Offshore oil and gas platforms can be defined as storage facilities constructed at the shore of a sea for the purpose of storing equipment, material and tools that will be used during the extraction of oil or gas or both from the sea. Offshore oil and gas platforms can also be used to house the crew that will be involved in the entire extraction process.

History of Offshore Platforms in the United States.

The history of offshore oil structures in the United States can be traced back to 1896 at the coast of Summerland, which started with the construction of wooden piers near the shore. This progressed to the later years of 1920s and 1930s. Offshore structures came up in an attempt to meet fuel demands that could not be met by onshore developments. (Cicin, 1986.)

Within the years 1929 and 1950s leases for construction of the offshore structures were limited to the shoreline only but it was only in the late 50s that leases were given for areas away from the ocean. Due to the availability and effectiveness of new technology came the possibility and the urge to advance the already existent structures. By 1963 the government feared that the structure near the shore would pollute the waters and thus began to lease more offshore licenses.

Offshore Oil Platforms

In 1970, the United States experienced a sudden decline in oil development along the shore due to an explosion that spilled oil into a significant portion of the ocean and raising concerns among the environmentalists who came up with groups and laws against ocean population. In 1983, the lands commission of California resumed offshore leasing. Embargoes of the Arab oil then further led to the heavy sales of leases in California, but later in 1984 there was a prevention of lease sales by the congress. (Brantley, 1971)

By 1985, oil reserves had intensified with estimates of about 2.2 billion barrels of oil being produced. These got America to be rated among the largest oil discoverers in 1992. Due to this California has become a popular tourist attraction.

Kinds / Types of Platforms.

Platforms are of three kinds depending on whether they are fixed are on an island, or are floating on the surface of the ocean.

Fixed platforms

These are the more permanent types of platforms. They are anchored deep into the ocean bed by using concrete or very strong metals that are rust resistant. In constructing a permanent platform space is left at the middle for insertion of equipment during the process. They are constructed with an inbuilt facility for storage of the extracted oil; therefore the oil does not come to the surface. They are mainly used in waters of a depth of about 520 meters.

Compliant towers

Offshore Oil Platforms

When constructing this kind of platforms the ridges and metals are constructed in such a way that they are more flexible and slender than the ones for the fixed platforms. These ensure that the ridges are not so rigid to the water waves, forces and hurricanes and therefore are lees prone to destruction. They last longer than the fixed kind. Used in water depths of 450-900 meters.

Semi-submersible platform

These kinds of a platforms looks like a ship but most part of it is submerged into the sea making to less prone to the waves of the sea. These platforms are movable therefore they can be transported from place to place. They are used on water depths of 60-3050 meters.

Jack-up platforms

These are platforms that use jacks which are hydraulic mechanisms to remain still in the water. They are moveable but during production they are anchored into the sea by use jacks. Most commonly they use three jacks. Used in those oceans which are of 170meters depth.

Offshore Oil Platforms

Drill ships

These are types of ships that are custom made for drilling and operations that relate to extraction of oil and gas. They are used to drill in water depths up to 3,660 m.

Floating production systems

These kinds of systems are not used for the extraction of the oil from the sea but are mainly ship like facilities custom made for the storage of the drilled oil or gas.

Tension-leg platform

They are anchored on the sea bed by very stiff and immovable rafts that make it easier for access from the reservoir. They are used for 2000m depth. Looks similar to the submersible but are relatively less costly. (Rooker, 1996)

Offshore Oil Platforms

Normally unmanned installations

This is a simple offshore facility that is less expensive to construct and can be operated without personnel, and only requiring regular visits. They are mainly used in shallow waters were the construction of many normally unmanned installations is more economical.

Conductor Support Systems

This kind of device that uses conductor cables and satellites to transmit data to the main station.

They are usually unmanned but are visited once in a while.

Spar platforms

More or less looks like the tension leg platform but is in the position to move horizontal unlike the tension leg plat form that is anchored vertically. (Rooker, 1996)

Limitations of Offshore Platform

Plat forms are anchored on the seabed making it very risky and could be as fatal as to lead to death in the event that there is a technical hitch, explosion or an accident. Offshore platforms are also prone to terrorist attacks.

Offshore Oil Platforms

In event that the oil spills to the ocean it cases pollution and may lead to extinction of fish. The metals used in the construction of the platforms may also rust and pollute the water.


The oil and gas industry is among the most competitive industries in the business world. Making effective the oil industry is an expensive affair but the results are, a country being ranked as the most industrialized. Therefore platforms should be automated and networked in such a way that the limitations are minimized and costs of labor and equipment are reduced.


Brantley, J.E. (1971). History of oil Well Drilling. Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Co.

Cicin sain, B. 1986. Offshore Oil development in California: Challenges to Governments and to the Public Interest. University of California.

SA Cox, CR Beaver, QR Dokken, and JR Rooker. (1996). Diver-based under water survey techniques used to assess fish populations and fouling community development on offshore oil and gas platform structures. MA Lang publishers.