Tony Petrello transforms Nabors Industries into international oil services giant

When Tony Petrello took over at the helm of oil services company Nabors Industries, he had quite a task set out before him. He needed to rebuild a company that had just exited from chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company had dwindling market share and few real competitive advantages. But Petrello had a unique vision.

Over the next 25 years, Petrello would lead the company on to become the foremost oil services provider in country, with the vast majority of directional drilling equipment in hydraulic fracturing technologies in North America being provided by the firm. This radical transformation from unprofitability to one of the foremost providers of drilling equipment involved in the extraction of North America’s hard oil resources was the direct result of Petrello’s leadership and strong vision.

One of the areas in which Petrello was adamant that the company should innovate was in the realm of directional drilling equipment. Between the year 1991 and 2005, Nabors Industries developed a novel system referred to as the OrientXPress steerable directional drilling system. This is a directional drilling system that is capable of operating up to 20 drills simultaneously and is largely controlled by automation and proprietary software. This drilling system marked such a quantum leap forward that resources that were previously not viable to extract economically suddenly became hugely profitable. This has been a major factor in the development of the North American shale oil boom, with the vast majority of equipment servicing the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota being provided by Nabors Industries.

Another area in which Petrello doubled down with company resources in developing new products was in the area of hydraulic fracturing. Also known as fracking, hydraulic fracturing is a method by which oil can be extracted from deep in the ground among extremely tough shale deposits.

These innovations, among others, have cemented Nabors Industries’ place as one of the premier oil services firms in the United States today.

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