Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” He hit the nail on the head.
I guess that’s why offshore drilling rigs that operate in 10,000 feet of water astound me and so many others covering the industry. It’s impossible to contemplate just how much water these rigs operate in, and even how gigantic they are in the first place. Where did it all start, though? And how did we eventually get to the point where we could drill in 10,000 feet of water?
Here are a few technological breakthroughs that helped us do so.
1. One hundred years ago, we started drilling in shallow coastal waters with long docks that extended out to sea from the shore.
2. Thirty years later, jackup platforms were invented. They had massive legs that extended all the way down to the seafloor. Now we could do away with docks and drill in a couple hundred feet of water.
3. Next is the Spar. Forget the jackup legs and the mooring lines for a second, a Spar is just a large cylinder attached to the rig that extends 350 feet below the water. It weighs the entire rig down tremendously, preventing it from too much vertical motion. These allowed us to work in depths up to 8,500 feet.
4. Pipelay Vessels are massive ships that lay pipe from deepwater fields to onshore facilities sometimes hundreds of miles away. Some are capable of producing 4 miles of pipe per day.
5. Remotely Operated Subsea Vehicles were another breakthrough that allowed us to make repairs and even remove modules from faulty underwater equipment. They’re controlled via umbilical cords with thousands of feet of fiber-optic communication lines.