Tuesday, May 23, 2006
MARS is producing oil again
Let me just say first that I am not an early riser. But how often does one get the opportunity to fly out into the Gulf of Mexico and land on an oil platform?

That's how I spent most of my day yesterday -- up at 5 a.m. and straight to a waiting chopper with some folks from Shell Oil.

Shell has about six deepwater floating oil platforms in the Gulf, including one called the MARS platform, which was the biggest oil producer in the Gulf before Hurricane Katrina. The storm caused MARS' daily production to drop from 140,000 barrels of oil to zero.

We had hoped to visit MARS yesterday, but we couldn't because it had just started producing oil and natural gas again. While an estimated 15 percent of the Gulf's oil rigs are still down, the MARS rig is expected to be at full production in June.

Shell says it has spent nearly $300 million on Gulf recovery because it believes there are at least 71 billion gallons of oil out there waiting to be drilled.

With MARS off-limits, we toured the similar Ram Powell oil platform instead. It was humbling to stand on this structure, which is about the size of a football field. The oil rig that is clamped to the platform weighs as much as two 747 airplanes.

While walking around the rig we had to wear hard hats, safety glasses and steel-tipped shoes. And the stairs -- oh my! There's no elevator, so getting around is a workout.

Here's something that surprised us -- Shell wanted to periodically test the camera we were using to shoot this story. They were afraid the camera could give off a spark and cause a fire as it mixed with the gases in the air. So they monitored the camera and the gases as we walked around the platform.

We spent about an hour touring the rig and then climbed back aboard our helicopter for the hour-long flight back to dry land.
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 10:52 AM ET
  17 Comments
So am I supposed to be excited that our oil companies are able to what, get more oil? Personally I think we should be embarrassed that in the very near future Brazil will be energy independent first. I applaud Brazil on their accomplishment. Funny how many of the oil companies said it couldn't be done or it was too expensive. Well they have been proven wrong. George W is on the alt fuel bandwagon now, I prefer to kick him off of it. There are those of us that have been asking why are we not doing this for too many years to let him act like this was all his idea. Yay, gas will go down to....I don't know 2.75 a gallon. Come on they have figured out we will pay higher prices (because we have to) so the prices will never really drop again. I am tired of being told the lie I am addicted to oil. How can I be addicted if I am offered no other products? I prefer to use ethanol made from sugar cane like Brazil. Since I live in AZ I think many of our energy needs could be met by the sun, it's out all year. Why is no one in this administration on the solar energy bandwagon?
Posted By Anonymous Melina - Mesa, AZ : 11:42 AM ET
Hi Randi,
Well, I must admit, I too am not an early riser , but would have dragged myself out of bed at dawn to be able to visit Mars..So to speak..I'm glad some good news is coming out of the Gulf Coast..Good for them..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 11:48 AM ET
Randi..

