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Decommissioned Platform Re-Rigged to Sustainable Ecosystem


in DEEPWATER Design thesis for the degree of Bachelor of Architecture Karen Lange - Studio 400 California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 2014. Mark Mulhair. Some rights reserved. Contact: Cover photo: Michon Scott, NASA’s Earth Observatory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. (May 24, 2010)

TABLE OF CONTENTS 04 | ABSTRACT 06 | ISSUE 08 | EXPLORATIONS abstract show experiment 1 experiment 2 experiment 3 vellum

20 | 24 HOUR 24 | DEEPWATER + DISASTER + FALLOUT off shore drilling bp deepwater disaster fallout

36 | SITE RESTORATION + ENERGY REPLACEMENT OPTIONS microbe restoration program energy replacement options


64 | FINAL DESIGN model fabrication

4.22.10 1

11 dead +87 days +200 million barrels of oil +16,000 total miles of coastline full RECOVERY COULD TAKE A GENERATION... OR MORE 2


Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times 3


28° 44’ 17.3” N, 88° 21’ 57.4” W approx. 40 miles se of new Orleans Through the study of the lasting effects of the BP oil spill, this design project will restore the region, as well as produce and study wind, solar, and wave energy. This thesis explores the idea that decommissioned or disaster effected oil rigs are environmentally valuable left in place. Bridging past and future energy production, brown to green, I will develop an architecture that transforms these floating shells of industry into ecosystems conducent not only to repair but render their original use obsolete. Creating a floating environment set on fostering microbial and algae research to clean the site of the Deepwater disaster and then produce sustainable ocean energy.



Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times 5


The cost of permitting, plugging, removing, and disposing of existing wells is greatly outweighed by their potential benefit as an existing grid of floating stations to repurpose for green energy. There is the tension between the two powerful ocean resources, a clean functioning ecosystem that harbors a massive fishing industry and tourism; and the fossil fuels that maintain our urban sprawl lifestyles. The global increase in population, its concentration in cities, and the development of emerging countries lead to a big increase in energy need. This ever-expanding demand for fossil fuels has pushed its collection to the ends of the earth and with it brought the potential for environmental damage and even disaster. There are well over 3,000 active oil and gas platforms currently active in the Gulf of Mexico. These inherently grimy and hazardous places can be repurposed to foster their own revival.



ABSTRACT SHOW The Abstract show was my first chance to present what I had in mind for thesis to professors, other architecture students, and the public in general. I designed a mock oil rig from salvaged parts I gathered at a wrecking yard. These parts were all industrial in nature had been kept outdoors. Most had a patina or some signs of weathering. This showed the relatively dirty nature of oil removal and production. To further drive home the negative effects these caused both directly and indirectly, I simulated the rig to have its own spill throughout the length of the show. With a gas valve in the middle I could control the flow of actual motor oil that was stored in a small reservoir in the top. The slow release of oil moved down through a series of pipes, over and around a fourteen-inch drill bit, and onto the floor where there were a pile of fake dead birds, oil soaked feathers, and dirt. The birds quickly became identifiable with the countless seabirds we all saw in the media following the BP oil spill. This stirred an uneasy feeling out of many of the shows visitors, some of which thought they were looking at actual dead birds.



Experiment 1 All three of my experiments were assembled to create an uneasy tension either between two objects or an object and an idea. Experiment one, being so early into my thesis, had a lot to do with bringing this uneasy feeling to the masses. Starting with a storebought tank of helium, a five-foot diameter weather balloon, and five hundred feet of kite string, I knew I could easily get at lot of campus to take notice. The friendly, childlike nature of a giant bright red balloon stuck out nicely on this sunny day with a light breeze from the west. I released different lengths of kite string at varying times throughout the day. This both made the experiment high enough to be seen from most of campus, including as far as the Performing Arts Center and at other times was low enough in the center of Dexter Lawn to immediately capture the attention of passers by. Over the first hour I found the optimal height of the balloon to be roughly 60 feet. This maximized interaction from students heading both to and from Kennedy library, and the Dexter, business, engineering, and architecture buildings. Once I had a student’s attention most would take at least some interest in what it was attached to. Balloons are often using as attention-grabbing marketing tools and the fact that

this was in the middle of campus, it was definitely something out of place. The vast majority could see the balloon was attached to an object but in the hustle to get to their next class paid it no mind. Then there was the more inquisitive student. When deciding a location within the bustling lawn, I wanted somewhere in the grass that still had heavy foot traffic. So I placed it on a path I had taken hundreds of times over the past three years, the diagonal between the Architecture Building and Engi-

gineering West. With all architecture studios within these two buildings, there is a constant stream of some of campus’s more interfering undergraduates.



