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New Generation Drillship Goes to Work

Conoco and R&B Falcon Corp. announced Deepwater Pathfinder - a first-of-its-kind, ultra-deepwater drillship - began a five-year work program in the Gulf of Mexico.

The ship, the first new build capable of drilling in 10,000 ft. of water, will fulfill a $400 million drilling program for Conoco. The vessel is expected to drill three or four wells in its first year of operation, with the first exploratory well being drilled at Garden Banks Block 783. Conoco has interests in 295 deepwater leases in the Gulf.

The technological highlight of the ship is its dynamic positioning systems, wherein a specialized combination of seabed and satellite systems send signals to onboard computers. Six highpowered thrusters counter the force of currents, wind and waves to keep the vessel exactly on target without an anchor, even in weather conditions as severe as a ten-year Gulf of Mexico storm. Furthermore, Deepwater Pathfinder is the only drillship worldwide incorporating triple-redundant power and operating functions, which qualify for the ABS' DP3 classification - the shipping society's highest standard of safety, redundancy and reliability for dynamically positioned vessels.

Deepwater Pathfinder has numerous innovative features that combine to make it a new generation of drillships. No other ultra-deepwater drillship designed to date meets such stringent standards for safety, redundancy and reliability.

In one of the first applications of its kind, the vessel features computerized rig floor operations, with conventional manual backup capabilities. This automation virtually eliminates the human element from operating much of the traditional drilling equipment, thereby reducing the risk of injury and increasing efficiency.

Conoco and R&B Falcon are building a second deepwater drillship with the same specifications, expected to be delivered in early 1999 - about two months ahead of schedule. It will operate on Conoco's deepwater tracts in other parts of the world, such as the Atlantic Margin, Norway, New Zealand and Nigeria. Conoco holds more than 35 million acres of deepwater leases throughout the world.

Conoco will contract the second ship for 2.5 years out of the first five years of its operation, with renewal options.

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