Video: Anadarko turns massive Gulf spar into marine habitat

HOUSTON – Anadarko Petroleum Corp. has turned a 7,200-ton cell spar hull into a dark cave-like habitat for fish, sea anemones and other deep-sea creatures 200 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

The Red Hawk spar facility, which began its operations in the Gulf of Mexico a decade ago, is a series of 560-feet-long steel cylinders used to keep Anadarko’s deep-water natural gas production equipment afloat.

The Woodlands oil explorer hopes its $30 million investment to transform it into an artificial reef in late September will be a boon to the fishing industry that supports local economies along the Gulf Coast, said Ryan Kavanagh, Anadarko’s facilities engineer on the Red Hawk project, said in an interview with Fuelfix on Friday.

“When we looked at our options, it was the best way to reutilize the hull to give it a beneficial second life,” Kavanagh said. “There are multiple reefs throughout the Gulf and Lake Pontchartrain” near New Orleans.

Turning old drilling rigs into reefs is nothing new – they’re popular fishing sites – but the seven-celled spar is the first piece of equipment of its kind to find a new purpose as a marine habitat along the Gulf’s sandy seafloor, which in many places lacks dark crevices and shelter for fish, Kavanagh said.

Tugboats last fall pulled the spar to a reefing site in 430 feet of water and dropped it to the bottom of the ocean, in a spot next to two sunken jack-up rigs. Now, fish will be able to swim in and out of a hull that once housed a riser pipe that connected subsea natural gas wells with processing facilities above the surface of the ocean. The facility produced 150 million cubic feet of natural gas a day at its peak.

Anadarko tends to use spar facilities at its Gulf production platforms, including at its Lucius project, which produced its first barrels of oil earlier this month.

The Red Hawk spar was the first so-called cell spar in the industry, Kavanagh said, designed with seven connected steel hulls, rather than the single massive hull seen in truss spars, so it could be built at manufacturing sites in the United States. Oil-equipment manufacturer Technip assembled the spar in Ingleside, Texas a decade ago – a unique effort. Most of Anadarko’s spars are constructed by Technip in Finland.