year is the world’s most prestigious business award for influential entrepreneurs. The potential and contribution people make and how they inspire others through their vision, achievements and leadership is recognised through this program.

Currently the first and only awards platform operating on a global scale in more than 145 cities across 60 countries, the EY helps to celebrate and commemorate the entrepreneurs who are not only building but leading the way in establishing successful and dynamic businesses.

In a statement The EY said: “Merely eight years since formulating a business plan for Pacific Drilling in his living room — and less than four years since Pacific Drilling recorded revenue from its first paying client — Beckett now oversees a global company with the industry’s most modern fleet of high-specification drillships, more than 1,200 employees and annual revenues rapidly approaching $1 billion.”

Headquartered in Luxembourg with a small team of employees, the core operations are overseen at the company’s office in Houston, Texas, where Beckett spends the majority of his time, having moved to Houston more than two decades ago.

Pacific Drilling currently has five operational drillships which is three more than it had in 2011, with a further two scheduled to enter into service by the end of the year.

Looking to the future, Chris Beckett is adamant that Pacific Drilling will remain competitive, maintaining its enviable position as the only pure play ultra-deepwater drillship company in the industry. With its high quality assets, high-specification drillships and focused operating systems, Pacific Drilling is able to provide a better quality of service.

And with Chris Beckett firmly at the wheel, his unwavering dedication to excellence is no doubt why he is EY’s Entrepreneur of the year.


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