Once I had a subject intrigued enough to check out just what exactly was this white cube attached to the string, that’s when observing them really became interesting. What they would come across was the kite string dying precariously into the center of a twelve-inch cube of ice. Often there would be a visible look of further confusion, even when watching them from over one hundred feet away. Their body language would almost always start the same, look the block of ice, look at the balloon, look at the block of ice, etc. Then about half would caulk it up to a balloon and some ice and go about their day. The second forty nine percent would stop look around as if they were being watched, which they were, and then have to touch the ice, tug on the string, or at least give the block a nudge with their foot. Of this group, most of the ones I later approached said they realized that when the ice melted, the string would be released, and thus the balloon would fly away. We all know that releasing balloons into the sky is frowned upon both for littering and its affects on wildlife when ingested. Some said my experiment unsettled them because of this fact. Then there were the final one percent. This ended up being two female friends walking from the engineering west stairs to the Dexter building front steps, so not walking through the grass but quickly detouring out of interest. It only took a few seconds for

one of the two girls to become visibly upset to the point of her to begin kicking the block ice and pull in the weather balloon down toward the ground. After taking a half dozen photos of my experiment being torn apart I quickly ran over to explain myself. Only then did I reveal the string would not actually be released at any point of the ice melt. It in fact had been frozen all the way through the ice and was tethered to the ground with a tent stake. The experiment had been a success. Using simple store bought materials I had created a tension between the melting ice and the giant balloon that was trying to escape. I put people under the impression that the ice would eventually melt and release the balloon into the atmosphere where it could do harm, but people did nothing to stop it. A few said with the amount of ice remaining they were certain that wouldn’t happen for at least a few more hours. Do we have to be at the absolute breaking point for someone to take action? Can environmental harm not be avoided pre disaster or must there be a catastrophe before action is taken to avoid the next one?


Experiment 2 Experiment two was a material study and Vellum Furniture Competition prototype. The material study was magnets, their repellent force, and physical connections required to keep those forces in equilibrium. I again wanted to play with forces, the tension created between them, and illusion. Through a series of magnet spacing iterations I used this experiment to learn the optimal pattern to maximize the repellent force that can be applied to a wooden surface area. This was achieved by using a drill press to put holes at the same diameter as the magnets at predetermined points. I concluded the magnets needed to be as close as possible to avoid falling into the gaps where the magnetic field wasn’t just absent but found to attract each other to the opposite pole through the wood.


Experiment 3 Experiment three was another social experiment meant to prompt a reaction from passers-by. Derived from my earlier abstract project, this thought provoking spectacle called attention the wildlife and ecosystem devastation following the BP disaster in 2010. Combining my red weather balloon from experiment one and my oil soaked seabird from my Abstract project, I attached the two to give the impression that the bird was being held up by the balloon as to simulate flight. The display was placed in front of the Berg Gallery in the Architecture Building, a place of medium foot traffic.

By May of 2010, the media was flooded with images of numerous seabirds, sea lions, turtles, and dolphins. We all saw the disturbing images. Seabirds were especially hard hit getting covered and weighed down with oiled feathers while diving into it for fish. The birds ingest oil when they eat prey that is covered in or has ingested oil. Once birds are covered with oil, they have difficulty flying, or are completely

unable to fly, making feeding and getting away from predators impossible. Birds’ eggs get covered in oil, and the birds are deserting their oiled habitat, leaving their eggs behind. Some of the hardest hit, Brown pelicans had been removed from the endangered species list just five months before the Gulf disaster. Beginning in the autumn months the region posed a threat to new populations as an estimated one billion birds migrated to the Gulf. This annual flight south spread the damage to much of north America as 300 species of birds were greeted with oil-soaked wetlands and tar-balled beaches. Ocean birds, shorebirds, waterbirds, and waterfowl that rely on saltwater habitat were at highest risk. Dawn dish washing detergent ran a marketing campaign showing oil soaked birds, walking a very fine line between helping resolve the catastrophe and profiting from it. In June 22, 2010 National Public Radio reported that although the exact formula is a secret, the key grease-cutting part of Dawn is made from petroleum. “To make the best out there, you have to have some in there,” says Ian Tholking of Procter & Gamble. He says less than oneseventh of Dawn comes from petroleum.” The simulated dead bird I placed in front of the gallery was oil-drenched and represented

all those who were released but were not fully recovered. They quite literally were pushed out to sea. These birds had gone through the initial trauma of coming into contact with the oil, losing their ability to fly and eat, and then for the “lucky” few that didn’t die, the added stress of being captured and handled by humans. Often they are K-selective species, meaning they have low growth rates and cannot quickly bounce back to normal populations numbers. These birds have such low biological fitness after such events they have very low reproductive health, meaning when they die their generation will not be replaced. So the capture

ture and cleaning is just delaying those bird’s death. At the Fort Jackson Bird Rehabilitation Center, a group of oiled brown pelicans are kept together before receiving their baths. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times / June 21, 2010),0,6610369.htmlstory#ixzz2pOBiYMir