More oil is not the solution of the energy crisis, no matter how many places are drill around the world, is going to come to and end, may be in ten years, 50 years, even a hundred years, but it will be exhausted. Ethanol is only a temporary solution to the energy problem. A real solution could be hydrogen fuel cells, they are environmentally sound, and hydrogen is renewable, the most abundant element in the universe, did you get that "most abundant element in the universe." Already there are working prototypes of this technology available by various automakers, the problem lies with politicians and the will to do it, and since the USA has the fox looking after the chickens, very little will come out of it right now.
Posted By Anonymous Walter Pittsburgh : 12:12 PM ET
I saw a report on the MARS rig on the Discovery Channel a couple of days ago; a very impressive platform to be sure.
Posted By Anonymous Robert Anderson, Portland,Oregon : 12:38 PM ET
As these production facilities return on-line, let's hope we see some positive $ results at the pump. Or should we expect to see no impact ? Profits are hard to give up so we probably shouldn't hold our breath waiting for the proce of gas to return to pre-Katrina levels.
Posted By Anonymous John, Binghamton, New York : 12:51 PM ET
All I want to know is will the price of gas go down now? I live in fantasy land...right?
Posted By Anonymous Lisa JAX FL : 12:59 PM ET
MARS is certainly an engineering and technological triumph, however I agree with the other bloggers that I am not overly psyched about more oil. Anyone who thinks that another 140,000 barrels a day will bring down prices is living in la-la land. The oil companies aren't going to lower prices, not when they are having record breaking profits. I would rather have all that engineering money going into cellulosic ethanol, wind, wave and solar power, all the "alternative" energies that were dismissed even a few years ago by the Bush cronies. We have the technology and what we don't have there are plenty of smart people working on. Unfortunately, non of the smart people working on alternative fuels appear to be working in this administration.
Posted By Anonymous Kita, Rochester MN : 1:43 PM ET
In the Texas Panhandle we have abundant sunshine and a seemingly endless supply of wind. Sad that more wind and solar farms aren't being built. They aren't a total answer to our energy problems, but could be a strong addition for our energy needs.
Posted By Anonymous Jack, Amarillo, Texas : 2:11 PM ET
Were we all sympathetic with the oil companies in '98 when the price of oil dropped to $10 a barrel and they had to merge and do huge layoffs? It is good to see that some of the production is back from the Gulf. Still, Hurry hydrogen! Enough with fossil fuels.
Posted By Anonymous TOM DOWD CANTON CT : 2:32 PM ET
So oil rigs are coming back on line, how many were taken out of operation by the hurricane and how are they preparing for this season? What do the folks out there say about alternative fuels? Is Brazil really about to become the first energy independent nation? If so, how are they accomplishing that?
Posted By Anonymous Ashley, El Paso, TX : 2:35 PM ET
The world is a vampire that sucks oil like blood and Bush is Drakula making us hunger for his bloody oil! Now I have Smashing pumkins song playing in my head!
Posted By Anonymous AIS Chickamauga,GA : 2:58 PM ET
WOW, 300 Million dollars.Thats 100 Million short of the last official that retired with a 400 Million dollar retirement package. One guy receives 400 Million and you advertising it took 300 Million to fix it.This is a drop in the bucket compared to what they took from the american people during there so called oil shortage.The big oil companies wait to feed of a disaster and the people pay for it each and everytime.The oil companies and the political red tape that is shoved down the tax paying americans throats each time, but we need to look at it one way, (THE RICH GET RICHER and THE POORER GET POORER), this is the american way.How do they live with themselves and sleep at night knowing the minimum wage making person couldn't afford to go to work today because they didn't have the money to put gas in his/her car,they had to feed there kids first.I will never figure out why the american people keep electing the same officials over and over,the people who have made these laws are the same people who have been running this country into the ground.It's time the american people stand up and say NO MORE.The people run this country, not the red tape political individuals fighting for themselves,there own benefit, there own future not the american people future's.I suggest we report how many people lost there jobs or missed work because they didn't have the money to fill there vehicle, or the senior citizen that couldn't pay for medication because they had to use the money to put gas in there vehicle to get to the doctors appt. Come on its time the american people stand up for whats right, don't settle for what we are told.
Posted By Anonymous Tobi upstate New York : 3:12 PM ET
I would like to say this. If all you people want to go to alternative power, what is stopping you. There are products out there right now and have been there all along. All you have to do is look in the right places and be willing to spend some money to get set up. There are power inverters out there big enough to run all your energy needs and big enough wind mills to generate all the charging power you need for the batteries that supply the inverters from DC power to AC power, you people that are complaining know what I am talking about. I know that the oil prices are high and you think that the Government and or the oil companies control the prices. Please don't make me laugh; I can't believe that you all think this. You need to start doing some research and find out what controls the prices. It all has to do with Supply and Demand. You think that after a hurricane that the country can recover over night. WRONG, The country can't recover over night, and the American People are lucky that the oil companies are willing to spend this kind of money to get these oil rigs back on line. Yes, it will take some time, but like I said, it can't and won't happen overnight. We are lucky that oil producers are as far along as they are. This is why the prices are coming back down. It takes some time to get the supplies back up in the oil reserves. After all, we have to restock the reserves that were given out while all the platforms were down. Its just like restocking your refrigerator, If you don't have the supply, just think of how much time it would take to restock and how much money it would take. Please think before you speak and do the research.
Posted By Anonymous Kenneth Ardoin, Louisiana : 4:26 PM ET
So, what is astonishing about the MARS Platform is that it is not the largest Tension Leg Platform that was built during the 1990's to sail into the Gulf of Mexico but yet the yield of oil and gas is only 140,000 barrels of oil a day.
I worked for the Shell Deepwater Division - Shell E & P Company (SEPCo) back then, in New Orleans at the One Shell Square building on Poydras Ave. Although I came in at the later end of the engineering and drafting of MARS, I planned and tracked the man-hours for the drafting and engineering department for not only MARS, but Ram Powell, URSA and Na Kika.
The URSA TLP was much larger by leaps and bounds both in size and the production rate per capacity of MARS and Ram Powell. URSA as the largest of the three TL Platforms, the expected yield was project to be about 1-1/2 times the amount of MARS. At this time, the largest discovery of crude oil was found in the Mississippi Gulf Canyon at block 810 in the Gulf where URSA was expected to find its finally resting place.

