Offshore oil rigs work around the clock worldwide drilling and pumping oil in huge quantities. The Gulf Coast of the United States provides most of the country's offshore oil, drilled and stored by countless offshore oil rigs and rig workers. Different types of offshore oil rigs can drill wells in shallow coastal waters or in waters thousands of feet deep, with offshore drilling technology advancing each year.
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The first commercial offshore oil rig began drilling in 1947 off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico in just 14 feet of water. Permanent platforms were the first offshore oil rigs to drill successfully in deep waters, followed by the drill ships and semi-submersible offshore oil rigs that became widespread in the 1960s. These could reach to a depth of 1,000 feet. Since then, offshore oil rigs have stayed much the same in basic design, but their capabilities have evolved greatly and the amount of offshore oil rigs in use worldwide has skyrocketed.
While the large, permanent platform structures are the most visible and widely known offshore oil rigs, there are actually several types of offshore oil rigs, each of which perform specific, valuable functions for offshore drilling. Along with the platform rigs, offshore oil rigs include semi-submersible rigs, jack-up rigs and drill ships.
Platform rigs are huge structures that easily house over a hundred rig workers. These offshore oil rigs are built at sites where multiple wells will be drilled and well production is high. Platforms are made from concrete and steel and sit directly on the seabed, drilling, pumping and storing oil. Semi-submersible offshore oil rigs move from site to site drilling holes in the seabed in water up to 5,000 feet deep. These offshore oil rigs float with much of the structure underwater when its pontoons are flooded. Anchors help immobilise the semi-submersible offshore oil rig until it has finished drilling and moves to its next location. Jack-up offshore oil rigs are ideal for shallow coastal waters no more than 500 feet deep. Jack-up rigs can move from site to site by lifting and lowering their long legs down into and out of the seabed. Drill ship offshore oil rigs are large ships that can move themselves from location to location, drilling wells in very deep water.
Offshore oil rigs revolutionised the oil industry worldwide by enabling access to previously untapped oil reserves. Today, over 25 per cent of oil produced in the United States comes from offshore oil rigs, making offshore oil rigs vital to domestic energy production and independence.
As important a role as offshore oil rigs play in tapping new reserves, working on an offshore oil rig can be highly dangerous. The environment of an offshore oil rig is ripe for potential explosions due to the large amounts of oil and natural gas present. If an explosion occurs on an offshore oil rig, huge losses of personnel are possible because of the necessary compact design of the rigs. Safety training programs are mandatory on offshore oil rigs and precautions are taken to ensure a safe working environment.
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