VELLUM Levitate is coffee table meets physics experiment. I had been looking forward to this competition since first coming to Cal Poly and it was very rewarding to participate. I became very familiar with the wood shop and even learned how to weld. Using what I had learned in experiment two’s material study and prototyping I set out to create a piece for the Vellum Furniture Competition. I knew the science was there to support my idea of having a levitating tabletop. So the connections were the most important factor in lining up the magnetic fields. The end result was a grid of salvaged California Redwood squares floating in magnetic equilibrium, held in place by tensioned steel cables. When a load is applied the table reacts not only under the weight but oscillates throughout the table, reacting in unexpected ways. Much like my thesis seeks to infuse a decommissioned oil rig with contrasting technology, my table starts with salvaged wood and steel and infused a new element to create something completely different.


Platform Holly, Venoco Inc. Linda Krop, Environmental Law and Policy. UCSB


Site Research [24 Hour] installed by the Arco Company. The platform produces both oil and gas that are transported to the Ellwood Onshore Facility via underwater pipeline. Here it is stored in tanks until first being transferred via pipeline to the Ellwood Marine Terminal, then loaded onto barges and taken to refineries in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Two sea kayaks, life preservers, cameras, drinking water, extra clothes, and we were off. Launching from the southern face of Coal Oil Point in Isla Vista, California, we set out on a day of open ocean observation at Platform Holly. Holly sits in State waters two miles offshore in the Santa Barbara Channel and sits in 211 feet of water. Built in 1966, she was originally

Ellwood Onshore Facility source: Linda Krop, Environmental Law and Policy. UCSB College of Law

The purpose of this excursion was to become familiar with oil platforms, the ocean, and the relationship between the two. The loose requirement of spending twenty-four hours on site was shortened by the daylight required to safely navigate the open ocean and my limited experience kayaking. My good friend Carter and I were not entirely sure what we would come across but we felt ready all the same. Carter has experience on the water including being an avid kite surfer and having participated in a charity paddleboard ride from the Channel Islands to Santa Barbara. Pushing of at just after 10am allowed us roughly 7 hours of daylight before the 4:51pm sunset. Other factors taken into consideration on this partly cloudy day were, air temperature of 68 degrees, wind speed of 4mph with gusts of 6mph, precipitation probability of 0%, and surface currents that were easily piloted. It wasn’t far off shore before we started encountering

slicks of naturally seeping oil floating on the waters surface. These seeps have a long history on the Central California coast, beginning with the native Chumash tribe who had collected oil from the area for a variety of uses. By refining asphaltum, a tar-like material found at these natural seeps, they caulked their wooden plank canoes that they then used to traverse the same waters we were patrolling today. Asphaltums adhesive and waterproofing properties also proved useful for making hunting weapons, baskets, and water bottles. Later early European and Spanish settlers used the seeping oil for lubrication and lamp oil. These expanded uses eventually lead to drilling for oil and the discovery of over 50 California oil fields. Coal Oil Points proximity to the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) allows their Marine Biology Department to run extensive studies in the area. In a 2009 study UCSB along with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), successfully measured the scope of what is coming out of the sea floor. “These natural seeps release some 20 to 25 tons of oil daily… providing an ideal laboratory to investigate the fate of oil in the coastal ocean,” says oceanographer David Valentine of UCSB. This study also examined the final step in the life cycle of the oil, where does it all end up?


MAP OF OUR ROUTE AROUND platform holly



“So much oil seeps up and floats on the sea surface. It’s something we’ve long wondered. We know some of it will come ashore as tar balls, but it doesn’t stick around. And then there are massive slicks.You can see them, sometimes extending 20 miles from the seeps. But what is really their fate? It’s a good bet that it ends up in the sediments because it’s not ending up on land. It’s not dissolving in ocean water.” As this oil has been seeping for millennia, I believe it makes an excellent case study for what has happened in the gulf as well as what might end up being the fate of the oil that was released there. This is why in lieu of traveling to the gulf and managing to get forty miles off the coast, this rig allowed adequate alternate site research.

Along with the oil seeps there are large areas of methane releases, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. We first encountered the methane by noticing small amounts of bubbling off to the right of our kayaks, quickly followed by the overpowering smell of the gas. Realizing this probably wasn’t the healthiest path we began scanning for these areas and calling out to each other in order to steer around them. Unsure of the access restrictions around the platform we decided to head just north toward a support vessel anchored nearby. Then we would cut to the south when within a more manageable distance. On this course we encountered sea lions that barked from a large cylindrical buoy floating on its side. As we approached and circled the marker, the barks turned to hisses as the larger sea lion stuck out its chest in a show of force.

