Energy Citizen: Captain Kristopher Drodge

An expert in operating offshore drilling rigs, Drodge thinks Canada’s Atlantic Offshore has a bright future—if regulations are modernized and competitive.

A Newfoundlander through and through, Kristopher Drodge grew up in Torbay, a community of 7,000 people located 12 kilometres north of St. John’s. He loves the traditions, the communities and the people that make his province so unique.

Drodge is a professional Master Mariner and Offshore Installation Manager (OIM). He has been an active participant in Atlantic Canada oil production for over a decade. His career path has taken him from trainee ballast control operator to the highest levels of offshore and onshore supervision and leadership.

Captain Kristopher Drodge has firsthand experience of how oil and natural gas have helped Torbay and Newfoundland and Labrador. Photos by Paul Daly.

Drodge knows the importance of a vibrant oil and gas industry to his family, community and province – he has seen what happens when the sector takes a downturn. He firmly believes that a thriving oil and gas sector is vital to Canada’s continued prosperity.

With water all around and a family history of going to sea, it was only natural that Drodge took to the waves at an early age. He was a competitive swimmer and spent hours sailing and enjoying other water activities during his formative years. After high school he joined the Nautical Science program at Memorial University’s Marine Institute where he gained his credentials and spent a one-year work term on shuttle tankers servicing the Hibernia offshore platform.

Today he works with operators, including Husky and Suncor, as well as regulators, to successfully intake and operate mobile offshore drilling units (MODU’s) off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. Most recently, as leading the management for Transocean’s regulatory compliance, Drodge helped bring the MODU Transocean Barents to the Terra Nova field from its location in Norway, where it was previously stacked. Prior to that, as Rig Manager/OIM, he helped manage the regulatory process to successfully instake the MODU Henry Goodrich for offshore operations in Newfoundland from its shipyard location in Norway, as it had been previously stacked in Edinburgh, Scotland following the downturn in Newfoundland.

Moving offshore rigs is a massive undertaking—literally. The Transocean Barents, for example is a Harsh Environment, Dynamically Positioned vessel 90 metres long, 70 metres wide and has a water displacement size of 64,500 metric tonnes (by comparison, the Titanic had a displacement of 50,000 metric tonnes). It can drill 9000m wells in waters up to 3,000 metres deep and is designed both for shallow water and deep water locations. MODUs are moved through deep ocean waters where challenges and changeable conditions are a fact of life and the Transocean Barents, being one of the worlds most advanced MODU’s, is up to the task.

“It is a live operation where fog, icebergs and pack ice, hurricanes or the Newfoundland winter mean there is never a dull moment. Being an OIM is a very intense job but it requires a team that you can rely upon to be successful, safely,” says Drodge

The key to success is planning: ensuring every step is carefully conducted and monitored to ensure safety and regulatory compliance. Drodge notes, “We plan our work at least 24 hours in advance and identify any safety concerns, work conflicts, isolation points, customer and procedural requirements. If you have a good team on the rig with the necessary skill and knowledge, a good day is one where you can verify throughout the day of task execution and gain trust that the plan will succeed.”

Drodge’s experiences have also taught him the importance of getting offshore regulations right: ensuring they are based on facts, evidence and expertise, so that they guarantee high standards of safety and responsible development while remaining clear, concise and efficient. This is the recipe needed to keep the Atlantic offshore industry competitive when it comes to global capital and investment according to Drodge.

During his time working to bring the Transocean Barents back into production, Drodge provided input into the Frontier and Offshore Regulatory Renewal Initiative (FORRI). This is a partnership of federal and provincial government departments focused on modernizing and amalgamating five existing regulations into a single framework.

Drodge hopes that FORRI can enhance competitiveness for the industry which has been weighed down in recent years by increasing regulatory cost and complexity. “I feel very positive about where we are going. There is some good leadership being shown. For too long, people have said it is too difficult to do work in Canada,” he says. “If we are successful, Canada will be recognized as a country that is aligning itself with other jurisdictions and that we want to succeed as a nation, and in the energy sector, with international cooperation.”

“We need to be competitive, realistic and show we are a global player. If the sector gets its feet kicked out from underneath it with more restrictive regulations, then more operators will leave Canada or not even consider coming here in the first place. That means less jobs, less income and royalties, and lower GDP. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Drodge adds, “Canada’s income to support the social aspects of our lives has to come from somewhere. The energy sector can do that effectively and safely.”

His continued commitment to the energy sector sees Drodge volunteer during his onshore time speaking to professional and community groups about the industry, its commitment to safety, and its value to all Canadians. He is an active member of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ training and qualifications committee, and brings a mobile offshore perspective to the association of Master Mariners of Canada.

In this article, Context speaks with:
  • Kristopher Drodge Master Mariner & Offshore Installation Manager, Transocean