A peak inside the biggest industry in the world...
Pre-Katrina image of Mars taken by NOAA
I work out at Mars sometimes. I've been out there a few times. It's one of dozens of major platforms in the Gulf. Oh yeah, rigs are for drilling and platforms are for production. Don't ever call a platform a rig. Some platforms have rigs on them, but not all. Anyway, there are HUNDREDS of platforms all over the Gulf. Here's a great series of posters of offshore oil production. This one in particular is useful. It's the lease map of the Gulf of Mexico. It should be posted in every public building in Louisiana, in my opinion. People have no idea how much infrastructure there is offshore, especially on the shelf.
Here's a quick sample of what it looks like.
Here's Mars. Mississippi Canyon 807A.
Here are a couple of great articles on the development of Mars.
Here's a sonar image of the reservoir. This is pretty much all the poor geologists have to go on to find oil. The only surefire way to find oil is by drilling. Some of these holes cost a BILLION dollars to drill. Back in the day, 1 in 7 odds were considered "good." Today, even with the best technology, the best the geologists can do is give you 1 in 3 odds. And you have to bet a billion dollars on their guess.
I read these articles about the geologists and accountants worrying about whether or not Mars would break even and have to hold back laughter. Mars was developed when oil prices were very low- hovering just below $20 a barrel. Now, Mars might be the most profitable field in the entire Gulf of Mexico. It's a elephant (oil-speak for big field) and the platform, by deepwater standards, is actually somewhat small. Ursa, Mars's twin sister, is much larger and has a lot more equipment to separate the oil.
Anyway, Katrina hit and Mars, the pride of Shell's fleet, took a hell of a hit.
This is what it looked like afterwards. The rig (the thing that does the drilling) collapsed. The rig is the size of a 10-story building and is designed to crawl over the deck to drill in different areas. Imagine moving a 10 story skyscraper on Podras, much less moving it in the middle of the Gulf! Anyway, when Katrina hit, the clamps that hold the rig down failed and the rig fell onto the platform. Thankfully, the platform was over engineered like hell and the damage was only moderate.
I graduated from Tulane on the tail end of the Katrina repairs. Prior to my graduation, the Mars Recovery Team, a close knit group of Shell employees and subcontractors, got Mars back up and running in a matter of months. In less than a year, the plaform was producing 20% more oil than when Katrina hit. Shell and the subcontractors work hand-in-glove. One of the most surprising things I've learned working offshore is virtually all the real work is done by subcontractors. Shell employees just sort of monitor things. Only about, say, 20% of the personnel offshore are Shell. The rest are subcontractors.
Anyway, many of these guys have been working together for years, so everybody had an idea who would handle what before a single meeting was held. The long, closeknit relationship between engineers, workers, and Shell was THE factor in getting things back up and running so fast (that and throwing wads of cash at the problem).
They lifted the collapsed rig off with a huge barge bigger than Mars. Recently, they've replaced the rig on Mars with the same rig that failed. The rig has been GREATLY reinforced since then, obviously.
Anyway, that's a little look into my world. I can only delve into so much, being a subcontractor and all. Because of all the bad press right now for the oil industry, they don't like people talking about their jobs too much to the general public. If you ask me, they should be exposing themselves to as much as possible.
Other random oil platform pictures.