With Leases in the Gulf of Mexico going into deeper water and farther from shore, Texaco in 1991 understood that significantly more technology and knowledge would be required to explore and produce these reservoirs successfully. With Curtis Burton and Steven Wheeler taking the leadership role, Texaco started the initial framing studies with Intec Engineering and evolved the concept that the industry as a whole would benefit more by doing it together. Texaco then took the concept to industry by selling “shares” in projects which became known as “The DeepStar Project” that is currently managed by Chevron.
Membership grew to 26 Operating companies by the mid 1990s with technology studies strongly influencing successful developments in the Gulf of Mexico, and from there, the technology has translated around the world. Since its start, The DeepStar Project has performed over 300 technical studies and initiatives categorized in 9 different technical areas that include Geosciences, Regulatory, Flow Assurance, Subsea Facilities, Surface Facilities, Drilling and Completion, Reservoir Engineering, Metocean and System Engineering. To keep the program fresh and relevant every 2 years new and diverse projects are added.
Projects now feature operations in over 10,000 ft water depth and include both dry Christmas tree production and pressure boosting subsea production that will allow satellite fields from 50 miles away to successfully produce. Today over 1,800 industry personnel are active in the program with operators, contractors and service companies contributing, monitoring and communicating via The DeepStar Project website and meetings.
Recognizing the pioneering efforts of the following individuals and early companies who participated in the development of the first phase of the DeepStar Project:
Joe Albiez, Tom Ames, Charles Balnaves, Bill Beran, Irving Brooks, Curtis Burton, Jim Chitwood, John Illeman, Clive Llewellyn, Doug Peart, Bob Rayne, George Vance, Steve Wheeler,
Carl Wickizer, Phil Wilbourn, BHP (now BHP Billiton Petroleum), BP, Chevron, Conoco (now ConocoPhillips), Elf (now TOTAL), Exxon (now ExxonMobil), Intec Engineering (now INTECSEA), Marathon Oil Company (now Marathon Oil Corporation), Mobil Oil (now ExxonMobil), Oryx Energy (now Anadarko), Texaco (now Chevron), and Shell Oil Co.
University, University of California (Berkeley)
In 1957, Walter H. Munk, a member of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Earth Sciences Panel, proposed drilling through the earth’s upper crust to sample the Mohorovicic discontinuity, known as the Moho. The discontinuity separates the earth’s crust layer from the earth’s mantle. The mantle is believed to be approximately 1,800 miles thick, encapsulating the earth’s core. Sampling the Moho and the adjoining mantle would provide new scientific information related to the earth’s origin.
The earth’s crust averages about 125,000 feet thick under the continents, but is only 15,000 to 20,000 feet thick under the deeper ocean basins. Consequently, Dr. Munk and his fellow scientists believed the drilling program should be carried out in the ocean using a floating drilling vessel. Another scientist, Willard Bascom, became very interested in the ‘Mohole’ project and took over leadership of a group seeking NSF funding to perform a $15,000 feasibility study. Once NSF agreed to pay for the 1958 study, Willard Bascom’s group commenced working with Global Marine’s Robert Bauer on the design adaptations necessary for Global’s CUSS I drillship to perform anchorless coring operations. They proposed conducting the tests in 11,600 feet of water to demonstrate the feasibility of performing actual drilling operations in the very deep ocean.
In March 1960, the NSF approved the CUSS I’s modification funding and in March 1961 the CUSS I successfully took the first core penetrating 110 feet into the top of the earth’s crust. The coring was done utilizing manually controlled dynamic positioning in 11,700 feet of water near Guadalupe Island, off the West Coast of Baja, California. The Phase I program resulted in 5 holes, some penetrating over 1,000 feet, and retrieving 28 scientifically valuable cores. The cores included 44 feet of volcanic rock, which was the first time in history the hard rock of the earth’s crust had been penetrated. Phase I was the beginning of ultra deepwater drilling and successfully demonstrated that the Mohole could be drilled.
Recognizing the pioneering efforts of the following individuals and companies that contributed to this technology:
Willard Bascom, Robert Bauer, Walter H. Munk Global Marine (now Transocean), National Science Foundation
Project Mohole was a U.S. government-sponsored effort in the late 1950s and early 1960s to drill down to the earth’s lower crust and upper mantle to learn more about the interior composition and geologic history of the planet. Mohole produced technological and scientific innovations vital to the offshore industry and to the nation as a whole. During the 1960s, many segments of the offshore industry worked with Brown & Root on the project to develop path-breaking drilling technology capable of exploring a realm familiar only to science fiction, the earth’s crust. In the process, Brown & Root Marine gained valuable project management experience. As a manager of Project Mohole’s Phase II, Brown & Root showed off its skills in offshore and onshore engineering and design and demonstrated how commercial technology can be applied, modified, refined, and invented for scientific study.
Mohole contemplated something almost unimaginable for the time – drilling in 15,000 to 18,000 feet of water, and then through another 25,000 feet of the earth’s crust to the mantle. The maximum water depth drilled in those days, it must be remembered, was only about 200 feet. Although politics, scientific arguments, and the Vietnam War brought an end to Phase II in 1966, Project Mohole led to engineering and design innovations that benefited both the study of geophysics and the commercial offshore drilling industry.
Recognizing the pioneering efforts of the following individuals that contributed to this technology:
George Brown, Herman Brown, Jules N. Biron, Frank Briggs, Joe Lochridge,
Alan McClure, Rick Rochelle, Bill Schneider, Bill Tonking, Bowman Thomas, Bill Walker