Offshore Energy Center named OTC dinner beneficiary

This story profiles the beneficiary of the Offshore Technology Conference’s awards dinner.

By Tanya Rutledge

What started as the conversion of an abandoned drilling rig into an energy museum has evolved into the centerpiece of an organization that touches not only the offshore industry but the community as well.

The Offshore Energy Center is the beneficiary of this year’s OTC dinner honoring the Distinguished Achievement Award for Companies, Organizations and Individuals.

Sandra Mourton, executive director of the Offshore Energy Center, said the organization was chosen by a member committee as the beneficiary without ever applying.

“We got a call out of the blue, and it was fabulous,” she said. “Not many people call and ask if they can give you money. Usually you have to ask for it. It was completely unexpected.”

The proceeds from the dinner will go toward funding the center, which counts its most visible program as the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum and Education Center. The Galveston museum allows visitors to experience the offshore industry first-hand on a retired jack-up drilling rig that was relocated from Louisiana after being discovered in a shipyard in 1997.

One year later, the Offshore Energy Center opened its Hall of Fame inside the museum as a way to pay tribute to individuals and technologies that took the energy industry to sea. Recipients are honored during the center’s annual Hall of Fame gala.

Even with a small staff of only nine full-time employees, Mourton said, the organization made a concerted effort several years ago to expand its reach outside of the museum and into the community, bringing on its first full-time education director in 2001.

Educational programs include teacher and facilitator training for implementing in-classroom activities, for kindergarten through 12th grade, that focus on science and technology.

The center also operates a Mobile Outfield Learning Unit, which travels the country as a moving science lab for schools. The program is so popular that the center is gathering funding to launch a second unit that will be dedicated to the South and the East Coast.

In addition, the organization also hosts a quarterly executive speaker series, a summer event that enables corporate interns to receive industry training and education and a career day for high school students.