Independence Hub: ready for 'prime time' (sort of)

The Independence Hub is assembled at Ingleside, Tex., Sept. 2006 (Eddie Seal/Bloomberg News).

The National Geographic Channeland the Discovery Channel have done a good job showcasing some of the “gee whiz” elements of the oil and gas industry, from NG’s pieces on the technology behind the Canadian oil sands and North Sea oil rigs to Discovery’s “Oil, Sweat & Rigs” series, which included the recovery of Shell’s damaged Mars platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
The timing of the latest episode of NG’s MegaStructures is somewhat ironic: the episode that aired in Houston at 9 p.m. on Wednesday was about the the Independence Hub project, the massive natural gas gathering and processing facility in the Gulf that may be out of commission for a month due to an unexpected leak.
The description of the show online, “Man Made: Deep Sea Drillers” goes like this:

“In an attempt to tap some of the most inaccessible natural gas on the planet, five high-tech mega vessels will complete a 1,800 square mile gas network, over a mile and a half below the ocean’s surface. At the heart of the project is the enormous gas-processing platform, the Independence Hub. This massive floating platform stretches nearly the length of a city block and towers almost 34 stories high! If our mega movers succeed in creating this deep sea gas project, the system will produce a whopping 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day- enough to supply nearly 5 million households in the US. But if these mega movers can’t work in perfect synchronization to make this complex gas gathering station sing, the project will be nothing but a two billion dollar mistake. And with our energy needs increasing daily, this record breaking project can’t afford to fail.”

Spoiler alert: they get the thing to work (not withstanding the current problem), but it’s still pretty cool to watch them do it. Last night’s episode shows how the pipeline is welded together on a moving ship and layed along the seabed up to two miles below, the building of the Independence Hub platform on shore (see photo above) and the placement of the moorings under water.
We noticed one small technical error: they used the near-capsize of BP’s Thunder Horse platform as an example of what can happen when vessels break free from their moorings. Thunder Horse’s problems were caused by ballast valves mistakenly opened during the evacuation for Hurricane Ivan.
There are more episodes to follow and last night’s will air again soon, so check local listings.