On our return trip we came across a kelp forest so thick that I could feel the friction slow ing down my kayak. A Snowy Egret sat atop a dense patch of the forest seeming to be standing on water. I had briefly studied the California Kelp Forests in a wildlife conservation biology course and had always marveled at the amount of biodiversity that they support. Kelp forests are an appealing habitat to a vast amount of sea life, both as a refuge from ocean predators and as a source of food. If we hadn’t been over a mile still offshore, I would have liked to send more time here and possibly get in the water. The amount of seals we had seen in the area the hour leading up to this area and the fact that great white attacks are not uncommon in the Santa Barbara Channel, quickly deterred this desire.

When we finally arrived there was a hum of machinery that we can only assume was pumping operations. There was no people visible topside, which gave it an eerie feel, like coming upon a deserted vessel with no sign of the crew. We took thirty minutes to observe, take samples, photograph, and note the activities.



Central Coast Research

Jadd Joseph

I am planning a series of visits to sites in California, including the Cal Poly Marine Science Research and Education Pier.

Jadd Joseph is a certified rig inspector and a friend of mine. Jadd studied welding inspection at the Ocean Corporation in Houston, Texas. His inspections determine the quality and all around safety of the platform. Throughout the year he will be an invaluable source for information on offshore rig structure, safety, and life in general. As well as providing images of both the rigs he visits and the wildlife around them.

Humpback Whale / Platform Gail Santa Barbara Channel, April 19, 2009

Upon landing on shore Carter and I both noticed how uneasy we felt with a classic case of sea legs, but honestly more than anything we were happy to be back on shore having nothing gone horribly wrong. Twenty-four hours after my “twenty-four hour” site visit, I am as sore as I would expect to be after kayaking four plus miles. What I am surprised by is how oily my skin still feels. Mostly my hands, which had the most contact with the water, but also my arms and hair are noticeably slick, after being absorbed into my skin

Cal Poly Marine Operations, Rincon Beach, California Spencer Weiner, Los Angeles Times, (June 28, 2013)

30’ Whale Shark, Jadd Joeseph Transocean Nautilus Gulf of Mexico, (October 11, 2013)

Rigs inspected to date: Transocean Nautilus, Gulf of Mexico Ensco 8506, Gulf of Mexico Transocean Prospect, North Sea

Jadd Joseph, Transocean Nautilus Gulf of Mexico, (October 11, 2013)


Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times / July 10, 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Capsizing 23 U.S. Coast Guard / April 22, 2010

deepwater +disaster +fallout


Starting in the early 1930s, the Texas Company (Texaco) developed the first mobile steel barges for drilling in the brackish coastal areas of the gulf. Since then these waters have become highly contested by corporations, states, environmental agencies, and the fishing/shrimping industry. Even internationally, Mexico believes wells are being purposefully placed near the maritime boarder and are draining oil fields under Mexican waters.

BP filling station, Getty Images London, United Kingdom, (February 1, 2011)


BP, formally British Petroleum, is a British multinational energy company specializing in oil and gas. Measured by 2012 revenues, BP is currently the fifth largest energy company and sixth largest when measured by overall oil and gas production. In a constant push for increasing revenue the company now operates in every area of the industry, including exploration, production, refining, distribution, marketing, petrochemicals, power generation, and trading. In 2000 BP merged with Amoco and decided to rebrand themselves as “Beyond Petroleum” as a sign of their commitment to alternative energy. This campaign was a hot button issue praised by most business press but criticized by skeptics as what is known as “greenwashing.” The fact is that, “Though BP was the first oil company to acknowledge a link between energy use and global warming, the company lost its green credibility when it abruptly withdrew from the Global Climate Coalition. So in 2000, …[BP] invested heavily in its ‘Beyond Petroleum’ campaign to reintroduce itself as a socially conscious company.”1 This was done to negate the negative press after leaving a coalition whose main goal was to promote action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This pledge short lived and “In early April, Europe’s second-largest energy company quiet

ly announced that it was divesting of its wind power assets, part of what the company referred to as BP’s ‘continuing effort to become a more focused oil and gas company and re-position the company for sustainable growth into the future.’ ” The decision followed BP’s 2011 exit from solar power after 40 years in the business. Still, Mark Finley, general manager of BP’s Global Energy Markets and US Economics, said the company still has alternative energy bonafides to burnish. In an e-mailed response to questions from CNBC, he touted the company’s involvement in biofuels and ethanol. He expects renewable energy to continue to grow in importance for company in the decades to come. “‘Alternative and renewable energies will be an important part of the energy mix moving forward, though the scale to which they contribute may grow at a slower pace than some predicted a few years ago.’ Finley said.” 3

1.“‘Beyond Petroleum’ Pays Off For BP”, Environmental Leader, beyond-petroleum-pays-off-for-bp, (January 15, 2008) 2.“‘Beyond Petroleum’ No More? BP Goes Back to Basics”, CNBC, (April 20, 2013) 3. CNBC.

