History of the Offshore Industry


This month the global offshore petroleum industry marks the 60th anniversary of completion of the first commercial offshore oil well drilled by a "mobile" rig out of sight of land.

Drilled in October 1947, few at the time acknowledged the unique aspects of the well - drilled in 14 ft of water in the open Gulf of Mexico's Ship Shoal Area off southeastern Louisiana. Later, however, the occasion was declared an important event in the history of the petroleum industry - one that created a whole new phase of finding and producing crude oil and natural gas.

A great deal of the responsibility for keeping the significance of that first offshore well alive fell naturally to the petroleum industry trade press, which celebrates many of the industry's milestones. OFFSHORE magazine, along with numerous other oil industry publications, honored the offshore segment's 50th anniversary a decade ago, in 1997.

Now, in October 2007, www.offshore-mag.com celebrates the industry's 60th anniversary with excerpts from interviews with a number of men who were true pioneers in the offshore industry's history.

An eventful year, 1947 marked many changes, including all-new drilling horizons
New book from the Offshore Energy Center traces the history of the modern offshore petroleum industry from its early beginnings in the 1800s through its significant milestones of development through the middle of the 20th century.

Pending merger of giant drillers signals long life for deepwater operations
Recent mega-mergers within the offshore oil and gas industry, particularly among the ranks of marine drilling contractors, signals a major re-capitalization in the deepwater drilling business, and according to some Wall Street observers, may be the start of a new trend across the entire oil services sector.

Modern offshore fleet comprised of same rig types as in the 1950s
Some might observe that the drilling rig fleet in today’s global offshore oil and gas industry is a far cry from that of the 1950s, when the industry really got up and running.

Working ‘the float’: Bottom rigs sufficient for Gulf in early days, but West Coast needed ‘floaters’
By the early 1960s, development of ship-shaped rigs and “semis” had extended the offshore industry’s water depth drilling capability to nearly 1,000 ft.

Fixed platforms remain important production facilities after more than 60 years
The offshore industry’s ability to drill successfully in increasingly deeper water has almost always exceeded its capacity to produce oil and gas from the discovery wells.

Deepwater boom widens upstream career channel
The modern global upstream industry workforce - whose numbers are growing significantly due to the ongoing boom in deepwater exploration and production of oil and gas - is made up of well-educated, highly competent men and women who have undergone painstaking university and entry-level job training aimed specifically at offshore oil and gas employment.

Tide anything but ebbing for the special offshore vessel industry
Under the guidance of Alden J. “Doc” Laborde, Ocean Drilling and Exploration Co. (Odeco) grew to become one of the largest contract drilling companies in the offshore business.

Click here to see the book, Pioneering Offshore: The Early Years from the Offshore Energy Center.

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