Offshore Drilling Rig Generations
A qualified Texas or Louisiana offshore injury attorney handling a maritime personal injury lawsuit will be mindful of the technological capability of the vessel involved. Semisubmersible offshore drilling rigs are often categorized by “generation.” A drilling unit’s generation is based on when it was built or upgraded, its maximum operating water depth, and its drilling capability. Your Texas Jones Act lawyer or Texas offshore injury lawyer should be knowledgeable of the generation of the drilling vessel involved in your accident. Basic information regarding offshore drilling rig generations is as follows:
- First Generation. Built in the 1960s, these rigs are capable of drilling (operating) in 800 feet of water or less. Designers include Shell Oil, ODECO, Friede & Goldman, Neptune, Earl & Wright, and Aker Mek Verksted. First generation rigs use mooring (anchors) to stay in place or “keep station.”
- Second generation. Built in the 1970s and capable of drilling in 1,000-1,500 feet of water. These include the Aker H3 design, of which 37 were built, many of which were ultimately upgraded to third generation rigs. Second generation rigs rely on mooring for station keeping. As many as 60 of these vessels are still in operation today.
- Third generation. Built in the early 1980s and capable of operating in 2,500-3,000 feet of water. Many were intended to operate in relatively harsh weather conditions, including in the middle depth Gulf of Mexico and North Sea.
- Fourth generation. Built or upgraded in the late 1980s and capable of drilling in 3,000-7,500 feet of water. In 1985, Reading & Bates completed the Jack Bates, which set the standard for fourth generation offshore drilling rigs with its high variable deck load (VDL) capacity, reduced ocean motions, advanced drilling system, and the capability to drill in 7,500 feet of water. Fourth generation rigs include several moored rig designs as well as those that keep station with “dynamic positioning” (DP), which means thrusters and GPS/satellite systems are utilized to keep the vessels on location. Fourth generation rigs include upgraded designs like Noble’s EVA-4000s as well as new designs such as the Aker H-4.2DP. As many as 40 fourth generation rigs are still in operation.
- Fifth generation. Built in the late 1990s and early 2000s, these are the first “ultra-deepwater” offshore drilling rigs, capable of drilling at 7,500-10,000 feet. They have several automated and computer-controlled systems including drill floor equipment, DP station keeping systems, power management, blowout preventers (BOPs), and pipe handling systems. Many of these rigs have DP systems certified to DP-3, which means they are theoretically “triple redundant” to avoid drift offs. One of the first fifth generation designs presented was the RBS 10,000, which has high-specification outputs including the ability to drill to 10,000 feet, a 10,000-ton deck load capacity, a large open deck area, and further reduced motions. Fifth generation rigs were built during lean economic times, and less than 25 are in operation today.
- Sixth Generation. Built beginning in the mid-2000s, sixth generation rigs are capable of drilling in 10,000 feet or more of water and have modular top drive systems. Some “dual activity” sixth generation rigs have more than one drilling derrick. Examples of sixth generation offshore rigs include the ENSCO 8500 rigs, the Noble Jim Day, and the Noble Danny Adkins. There are around 70 in operation.
- Seventh Generation. Some newer rigs with dual BOPs and higher variable deckloads have been dubbed “seventh generation.”
If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury while working off the shores of Texas or Louisiana, you need to consult with a qualified Houston maritime attorney or Houston Jones Act attorney. The reason is that most offshore drillers, oil companies, and oilfield services companies are based in Houston, and qualified Houston injury lawyers will know where and how to pursue your claim. The Houston Jones Act lawyers and Houston offshore injury lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard can help. They have membership in the prestigious Maritime Law Association. They have assisted clients in a variety of maritime and offshore injury cases involving accidents throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Please contact us now for a free, confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights.