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5 Main Types of Offshore Oil Rig Platforms

There are many types of offshore platforms used for oil and gas drilling and exploration. Some of these are fixed to the ocean floor and others are floating platforms or vessels. Each is designed for different water depths and purposes.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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How Many Types of Offshore Oil Rigs are There?

Some offshore oil rig systems may include storage or refinery facilities and employ hundreds of maritime workers. There are 5 main types of drilling platforms, each with several unique variations.

Jack-Up Oil Rig

1. Jack-Up Rigs

A jack-up rig (also known as a self-elevating unit) is a type of mobile platform that consists of a buoyant hull fitted with a number of movable legs, capable of raising its hull over the surface of the sea. The buoyant hull enables transportation of the unit and all attached machinery to the desired location.

Once on location, the hull is raised to the required elevation above the sea surface supported by the sea bed. The legs of such units may be designed to penetrate the sea bed, may be fitted with enlarged sections or footings, or may be attached to a bottom mat.

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2. Semi-Submersible Platforms

A semi-submersible is an oil rig designed with a platform-type deck that contains drilling equipment and other machinery supported by pontoon-type columns that are submerged into the water. Semi-submersibles are chosen for their stability. The design concept of partially submerging the rig lessens both rolling and pitching on semi-subs.

Because semi-subs can float on the top of the water, transporting these rigs from location to location is made easier. Some semis are transported via outside vessels, such as tugs or barges, and some have their own propulsion method for transport.

3. Drillships

Drillships are special-purpose ships that are used for drilling on the ocean beds at deep seas. Such offshore drilling ships, relative to their operational peers have come to be regarded as a safe and sure option for extracting oil and gas at the sea.

This is mainly because of the easy transportability that these vessels offer vis-à-vis the semi-subs and other kinds of ships that are used to carry out drilling operations in the high seas.

4. Compliant Towers

Compliant towers are similar to fixed platforms in that they have a steel tubular jacket that is used to support the surface facilities. Unlike fixed platforms, compliant towers yield to the water and wind movements in a manner similar to floating structures. Like fixed platforms, they are secured to the seafloor with piles.

5. Fixed Platforms

Fixed platforms are shallow-water rigs that can be physically attached to the seafloor. They stand on legs of steel or concrete that are piled into the seafloor, or rely on their own weight to remain fixed in place. These platforms are stable, and resilient to wind and water movements – but are only financially viable in shallow waters, usually up to 150m in depth.

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