‘Thundering’ across the Pacific (at 11 knots)

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A 60,000-ton production and drilling quarters unit spends two months in transit from Korea to Texas

A 60,000-ton production and drilling quarters unit spends two months in transit from Korea to Texas

What is six times the weight of the Eiffel Tower, two times the area of the Taj Mahal and about as tall as the Great Pyramid at Giza … and floats? That would be Thunder Horse. And how did it travel 16,000 miles from Asia to the United States? Why, on board a ship, of course.

Thunder Horse is the largest semisubmersible PDQ unit (production and drilling quarters) ever built with a light displacement — 59,500 metric tons — for transport from the building yard in Korea to Corpus Christi, Texas. It measures 512 feet long, 374 feet wide and 433 feet tall. In fact, it overhung the transport ship by 83.5 feet on both sides.

Thunder Horse also is the name of the Gulf of Mexico field about 150 miles southeast of the Mississippi River mouth in which the PDQ will work. It will be moored in more than 6,000 feet using a 16-point system, and will tie into pipelines that come ashore at Grand Isle, La., and Pascagoula, Miss. When fully operational the Thunder Horse field reportedly will produce 250,000 barrels of oil and 212 million cubic feet of gas per day from 25 different wells. The PDQ will inject 300,000 barrels of water a day into the seabed to maintain production levels.

When in service the PDQ will displace 118,000 metric tons and will generate 90 megawatts of power. It is being outfitted at Peter Kiewit’s Ingleside yard in Corpus Christi.

The semisubmersible transport vessel, Blue Marlin, is operated by Dockwise, a Dutch company that also operates the semisubmersible Yacht Transport service. She has an overall length of 737 feet and a dead weight (carrying capacity including fuel, ballast water and the like) of 76,061 metric tons.

The voyage via the Cape of Good Hope took two months and covered almost 16,000 miles at an average speed of 11 knots. There was 30 feet of water over Blue Marlin’s deck when Thunder Horse was floated aboard. When the PDQ was in position over the deck, Blue Marlin deballasted, lifting the PDQ out of the water for the voyage to Texas.