Offshore rig in Baytown could revolutionalize deep-water drilling

February 15, 2013 5:06:17 PM PST
After the 2010 Gulf oil spill, energy companies have been looking for safer ways to get oil from the deepest depths of the ocean. A huge new offshore rig in Baytown could set the standard for future oil platforms in the Gulf. And it's about to ship out in just a few days.

Deep water exploration is at the cutting edge of oil and gas exploration and since the moratorium was lifted on the Gulf two and half years ago, that technology has continued to improve. And we got a close look at part of it before it ships off drill.

It's called Olympus after the fabled Greek mountain of the gods. And it is huge. Built for Shell, it can drill 24 wells from one location. It's the largest oil platform of its kind.

"Twenty years ago, the challenges with doing this were astronomical," said Lone Star Enery Fabrication President Brian Shanklin. "From the drilling depths to the temperatures."

It's taken Lone Star Energy Fabrication 18 months to complete its part of the design and construction of Olympus; 600,00 man hours. That's no small task.

"It's a huge undertaking to plan, develop and execute in a safe manner," said Shanklin.

The two five-million pound parts in Baytown will first move along the coast to Corpus Christi to join its tension legs. Within a few months, they will be 130 miles off the coast of New Orleans to what's called the Mississippi Canyon, drilling for oil thousands of feet below the surface.

"We look at the older rigs from the 50s the 60s, the beginning of time and to see where it is today is incredible," said Warren Moore with Lone Star Energy Fabrication.

Next month, the federal government will begin a new five-year gulf leasing plan. The first auction is in New Orleans, selling the temporary rights to deep water reserves, which could yield more than a billion barrels of oil and vast amounts of natural gas.

U.S. domestic oil production is at its highest level in nearly ten years; natural gas the highest on record, meaning Olympus is just one of many mountains headed to the Gulf in the coming months and years.

We're told by the manufacturer that incredibly, the expected operational lifespan of the Olympus rig is anywhere from 50 to 70 years.

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