Offshore Support Services

In 1905, the U.S. Navy began development of more modern equipment, diving tables, and diving practices using experience from worldwide operations. In order to go deeper and remain longer at depth, Commander George “Papa Topside” Bond started research for the Navy in 1957 leading to the development of “saturation diving.” Bond perfected the equipment and diving tables through the “Genesis” program and the “seaLab” phases of activity. Dr. Robert Workman, a U.S. Navy Physiologist, was primarily responsible for the development of diving tables needed for saturation diving which uses a breathing mixture of helium and oxygen. In 1957, Edward Lee Taylor and Mark Banjavich, two ex-Navy divers, along with French diver Jean Valz, formed Taylor Diving & Salvage, later acquired by Brown & Root. They developed the techniques and equipment necessary (recompression chambers for surface decompression) to extend the use of mixed-gas diving to the deeper depths required by the offshore industry. Swiss physicist Hannes Keller, together with Shell Oil, experimented with diving to depths of 1,000 ft offshore California in the mid 1960s using helium-ioxygen. His efforts led to further development of the diving tables used in mixed-gas diving. In the early 1970s and for 10 years thereafter, Shell started the development of Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to conduct deep offshore inspection activities to supplement, and in some cases replace, the necessity to use divers. The first subsea completion was installed by Shell in the Gulf of Mexico in 1961, West Cameron Block 192, waterdepth 17 m (57 ft), as a test case for later deepwater application. Saturation diving was first used offshore in 1967 to install Shell’s Marlin System at 320 ft in the West Delta field.

Recognizing the pioneering efforts of the following people and companies who contributed to the development of this technology:

Mark Banjavich, Robert “Bob” Barth, George F. Bond, Hannes Keller, Walter F. Mazzone, Edward L. Taylor, Jean G. Valz, Robert D. Workman
Shell, Taylor Diving (Halliburton), U.S. Navy 

The first use of helicopters in transportation to offshore platforms was carried out at the request of Kerr-McGee and Humble Oil & Refining Co. Bell Helicopters had developed the leading equipment in this field–the 3-person Model 47–and recognized the opportunity by forming the company Petroleum Bell Helicopters (PBHI). One of the pilots taking this decisive first leap was Al Danner who flew to a Kerr-McGee platform 8-10 miles offshore in 1948 (the rig was awaiting a tool from shore). A flat area on the LST anchored next to Humble’s rig 28 served as landing pad for one of the first helicopters to be flown offshore. With helicopters now the globally-accepted mode of transportation to take crews and equipment to offshore sites, all rigs, platforms and vessels have permanently-installed helipads and refueling stations. Robert L. Suggs, Jack Lee, Larry Gussman and Maurice “Dookie” Bayon developed Petroleum Helicopters Inc. (PHI) from 1949 onwards to support seismic crews in Louisiana and offshore oil and gas industry, providing safe, reliable transportation and support to operations worldwide.

Recognizing the pioneering efforts of the following people and companies who contributed to the development of this technology:

Maurice “Dookie” Bayon, Al Danner, Larry Gussman, Jack Lee, Robert L. Suggs
Bell Helicopters, Humble Oil & Refining Co. (ExxonMobil), Kerr-McGee, Petroleum Helicopters, Inc.

In the early 1960’s Shell Oil started development of the first ROV, named “Mobot” that was tethered to the surface and equipped with a TV eye, sonar, gyrocompass, thrusters and hydraulic arms.  It operated somewhat successfully; however, through the remaining 1960’s into the late 1970’s the industry used manned manipulator bells, manned submersibles and “eyeball” only ROVs.  During this period, service companies worked on integrating sophisticated electronics and hydraulics into the ROV concept but with oilfield robustness. 

In 1976 and 1977 a number of companies made significant advances in the development of ROV technology with a number of models (Deep Drone, Scorpio, SCARAB, Hysub and TROV) being used in the oilfield, government programs and in research though they had many technical and operating problems.  The development of the Hysub ROV by ISE and Perry was the technical foundation of today’s ROVs.  The development of launch system with subsea top hat tether management systems and “cages” also allowed deployment in rougher environmental conditions with less risk of damage or loss.  The industry also developed “tooling” that interfaced with sophisticated subsea equipment that had touch and load arm feedback.  Consolidation of companies (Oceaneering and Solas Ocean Systems, etc.) in the 1980s provided the critical mass to move the industry forward.  Following years saw ROVs become more capable, versatile, reliable and powerful where almost every floating drilling rig and construction project offshore today uses them on a daily basis. 

Recognizing the pioneering efforts of the following individuals and organizations that contributed to this technology:

Bruce Watkins, Howard Shatto, Richard “Dick’ Frisbie, Drew Michel, Walter Gray,

Herb Newberry, Hydro Products, Sub Sea International (now Subsea 7), Ametek (Straza Division),  British Petroleum (now BP), International Submarine Engineering (ISE) Ltd.,  Oceaneering International Inc., Ocean System Engineering Ltd, Perry Oceanographic (now Perry Slingsby Systems, A member of the Triton Group), Phillips Petroleum (now ConocoPhillips), Saab Underwater Systems, Shell Oil Co. and Taylor Diving.

Suited divers were used in the early 1940s to explore underwater for potential oil and gas. The divers laid out a sequence of traverses, measuring strike and dip of outcrop beds on the sea floor and collecting samples for micropaleontologic studies. Collected at regular intervals, the samples were bagged and marked with location coordinates and floated to the surface using balloons inflated by an underwater air supply. The data were plotted on a map using a sextant to measure angles from known points on land. This led eventually to the discovery of the Hondo field, one of the largest offshore fields in California.

Recognizing the pioneering efforts of the following people and companies who contributed to the development of this technology:

Bob Dietz, Robert Dill, Ed Hamilton, Bill Menard
Humble Oil & Refining Co. (ExxonMobil), Signal Oil (ConocoPhillips), Standard Oil of California (Chevron)

Rigs had to be supplied with drilling mud, cement, water, spare parts, groceries and people, all of which required transport. Initially, surplus World War II vessels, wooden fishing boats, shrimp trawlers, and oyster luggers were used. The development of the fit-for-purpose supply boat was a key technology in the development of offshore oilfields. Brothers Alden “Doc” and John Laborde developed the concept of a purpose-built boat in 1955 using a bow wheelhouse and a long flat after deck that became the standard for Offshore Supply Vessels (OSVs) for the next 40 years. The Ebb Tide in 1955 was the firs tin the fleet of offshore supply vessels in the world.

Recognizing the pioneering efforts of the following people and companies who contributed to the development of this technology:

Alden J. “Doc” Laborde, John P. Laborde Tidewater

Scroll to top