Conventional engineering could sometimes get boring and extremely repetitive. With the same structural elements designed for prescribed loadings, it’s just the matter of filling out a spreadsheet matrix and confirming the generated values. So, to shake things up a little, we will take an engineering odyssey across the deep seas to explore some of the highly bespoke and giant iceberg-like structures. Immerse yourself in the upstream world of oil and gas production and discover some of the biggest and most impressive oil platforms around the world.
Norway’s Draugen oil platform
First up on my list of impressive giants of the seas is the Norwegian oil rig known as the Draugen platform – located 150km north of Kristiansund. The platform is operated by AS Norske Shell which is the company’s northernmost platform in the world and stretches 250 meters below the sea.
[Image Source: Norske Shell]
This immense sea structure is designed with a single concrete shaft, integrated topside decks, and a concrete base facility where tanks are located for storing stabilized oil. 63,000 barrels of oil per day is produced by the Draugen oil platform with a maximum capacity of 140,000 barrels per day. The slender concrete shaft makes the platform look unsteady against big waves. However, the base of the structure is immense just like how an iceberg is small at the tip and humongous under water.
[Image Source: Norske Shell]
Sakhalin-1’s Berkut oil platform
Known as the biggest drilling oil platform in the world, the Berkut platform is a gigantic ice-resistant structure in the Okhotsk Sea in Russia. Berkut oil rig is part of the Sakhalin-1 development in the Arkutun-Dagi reservoir. Being subjected to harsh sub-Arctic environmental conditions, the Berkut platform can resist temperatures as low as negative 28 degrees Celsius and ice field surround it by almost two meters during the winter season. Berkut’s overall weight exceeds 200,000 ton and is considered to be the heaviest integrated topside that ever floated.
[Image Source: Exxon Mobil]
The massive gravity base structure is also the first in the world to adapt an earthquake protection system that can withstand seismic excitations of magnitude 9 without violating operational protocols. Ice linings have also been installed to give additional protection against ice formations. The Berkut oil platform is capable of drilling 45 wells and produces 12,000 tons of oil per day and 4.5 million tons annually.
Berkut’s concrete base consists of large tanks where oil can be stored which can also control the buoyancy of the whole structure. As the name suggest, the Berkut structure is held firmly in place by gravity. For such a gigantic structure to be kept in place just by gravity, the Berkut platform is truly an engineering marvel of the sea.
Mexico’s ‘lost’ oil platform or the Perdido
[Image Source: Shell ]
The Perdido oil platform is the world’s second deepest oil and gas production hub and began commercial production in 2010 from a new geological territory in the US Gulf of Mexico. Perdido is a spar type of floating platform which uses a large-diameter, single vertical cylinder that is weighted at the bottom by a cell filled with material that is much denser than water to lower the center of gravity of the platform and offer stability.
This oil rig was vertically moored in place at a depth of approximately 2,450 meters (8,000 feet). Perdido has a maximum capacity of 100,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of gas per day. The innovative technology applied to the Perdido platform can handle extreme water depth, jagged sea-floor terrain, low-temperature and low-pressure reservoirs. Standing at 267 meters, the Perdido platform is nearly as tall as the Eiffel tower.
[Image Source: Shell]
Canada’s Hibernia oil platform
The Hibernia oil platform was the world’s first gravity base, iceberg-resistant that can withstand contact with a six million ton body of ice. It is located in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin, 315 km east of Newfoundland, Canada at a depth of 80 meters below sea level. Hibernia is a gravity base structure giant and consists of a 105.5 meters concrete caisson which used high-strength concrete reinforced with steel bars and pre-stressed tendons. Its concrete caisson is surrounded by an ice wall that is composed of 16 concrete teeth. Hibernia’s topside facilities were designed and developed to have a capacity of 220,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
This giant oil platform can resist harsh impacts from sea ice and icebergs which allow for smooth operation all year-round.
[Image Source: Exxon Mobil]
The Petronius oil platform
The Petronius platform is a compliant tower structure and is located in the Viosca Knoll Block 786, 130 miles southeast of New Orleans. It is the largest free-standing structure in the world and lies at a water depth of 535 meters (1,754 feet). The ingenious design of the Petronius platform is not to resist forces but to bend and flex with the forces of waves, wind, and current. It stands at a height of 1,870 feet, weighs 43,000 ton and has a maximum capacity of 60,000 barrels of oil and 100 million cubic feet of gas per day.
The Olympus Mars B platform
The Olympus Mars B oil platform, located in the Gulf of Mexico stands at 945 meters (3,100 feet) under water and weighs an immense 120,000 tons. This mighty offshore structure is owned by Shell and is the company’s largest floating deep-water platform. It has a processing capacity of 100,000 barrels of oil per day and features 24 well slots with a drilling rig and helipad.
The Olympus platform consists of four tension legs with 16 rotationally lined caissons coated with modified high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Shell used its ocean-bottom seismic technology in order to give geologists a good understanding of the formations below the salt structure.
It is mind blowing to think that these type of structures actually exist and have stood tall against time and the unforgiving forces of nature. However, it begs to ask the question of what would happen to them once all the fossil fuel reserves have been extracted? Would those sea giants become just remnants of our civilization’s unsustainable industrial past? Us humans have achieved countless technological milestones but the aftermath of the revolution is just as hard work as the rigorous planning and engineering that were put into it.