DEEPWATER The Deepwater Horizon, an ultra-deepwater, dynamically positioned, semi-submersible offshore drilling rig was located in the Mississippi Canyon about 40 miles off the Louisiana coast at 28° 44’ 17.3” N, 88° 21’ 57.4” W. Present day sea-based offshore platforms and drilling rigs are some of the largest moveable man-made structures in the world. Horizon was designed by Reading & Bates RBS-8M and built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in 2000 at the Ulsan shipyard in South Korea. She is owned by Transocean, registered in Panama, and leased to BP for drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico until 2013. The rig was an engineering marvel and in September of 2009 it set the record for drilling the world´s deepest oil well at roughly seven miles deep. This was even deeper than the rig’s official drilling specification. All of that former glory now gone, the well is now infamous for being the site of the single largest offshore oil spill in history as the well’s disaster unfolded over a 3 month period and captured the attention of the world.

The Deepwater Horizon. Transocean.

On April 20, 2010 during the final stages of closing an exploratory well there was massive blowback eruption that shot an estimated 240 feet into the air. The geyser was a combination of mud, seawater, and methane gas, which quickly became highly explosive. Within seconds the entire platform became engulfed,

setting off a series of secondary explosions. The automatic blowout preventer system had failed and the well was now completely beyond anyone’s control. At the time of the explosion, there were 126 crew on board. After an almost immediate call for evacuation, it was determined eleven crew were missing and a

massive search and rescue effort was launched. The rest of the crew escaped in life rafts, were picked up by support ships, and numerous injured were airlifted to hospitals. It was later determined that the eleven workers missing had most likely died in the initial explosion.


DISASTER The catastrophic explosion sank the rig two days later on April 22, 2010. By May 27th, the USGS approximated between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day were being released from the now disconnected wellhead, though the rate became the subject of intense debate. Anywhere from the government’s estimate of 176 million gallons and BP’s estimate of 103 million gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico over the next three months. During that time a series of remotely operated underwater vehicles tried to manually set off the blowout preventer, as well as place what is known as a “top hat” on the well to stem the flow. These efforts continued until July 15, 2010, when BP announced that the leak had stopped for the first time in 88 days. In an ongoing court case over just how extensive the damage is, the Federal Government argued in October 2013 that the amount of oil that flowed from BP’s well was the equivalent of 16 Exxon Valdez oil spills.

Deepwater Horizon Beginning to Capsize Gulf of Mexico, (April 22, 2010) photogalleries/100527-gulf-oil-spill-nation-rigpictures/?rptregcta=reg_free_np&rptregcampaign=20131016_


A DISASTER IN THE MAKING The Deepwater Horizon had a number of defenses against blowouts. But members of the crew hesitated at critical moments and failed to coordinate a response in three key areas DRILL SHACK The crew calls the bridge about a well control situation and then tries to stop the blowout. Someone here may have later tried to activate an emergency shutdown of systems on the drilling floor, but it does not prevent the explosions. None of the workers in the shack survive.

A mixture, including mud and gas, initially gushes out of the well and cascades off the drilling floor. It then shoots up inside the derrick. A worker on a crane sees gas spreading across the rig.

BRIDGE Gas sensors go off but the bridge does not activate emergency systems that might have prevented gas from spreading or igniting. The crew members on the bridge also do not immediately sound a general alarm to start evacuation. While they inform the engine control room of a well control situation, they tell them nothing about the erupting mud or gas alarms. ENGINE CONTROL ROOM A chief mechanic and three others in the engine control room are aware of gas on the rig but do not activate an emergency shutdown. They later say that the protocol is to wait for instructions from the bridge. Engines 3 and 6 are believed to be at the center of two major explosions. The four men are caught between the blasts, but all survive.



An oiled brown pelican gets pre-treatment to loosen up the oil before being bathed Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times


FALLOUT Within days of the horrific explosion there were multiple containment, collection, and dispersal methods being implemented to deal with the oil that was now flowing uncontrollably. Floating buoy barriers, skimming and vacuuming boats, controlled burns, and chemical dispersants all were used in an attempt to stop the oil before it reached the U.S. shoreline. The slick produced covered almost 30,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of South Carolina. The slick was extremely unpredictable, changing positions daily depending on weather conditions. “By the first week in June, oil had come ashore in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, with significant wildlife fatalities in Louisiana. In the weeks following the accident, scientists discovered enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, raising concerns about ecological harm far below the surface that would be difficult to assess.”1 These maps show the BP oil spill placed over major metropolitan areas for scale. Top: Southern California, the slick reaches from San Diego to San Luis Obispo Counties and as far east as the Mojave Desert. Bottom: The slick covers Washington D.C., Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and almost the entire state of New Jersey. 1. “Deepwater Horizon oil spill”, Cutler J. Cleveland, the Encyclopedia of Earth (February 22, 2013)



