Cougar Platform Becomes Artificial Reef in Gulf of Mexico

By The Maritime Executive 02-11-2018 05:16:43

In the early 1980’s, Shell’s Cougar platform helped define the outer limits of the Gulf of Mexico. Now, after producing more than 31 million barrels of oil equivalent over a span of nearly two decades, Cougar has been turned into an artificial reef.

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 contracted a specially designed vessel to lift and move the nearly 350-foot tall and 3,000-ton jacket to the Ship Shoal 320 block off the coast of Louisiana - 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 installed the Cougar fixed-leg platform in 1981 in the South Timbalier 300 Block of the Gulf of Mexico in 337 feet of water. Cougar was one of the first platforms in the Gulf of Mexico to feature an onsite computer system able to perform real-time monitoring of the producing wells, which enabled competitive, safe development of the field.  This technology was a precursor to the Integrated Operations Centers and advanced real-time monitoring systems Shell uses today to ensure safe, efficient operations across its global deep-water operations.

At Cougar, Shell also deployed several innovative technologies to grow production volumes by tapping into the nearby Popeye field using a subsea tieback. The success of the project ultimately proved the viability of subsea tiebacks as a low-cost way to tap into nearby oil and gas reservoirs – something Shell is still doing today at its Kaikias Phase One and Coulomb Phase Two projects. 

Over the past decade, Shell has safely decommissioned three of its pioneering Gulf of Mexico platforms – Brazos A-19, South Timbalier 301, and Eugene Island 331A. Shell is also in the process of decommissioning our Brent Field in the North Sea.