How Offshore Drilling Works
Reaching these undersea drilling sites poses quite a challenge. After all, drilling on land is an undertaking on its own. How do you drill in lightless ocean depths and transport all that liquid, gas and solid petroleum back to the surface? How do you keep from polluting the ocean? And how do you do all of this, with tons of special equipment, in the middle of rough seas?
To surmount these obstacles, petroleum companies have invested billions into the development of offshore drilling and offshore oil platforms. The first of these platforms was constructed in 1897 at the end of a wharf in California. In the years to follow, oil prospectors pushed out into the ocean, first on piers and then on artificial islands. In 1928, a Texan oilman unveiled the first mobile oil platform for drilling in wetlands. The structure was little more than a barge with a drilling outfit mounted on top, but it set the example for decades of advancements to come.
In the years that followed, petroleum companies moved even farther into the ocean. In 1947, a consortium of oil companies built the first platform that you couldnt see from land in the Gulf of Mexico. Even the North Sea, which endures nearly constant inclement weather, is currently home to many offshore drilling sites [source: The Guardian].
Todays oil rigs are truly gigantic structures. Some are basically floating cities, employing and housing hundreds of people. Other massive production facilities sit atop undersea towers that descend as far as 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) into the depths -- taller than the worlds most ambitious skyscrapers. In an effort to sustain their fossil fuel dependency, humans have built some of the largest floating structures on Earth.
In this article, well examine how petroleum companies go about sniffing out this buried, black gold and the methods they use to extract it.