Shell turns Gulf of Mexico oil platform into artificial reef

Shell has turned its Cougar platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico into an artificial reef. 

The platform that produced more than 31 million barrels of oil equivalent over a span of nearly two decades, will now help sustain “a healthy, vibrant Gulf of Mexico ecosystem as an artificial reef,” Shell said on Thursday.

“Cougar marks the end on an era for Shell because this is one of our last fixed leg platforms in the Gulf,” said Tommy Giddings, who served as Shell’s Operations Manager for Cougar in 1990 and now supports the Cougar decommission project. “I’m proud to be part of the Shell team entrusted with restoring the Cougar site and using the platform’s jacket to create an artificial reef that will give divers and fisherman joy for years to come.”

Shell donated the steel frame supporting Cougar’s deck and topside – called the jacket – to the State of Louisiana’s Artificial Reef program and made a $619,000 contribution to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department (LWFD) to help maintain and monitor the reef. The jacket is now providing habitat for a variety of marine life, including red snapper, amberjack, and many reef-dependent fish, Shell said.

“These reefs will provide excellent habitat for marine species and will offer recreational opportunities for divers and fishermen for many years into the future”, Mike McDonough, LDWF Artificial Reef Coordinator.

Shell contracted a specially designed vessel to lift and move the nearly 350 foot tall and 3000-ton jacket to the Ship Shoal 320 block off the coast of LA – an approximately 50 mile open water journey – where it was successfully positioned as an artificial reef. Earlier, the same heavy-lift vessel safely removed the Cougar topside and deck, placing it on a barge for transport back to shore for cleaning and recycling or disposal.

Shell says its engineers identified several opportunities to improve the cost and pace of decommissioning Cougar without compromising safety. For example, Shell re-purposed an out-of-service, land-based workover rig to perform well decommissioning, deployed Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to perform site inspections and cleanup work on the sea floor around the platform, and decommissioning in place the associated subsea infrastructure at the nearby Popeye field, which produced back to Cougar.

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