One of the most daring ventures in the oil exploration industry was the development of the first moveable, off-shore drilling rig by R.G. LeTourneau for George Bush's Zapata Oil Company in the early 1950s. What was labeled impossible was daily fare for R.G. LeTourneau’s genius-level innovative mind, known for finding practical solutions to challenges.
LeTourneau envisioned a stable and secure mobile platform that could safely operate in treacherous open water. His solution: float the entire rig out into the ocean and jack down the supports that hold it in place, utilizing his existing innovations, like the electric drives from his heavy-duty earth-moving machines, to raise and lower the three platform legs. Although there was considerable interest among oil companies, none was willing to finance construction approaching $3,000,000, on such an unproven technology.
When LeTourneau took this idea to future president George H.W. Bush at Zapata, he found a willing risk taker and construction began on the banks of the Mississippi near Vicksburg in 1954. In his autobiography, Looking Forward, Bush described LeTourneau as ...
... a kind of George Patton of engineering. … He’d come to us with a proposition: he’d build the Scorpion at his own expense. We’d advance him $400,000–refundable if the completed rig didn’t work; if it did, he’d get an added $550,000 and 38,000 shares of Zapata Off-Shore common stock. Our feeling was that anybody who had that much confidence in himself was worth the gamble.
LeTourneau’s willingness to take risks like this was no result of hubris but confidence in the God who made him, gifted him, and called him into business. He believed that the ingenuity to build came from God.
No one has ever measured the inventiveness that Christ awakens in a man’s soul ... because it is beyond measurement.” ... By accepting God as your partner, there is no limit on what can be achieved.
With two future U.S. Presidents watching, on March 20, 1956 "The Scorpion" was christened in Galveston, Texas and headed into the Gulf of Mexico to drill its first well off the coast of Port Aransas for Standard Oil. The result was a mobile drilling platform that would revolutionize the offshore oil industry.
That was only the beginning. by 1970, the name LeTourneau was affixed to 50 percent of the offshore drilling rigs at work in the world's oceans.
Watch the story of this amazing venture in this video produced for LTI Offshore Products in 2005.