Unfortunately, only months before URSA could come to its finally resting place in the Gulf of Mexico, a hurricane came through the Gulf and collapsed the crude oil submerged floor reserve on the floor bed. Everything was lost including the submerge components and reserve. As a result, URSA had to be moved to a new location which in turn pushed the yield of production downward to only about 13,000 barrels of crude and 20 million cubic feet of gas a day. What baffles the hell out of me is why this 1.5 billion dollar platform was never moved to a location to yield more production compatible for its capacity.
There was a statement above about the cost and feasibility of producing new exploration. Just for my sake I must say that each of these platforms was so expensive that no one oil company could afford to build and put it into production by itself. All the Oil Rigs I am speaking of were joint ventures between multiple companies such as Shell, British Petroleum, Amoco, Conoco and Exxon. Shell was just the lead sponsor for these platforms but each company shares in the engineering, drilling, construction, production and maintenance of these rigs.
Now, I write this for one reason. I am happy that gas cost 2.88 a gallon. Do you know why? Because! I currently live Oklahoma City, OK and while driving down "Hwy 35" I see Oil Pumpers are once again pumping crude oil out of the ground here where as they sat dormant sense the mid 1990's. When I was a pipe fitter ump-teen years ago, my salary was $24 dollars and hour. I was in a Union where they put you through a 4 year training program before you became a Journeyman craft person. I learn the right way, the old timer's way of building quality into whatever I was doing. I was extremely skilled in my craft and proud to be a blue collar worker. Somehow America lost when the Oil Pumpers stopped pumping. A pipe fitters salary is only half of what it was then. Along with this, every other craft, blue collar and white collar including the medical field has seen a substantial lost in salary just because the oil industry dropped off the face of America.
Think, before you criticize those who say, we need to drill for oil and explore our natural resources in the oil reach lands of America. Think back when you only one person in a family had to work for a living instead of two or even when you didn't have to have a second job to substance your family in today's economy.
As long as gas prices stay high, jobs will increase and salaries and quality will clime right alongside the jobs. I know it is a burden at the present, but in time, you will never regret that. In time you'll look back and say, we over come the PaperChase. Incase you don't know what the paper chase is, it's, no matter how many college degrees and certificates you earn, by spending countless hours and dollars, you still can't get a job, that is, except for the one you have at Wal-Mart now.
Isn't that something? Trust me, I know first hand.
That's my hard earned American two cents.

Carlos Esposito
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma USA
Posted By Anonymous Oklahoma City, Oklahoma USA : 4:55 PM ET
I'd like to see CNN do stories on how our enemies are using the money you and I spend on gasoline to fund terrorism. That might wake people up to the need that we must become free of the dependancy on foreign oil.
Posted By Anonymous Tina - Chicago IL : 5:06 PM ET
Kenneth in LA, I have done my research and when you can show me a car that will run on something besides gas that I can actually pull up to the pump and get, I will use it. GM is just introducing the Flex Fuel cars, great..where do I buy E85? You can't yet. Some of us realize that it is supply and demand, but I live in an area that is always higher than the national average and no one can seem to give us a valid reason for it. Likewise solar energy is not so easy to get here as you might think. Maybe you should think about how other parts of the country are different before you speak.
Posted By Anonymous Melina - Mesa, AZ : 5:14 PM ET
While the oil companies are working hard and spending millions of dollars to repair the damage done to the industry due to Hurricane Katrina, the money to make those repairs certainly isn't coming out of company profits.

Every oil company is reporting record profits and they do so by exploiting consumers. I haven't heard of even one over paid oil executive giving up any of their exorbitant perks and salary. It is the consumer who is paying for these expensive repairs.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 5:25 PM ET
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