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World's First Production Spar

When I was informed that I was selected to provide the engineering decisions for the topsides of the world’s first production spar platform in 1995, it was a very exciting challenging and moment in my career. This was my first platform design assignment and you can imagine excitement of taking on a $52 million dollar project and the realization was a daunting first BIG offshore assignment. However, management indicated they had great confidence​ in my abilities to be successful, so I jumped into the program with full commitment.

During the design phase, I traveled to Houston, Texas

Once the design was finished, I started flying to New Orleans every Monday morning, as the topsides5were constructed in Morgan City, LA. During the construction phase, I attended the construction meetings and answered questions as they arose. Our contract with McDermott did not allow us to specify the type of welding rods used. Unfortunately, some of the structural components were welded with a rod that had a fairly high minimum ambient temperature rating. Consequently, some of the structural welds did not pass inspection, and had to be redone which put us behind schedule for the equipment installation. During the construction phase, I had operations support in electrical and instrumentation. We also had our own set of inspectors to assure structural integrity.


I flew back to Dallas for the surgery, due to an unexpected personal accident, which required plastic surgery to rebuild my left ear. When the hull and topsides were finished, Oryx had a Christening party, which required special security clearances because the hull was finalized in an area where U. S. Navy work was performed. A few days after the surgery, I flew back to New Orleans for the Christening of the platform Neptune in Pascagoula, MS. After the Christening, the hull was towed out to position. It was really exciting to be in attendance and positioned on one of the small vessels for viewing the up-righting of the hull, a sight and experience of a lifetime! ​


During the installation of both the hull and the topsides, McDermott utilized the derrick barge 50 commonly referred to as the DB-50. In the oil field sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do, some of my remaining stitches had to be removed, so the medic on the derrick barge stepped up to assist. I spent many weeks on this vessel during the installation phase. At one point late in the process, but before we were able to live on the platform, a sudden hurricane came up. We abandoned the platform in around 2 P.M for the safety of the employees and derrick barge. After we left location, we encountered what I like to think of as a long amusement park ride. I personally saw 12 ½ degrees pitch and roll on the inclinometer in the bridge of the DB-50. While on the bridge we were hit by a wave that went over the helideck of the DB-50. Even though the DB-50 is a dynamically positioned ship, we were in a controlled drift as we did not have enough power to hold position. During one of the nights, a rogue wave hit and everyone had to hold on tight to avoid being thrown out of their bunk. After eleven weeks being offshore, working seven days a week and typically 14-16 hours a day with some days at 20 hours, the platform was ready for Oryx personnel to live and move in. Soon after that, I was able to go home.


I learned that prediction of the production of hydrocarbons is not always an exact science. One would have thought since we had taken full well stream samples during the drilling process, we would have had a good idea of each well's potential. Yet the challenge continued, once we were able to bring the first well on, we found the well was capable of producing more than the design criteria for the platform. So debottle-necking the issues were in order. I had to make modifications to the process to get more fluid safely through the piping, and I decided adding another separator to the process. The most critical modification was the modification to the flare boom. At full production of the first well of three pre-drilled, if we had to send the fluids to the flare, we would have literally cooked anyone on the top deck. Consequently, until the flare boom could be extended up and out as well as installing a more efficient flare tip, we had to constrain the output of the well.


The Neptune Spar won the Offshore Technology "Best New Technology Award" in Houston, TX in the year 1998.