What Is an Oil Platform?

Malcolm Tatum

An oil platform is a floating structure that is utilized as part of the process of establishing a site for offshore oil drilling. Sometimes known as an offshore platform, the purpose is to create a base of operations that is capable of supporting the equipment used in drilling, while also providing a solid workspace for everyone involved in the drilling operation. An oil platform is considered to be the seagoing equivalent of the oil rig, a term that is most commonly associated with an oil drilling site that is land-based.

An oil platform.
An oil platform.

The construction of an oil platform usually focuses on the use of metal and other materials to create a viable work space that serves as the basis for an oil drilling operation occurring offshore. Typically, this will mean using means to create a literal platform that is capable of remaining stable as ocean currents shift in direction and severity. It is not unusual for an offshore concrete structure to serve as the basis for the oil platform, with the structure augmented with metal fittings and other elements that help to keep the platform in position and house the equipment that is used for the actual drilling.

Oil platforms allow for offshore oil drilling and extracting.
Oil platforms allow for offshore oil drilling and extracting.

There are a number of different designs used for an oil platform. Many will call for finding ways to anchor the platform to an ocean floor, or at least to reefs that are in close proximity. Supports that are sunk into the ocean floor can help bear the weight of the platform itself plus the equipment and sleeping quarters that are used to house workers. The exact design used will depend greatly on the weather conditions that are common in the section of ocean in which the platform resides. Most companies will make use of specific standards for the oil platform design that are in compliance with regulations that are in common use with land based oil rigs in nearby nations.

While an oil platform is constructed to last for a number of years, the design will also often provide for the quick removal of essential equipment from the site. This makes it possible to harvest sections that can easily be used to create a new drilling site in another location, or even to temporarily remove vital sections in the event of anticipated inclement weather conditions such as a typhoon or a hurricane. The idea of deconstructing an oil platform has becoming increasingly common as more drillers seek to find ways to comply with ecological concerns and also make use of components that were at one time simply left to rust when the oil well was capped and abandoned.

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