It began 10 years ago with pieces of paper on a desk in Houston.
The very early stages of the planning for Argos, the first new bp platform to be deployed in the Gulf of Mexico for 15 years, started with the team working out the facility’s layout like a puzzle.
“We literally started with pieces of paper that represented the major building blocks,” says Ryan O’Connor, the floating production unit (FPU) project manager. “That became a PowerPoint, then it evolved into a very detailed model, then, before you knew it, the thing was built.
“When I look across at the facility, that’s what goes through my mind – I remember when that was a piece of paper.”
Ryan O’Connor, FPU project manager
Argos is the centrepiece of bp’s $9 billion Mad Dog 2 (MD2) project. First oil in April is the culmination of a decade’s work for Ryan, who joined bp 22 years ago. The facility is expected to deliver a 20% boost to bp production capacity in the region once fully online.
The semi-submersible floating production platform, moored about 190 miles south of New Orleans, will also support 250 permanent jobs. It was a proud moment for the engineer when Argos sailed up the Corpus Christi ship channel in April 2021 after its long journey from the shipyard in South Korea where it was built.
Ryan was joined by his wife, Maria, and their three children, as well as his parents to celebrate its arrival. “They got to see with their own eyes the enormity and scale of this project and what our team had been working on for all of these years,” Ryan says. “It was an awesome day.”
Ryan was joined by fellow team members, including project general manager Chris Ruthven and engineering manager Pat Kelly, who “also spent many years of their lives delivering this project,” he adds.
Ryan says taking on projects and solving problems is what makes him tick. Delivery during the pandemic was just one of the challenges the project team faced, including managing shortages of raw materials and components, such as steel and semiconductors, and pulling together a 600-strong team that spanned the globe, from Houston to Geoje, South Korea, and Aberdeen, Scotland.
He says a ‘one team’ approach helped to deliver this massive feat of engineering safely, with colleagues speaking regularly on video calls to stay in close touch.
“For me, it was an opportunity to take what I learned from the first half of my career in engineering and operations and apply that knowledge to the delivery of this new asset,” says Ryan. “I’m just as excited about this project today as the first day I came on board more than 10 years ago.”
For bp staff and contractors, it’s also one of the most enviable offshore environments in the world. One bp colleague, who was persuaded to come out of retirement during the hook-up phase, was particularly impressed with the catering on board Argos, Ryan recalls.
“I swear you could just pay Chuck in ice cream bars, and he’d be happy,” Ryan jokes, adding: “The living spaces, the dining facilities, and the recreational facilities are all first class.”
Argos is now bp’s fifth platform in the Gulf of Mexico. From its decks, you can see the existing Mad Dog platform around six miles northeast.
Another highlight for Ryan was being on board for the ‘wet tow’, where Argos was moved to its current position, moored in around 4,500 feet of water. It’s now connected to nearby existing pipeline infrastructure to export oil and gas.
“It marked the completion of a safe and successful campaign in Ingleside, Texas, for my team,” he says.
Argos is one of five major global bp projects scheduled to start up in 2023. It is based in a region that delivers some of the highest margins in the world.
For Ryan, the delivery of Argos marks a significant career milestone that fits seamlessly into bp’s wider strategy. This includes investing both in today’s energy system, which is predominantly oil and gas, and in the energy transition.
Argos provides an additional source of supply at a time of heightened concerns about energy security and affordability. It also plays a key role in bp’s strategy – high-grading our hydrocarbons portfolio with high-margin barrels that support our transformation to an integrated energy company. The Gulf of Mexico has some of the highest-value and lowest-emissions barrels in our global portfolio.
The Argos semi-submersible platform and its system of subsea wells are connected to nearby existing pipelines, meaning we can deliver new barrels at lower cost and in less time than by building new infrastructure.
It will also support the local economy by providing 250 permanent jobs.
Ryan is now looking forward to his next big job, whether that is in offshore wind, hydrogen, EV charging, carbon capture and storage – or another more traditional hydrocarbon project. “I absolutely love projects,” he says. “It’s a collective of highly talented individuals working together on a common goal.
“We take bp’s vision of the future and build it into reality. This particular project is so massive in scale and complexity that it offered opportunities for me to continue to grow and develop in several roles.
“I’ll go work on another world-class project – it’s a pretty exciting time for bp right now.”
The name Argos, chosen by the project team and an employee survey, is a reference to Odysseus’s loyal dog from ‘The Odyssey’, and a nod to the Mad Dog spar, an existing production facility operated by bp that is located about six miles away from the Argos site.
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