At 3:30 a.m., a cleanup crew works through the night, using tractors to rake up oil globs and tar on the white beaches of Pensacola, Fla. Carolyn Cole / Los Times / June 25, 2010 31

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a study to follow the environmental impacts and estimates that up to 32 National Wildlife Refuges were directly affected by oil and tar balls reaching the shores. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) studied the giant oil plumes at sea and in June of 2010 found they directly affecting the wellbeing of sea life, later leading to a fishing ban in 36% of federal waters in the Gulf. One of 10 oiled Kemp’s Ridley turtles recovered June 14 Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles Times, (June 14, 2010),0,6610369.htmlstory#ixzz2mfmQeEfs_rw_membership_r1p_us_ot_w#close-modal Barataria Bay, Louisiana . Associated Press


Luke Sharrett / The New York Times

Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, testified about the oil spill before the House subcommittee on oversight and investigations on June 17th, 2010. 33

Kari Goodnough / Bloomberg News

Empty chairs fill the beach as oil washes ashore in Orange Beach, Alabama


35 Rendering of Principle Power’s WindFloat

site restoration +energy replacement options 36

The spill damaged sea-floor life for fifty-six square miles in Gulf of Mexico. A population of superefficient oil-eating microbes thrived near the waters surface, cleaning up over fifty percent of the surface oil. Paul Montagna, a professor of ecosystems and modeling at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, said “the refrigerator-cold water a mile beneath the surface means oil takes longer to decay than in shallower waters, where spill recovery has taken decades.” That means full recovery could take a generation or more. “The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little is known about it.The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of eons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” - Leopold, Aldo. The Round River



microbe restoration Naturally occurring oil seeps have always existed in the Gulf of Mexico and over many of the world’s oil reserves. Over the millennia certain bacteria have evolved to feed on this constant food source, which each year can total as much as 1.4 million barrels into the gulf. According to University of Tennessee researcher Terry Hazen, the Gulf has a “greater-than-believed” ability to clean itself up after an oil spill and may have mitigated the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Once the wellhead was finally sealed, scientists began to notice all obvious traces of the crude oil were disappearing much faster than nearly all had predicted. The microbes feed on the hydrocarbons that make up the crude oil by using oxygen in the seawater to oxidize them, releasing carbon dioxide.

Oil Eating Bacteria. Auto Evolution.

On the seafloor oxygen is very rare, so for the microbes to continue to digest the oil they must be anaerobic, meaning they do not oxygen to survive. There are many different viewpoints within the scientific community of just how much oil has settled on the seabed and what its eventual fate will be.


“We weren’t able to analyze as many samples as we would have liked,” says Pamela Morris of the University of South Carolina, who focuses on microorganisms in the marine environment. “But in these deep-sea subsurface sediments, it does look like the microbial communities are becoming enriched in species that are capable of anaerobic oil degradation near the spill area. Some of the oil most likely settled in some of these deep regions in the Gulf of Mexico. There’s no idea of how much of it did… we need to get a better feel for what’s going on in these deep-sea sediments that are contaminated.”

It is important however, to remember oil-eating microbes may have saved the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 but they are not a global cleanup strategy. They worked only because oil had been naturally seeping from this region for millennia. As oil exploration is pushed farther and farther into previously inaccessible reaches, such as the ice caps, microbes will not be an option. An Alaskan oil spill will have very different temperature and salinity ranges. All of the methods of removing oil from open water are useless once that oil makes landfall and the existing procedures to clean beaches

and marshes reeks havoc on their delicate ecosystems. Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Tulane Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Dr. Som Somasundaran of Columbia University are currently developing “a microorganism able to digest the oil and the product created by the microorganism after consuming the oil would be harmless to the environment.” Though still early in their research, these two labs hope to one day produce a bacterium that when spread would “eat” its way down cleaning up buried oil along the way, rehabilitating this fragile habitat without any further damage or disturbance.

Images taken from video shot by BP of the well head during preparations for putting a new containment cap in place. BP PLC, via Associated Press.


oil’s Slippery Slope


Energy Replacement OPtions Once the site is fully restored to it’s original functioning ecosystem the platform will alter it’s primary mission to the research of sustainable open ocean energy production. Systems currently in development will be explored, Principle Power’s WindFloat and the Norwegian foundation DNV’s SUNdy.

Principle Power targets the rapidly maturing offshore wind sector by eliminating current deepwater limitations with an innovative solution. WindFloat is a floating support structure for offshore wind turbines with a simple, economic and patented design. The innovative features of the WindFloat dampen wave and turbine induced motion, enabling wind turbines to be sited in previously inaccessible locations where water depth exceeds 50m and wind resources are superior. Further, economic efficiency is maximized by reducing the need for offshore heavylift operations during final assembly deployment and commissioning. Multiple projects are in development for the installation of commercial Windfloat units in both European and US offshore wind farms.


