Oil rigs

The first offshore drilling operations took place in the Gulf of Mexico in the late 1930s. The first predecessors of modern offshore platforms were installed at the beginning of the Fifties, but it was not until the Seventies that the offshore industry really started booming. In the Eighties, there were advances in drilling technology for moderately deep sea exploitation, while in the Nineties, more attention was focused on oilfields of small dimensions (but not economically attractive) and on the search for deep sea hydrocarbon reserves.
An offshore platform is equipped with the following components:

  • machinery for drilling and maintenance of oil wells;
  • machinery for extracting hydrocarbons;
  • oil, gas and water separation system;
  • security and emergency systems;
  • systems that transport hydrocarbons ashore;
  • laboratories, staff accommodation and common rooms;
  • gas flares to burn gases during emergencies or when activating the facilities.

These different components can be found on a single platform or on interconnected, independent structures. The drilling unit is usually separate and can be removed at the end of the operations for reuse in another extraction site.
Since offshore drilling and extraction are very delicate operations, offshore rigs are equipped with state-of-the-art security systems designed to minimise the environmental impact of the activity. The security systems present on an offshore platform are the following:

  • emergency generator system: activated in the case of malfunction of the main power supply;
  • UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply): security system activated in case of failure of the emergency generator system;
  • emergency shutdown system: steps in to shutdown production in case of an accident;
  • detection systems: detectors are installed on the platform in order to detect the presence of fires, smoke or gas;
  • fire extinguishing systems: the facilities are equipped with fire-fighting systems installed on the platform that use water, which is pumped directly from the sea, foam, carbon dioxide and inert gases. Moreover, the platform itself is made of high temperature-resistant materials to avoid the collapse of the structure in case of a fire. In particular, the area of the wells is isolated from other areas of the platform with blast-resistant walls;
  • safety and evacuation systems are located in strategic positions on the platform;
  • alarm and communication systems: required to signal an emergency situation both internally and externally,  and ask for help in case of an accident.

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