Ships

I find ships and things related to marine transportation eternally amazing. That the rest of my family doesn’t is eternally disappointing. Here’s a photo of them standing by the bay with Ouiser in Port Aransas. There’s all kinds of stuff in the water behind them. To the right of Evan is one of the ferries that run back and forth between Port Aransas and the mainland, a short 5 minute free service provided by TxDOT. We took it on the drive back to Austin even though it wasn’t on the fastest route. It’s nothing like the ferry that swallowed up our entire train on our trip from Hamburg to Copenhagen in 2014 but a ferry trip is fun.

To the extreme left of the picture there’s a construction barge with the yellow crane on it doing something to one of the ferry slips on the island side. And to the left of Jo, a ship owned by G2 Ocean is unloading what look like really giant pipe sections. The ship is the Gingko Arrow and arrived here from the port of Tuticorin in south India, carrying wind turbine towers. A few months ago it carried a load of wind turbine blades from India to here. It travels around the southern tip of India, sails across the Arabian sea through the Suez canal into the Med, out through the strait of Gibraltar, across the Atlantic, and to Port Aransas. It is amazing what you can look up on the internet about ship tracks, something we got familiar with during the Ever Given stuckage in the Suez. I love the photos of the tiny backhoe working away against the giant hull of one of the largest container ships in the world. And the memes for the backhoe and the hull with pairs of labels like “my New Year’s Resolutions” and “my Life”, or “the Paris Accord” and “Climate Change”, or “Reason” and “QAnon”.

A few minutes after I took that photo of the family on the bay in Port Aransas, we were treated to this marine parade. Jo captured it in the time lapse video. It was a giant offshore oil rig being carried on a giant ship pulled by a tugboat out front and restrained by two tugs in the back.

This is bp’s newest production platform for the gulf and is named the Argos. It was built in South Korea in the Samsung shipyards and then transferred to one of the world’s biggest heavy lift ships called the Boka Vanguard. How on earth do you transfer a giant oil platform on to a ship? By partially submerging the ship and then floating the cargo on top of it and then unsubmerging the ship again. Here’s a picture taken during the process in South Korea. The hull of the Vanguard is fully submerged, with portions of it’s white and grey superstructure visible like floating towers. The biggest one in left foreground contains the bridge and the accommodations and is located to the portside of the ship’s giant lift deck. The Argos is being towed into position over the Vanguard.

Here are a couple of photo of the same heavy lift ship, the Boka Vanguard, loading and carrying a cruise ship to dry dock in the Bahamas in 2019. And a link to a pretty fun video to watch the operation unfold.

The Argos is going to stay in Ingleside, a port next to Port A, for the next several months where it will be made ready for operations. Then she will be towed to a site 190 miles south of New Orleans and situated over on a very lucrative oil producing area called Mad Dog 2 (hence the name Argos, Odysseus’ dog). When fully functional next year, she will pump out oil from 14 wells almost a mile underwater and produce 140,000 barrels of crude a day. She is a new generation of oil platforms designed to function ultra efficiently and will be profitable even at crude prices of $30/barrel (West Texas Intermediate is trading at around $60 a barrel as I type this). bp has invested $9 billion into the Argos, and she has already taken over a million hours of work to put together. It is possible that when I pump gas at the Rosedale Market a year from now, it may have been sucked out of the ocean floor by the Argos.

When we see Evan heading for a disaster, we often joke that he was born during a disaster. The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform blew up in the gulf on the day of his birth. Eleven people died. Five million barrels of oil spilled into the waters of the gulf creating the worst ecological disaster in the history of oil exploration. It took six months to cap the oil well situated more than a mile underwater. bp paid almost $40 billion in fines, penalties, and expenses to clean up the mess. Oil slowly continues to leak out even today.

While Deepwater Horizon and Argos fulfil two very different functions (Deepwater drilled for oil, Argos extracts the oil from wells like the ones Deepwater drilled), they both indicate the incredible risks, engineering, and financing that go into satisfying our ever increasing need for energy. If all goes according to plans, Argos is expected to be pumping away till 2050, the year Evan turns 40!

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