Each floating support structure, known as the WindFloat, is a three-column floater with a single turbine on one of the columns, capable of supporting from 3 to over 10 megawatt commercial offshore wind turbines (the prototype features a Vestas 2.0 MW wind turbine) in locations previously inaccessible due to water depth, waves, and turbine-induced motion. The WindFloat design also allows it to be fully as-

The first full-scale prototype of WindFloat being towed off the coast of Aguçadoura, Portugal. Principle Power Inc. 1.Principle Power Inc. products/windfloat

Researchers at DNV have developed a dynamic floating offshore solar field concept. Dubbed SUNdy, the core feature of the concept is a hexagonal array which floats on a sea surface. A collection of these arrays, totaling 4,200 solar panels, forms a solar island the size of a large football stadium, capable of generating 2 MW of power. Multiple islands connected together make up a solar field of 50 MW or more, producing enough electricity for 30,000 people. “The renewable energy market is rapidly changing due in main part to climate change, soaring global demand for electricity, and scarcity of fossil fuels. For DNV, technological innovation is a key element in our strategy to help address these concerns and SUNdy, as an example of our research work, can help illustrate future applications for solar power as a truly sustainable resource,” says Bjørn Tore Markussen, Chief Operational Officer for DNV KEMA Asia Pacific. “Indeed, renewable energy is becoming increasingly important in nations across the globe, including Asia, and with such a readily available and abundant source that is rapidly approaching grid parity levels, it’s solar

Rendering of DNV’s floating solar field SUNdy rapidly approaching grid parity levels, it’s solar power that’s attracting a lot of interest in this part of the world.” The SUNdy concept is made possible using thin-film 560 W solar panels which are flexible and lighter than the traditional rigid glass-based modules, allowing them to undulate with the ocean’s surface, explains Sanjay Kuttan, Managing Director of the DNV Clean Technology Centre in Singapore. “The key to creating an

ocean-based structure of this size is the use of a tension-only design. Rather like a spider’s web, this dynamic, compliant structure yields to the waves, yet is capable of withstanding considerable external loads acting upon it.” 1.“DNV Unveils its SUNdy Floating Solar Field Concept”, Environmental Leader, forum_03_2012/DNV_unveils_its_SUNdy_floating_ solar_field_concept.asp, (December 13, 2012)


Tidal Power Tidal power converts the energy of tides into electricity. Though not yet widely used, the tides are much more predictable than wind energy and solar power and tidal power has great potential for future electricity generation. The rig will serve as platform for open ocean experimentation of applications of this developing technology.


Ocean thermal energy conversion Ocean thermal energy conversion uses the temperature difference between cooler deep and warmer shallow or surface ocean waters to run a heat engine and produce useful work, usually in the form of electricity. OTEC has the potential to offer global amounts of energy that are 10 to 100 times greater than other ocean energy options such as wave power A biotechnology company has genetically modified a rice plant that can thrive in salt water, providing your nation with the opportunity to feed its citizens while bolstering its economy.



This map of the northern Gulf of Mexico shows the nearly 4,000 active oil and gas platforms. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Site preparation


Project in DEEPWATER is the point of flux where architecture, engineering, and science leave their rigid disciplines and meet to produce more effective platform for launching experiments, while at the same time being a grand experiment in of itself. Can a platform set on restoring a disaster-ridden ecology; become a successful floating self-sustaining ecology in and of itself? Addressing larger issues such as climate change, rising sea levels, and over population.


shell of industry becomes the beginnings of a new Habitable ecosystem Many of the decommissioned rigs modules can be removed, leaving ample room for it to serve it’s new purpose. Other components such as cranes will be left intact as they may deem useful in future operations. A system of mangrove trees will be introduced to produce a more habitable ecosystem for the resident scientists to spend vast amounts of time.

Drilling components The miles of drilling pipe left behind will play a critical role, as it finds a second life as structural members. This high-strength steel is abundant, on-site, and weather resistant.


The engineering possibilities

Draugen is an oil field in the Norwegian Sea at a sea depth of 250 meters.The field has been developed with a concrete fixed facility and integrated topside. Stabilized oil is stored in tanks at the base of the facility. Two pipelines are used to transport the oil from the facility to a floating loading buoy. Shell Petroleum owns this oil platform and it is operational to this day.

Sweden’s Draugen Oil Platform, John L Downes. draugen_platform_oil_rig_3.jpg


Steel jacket being towed offshore.


Shell Olympus platform in the Gulf of Mexico Shell 51 /

A sample rig A semi-submersible rig, known as a mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU), has been chosen because of its ability to be easily repositioned to areas where it will have the greatest cleanup impact. They can be towed into position by a tugboat and anchored, or moved by and kept in position by their own azimuth thrusters with dynamic positioning. These rigs are stable enough to preform dangerous offshore drilling for oil and gas and will make an ideal foundation to preform marine experiments.

Shell Olympus platform fact sheet. images-text/other/deep-water-infographics.jpg



design development


section show



Wind turbines put out the same energy output as a ship’s diesel engine.



decommissioned rig


networked structure supports vertical ecol-

plug-in wet +dry labs

new tower structure attaches to oil derrick

pre-fabricated, program is shipped to site to ensure quality assure needed for laboratories

Vertical park Rainwater Collection Farming

plug-in wet +dry labs

Habitable ecosystem Migratory birds

tide pools artificial reef scuba diving

jungle gardens walking paths wave mitigation


PROGRAM A marine research center at the site of the BP oil spill would facilitate the necessary tests and long lasting studies required to clean the damage. A decommissioned oil platform will create this floating ecosystem conducent to making a real positive change. Leaving an existing rig mostly intact, lab modules would be manufactured on shore, shipped to the site, and plugged into the existing superstructure. The existing rig can also be reconfigured to best suit the need of its new purpose.

Program Requirements: Laboratory Wet & dry laboratories Storage for scientiďŹ c and historical records/artifacts Computer Lab Administration OfďŹ ce Lecture & Teaching Classroom, theatre, conference rooms Collections archive/storage, object preparation, object cataloging Boat Dock/Dive Operations Dock & Dive operations & support spaces Living/Housing Accommodations, dining and lounge space

Areas of biological research




Additional Areas of engineering research

floating city






crows nest

dry labs wind turbines

heli pad training tank

wet labs

mangrove forest

main deck

retractable dock dive operations



final design





Crane platforms are easily capable of rearranging a rig’s configuration.

constructability A semi-submersible rig, known as a mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU), has been chosen because of its ability to be easily repositioned to areas where it will have the greatest cleanup impact. They can be towed into position by a tugboat and anchored, or moved by and kept in position by their own azimuth thrusters with dynamic positioning. These rigs are stable enough to preform dangerous offshore drilling for oil and gas and will make an ideal foundation to preform marine experiments.

pre-fabricated, program is shipped to site to ensure quality assurance needed for laboratories Labs are plugged into mostly existing oil derrick structure with minimal effort and construction cost.


science dry labs wet labs Aquariums lecture hall mangrove forest tidal pools artifical reefs dive operations




wind farm floating solar arrays rainwater collection greywater collection composting system training dive tank retractable dock

living quarters for 120 scientists and 40 engineers lounge spaces galley + mess hall walking paths gardens + farming gym, movie theater, pool

prefabricated plug-in wet +dry labs networked structure supports vertical ecology new tower structure attaches to oil derrick

Decommissioned rig Vertical park Rainwater Collection Farming

Habitable ecosystem Migratory birds dive tank supports on-board Experiments

Classrooms, a lecture hall, a computer lab, and a 50 person auditorium are added Existing systems are retrofitted to allow for rainwater collection, gray-water storage, and a composting system

tide pools Artificial reef scuba diving

existing rig drilling components are reused to create ecosystem foundation, as well as disperse gray-water and hold compost

jungle gardens and walking paths are created. Mangrove forest acts as wave mitigation. Artificial reefs take root below.



model fabrication In my search for an accurate representation of a steel project I determined what better way to do than with actual steel stock, most of which had a previous use and was found at our metal shop on campus.

Teaching myself to weld became an unexpected bonus, as I attained a better understanding for the structural capabilities, limitations, and overall behavior of this proven building material.

Multiple machine, engine, and electronic components from a salvage yard were recycled to represent the engineering and nautical aspects of the rig.









it’s time to find a sustainable solution to these looming short and long term disasters... Repurpose a Decommissioned Oil Platform. Take the Oil Out. Restore a damaged ecology. Create Sustainable Hubs. Render their original purpose useless. Project in DEEPWATER is the point of flux where architecture, engineering, and science leave their rigid disciplines and meet to produce more effective platform for launching experiments, while at the same time being a grand experiment in of itself. Can a platform set on restoring a disaster-ridden ecology; become a successful floating self-sustaining ecology in and of itself? Addressing larger issues such as climate change, rising sea levels, and over population.


about the author

Mark Mulhair CAL POLY, SAN LUIS OBISPO Architecture major Sustainable environments minor science enthusiast Designer + fabricator. I lean towards sustainable waterfront projects inspired 6 years in the navy.

consultants Sean Mulligan scripps research institute

Blake Herrschaft Senior Engineer at DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability



MANY animals were harmed in the making OF THIS THESIS.


A sustainable example for decommissioned oil platforms.