On April 27th, 2017, the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum and Education Center, in Galveston Texas, celebrated 20 years of service as the premier showcase of the offshore oil and gas industry as well as recognition of the achievements of the industry pioneers. The rig was originally built in 1969 at the Bethlehem Shipyard in Beaumont, Texas as hull number 4845. She is one of seventy two (72) rigs built at the yard. The Offshore Drilling and Exploration Company Inc., otherwise known as ODECO, took delivery in 1969 and as the first rig of her class they put the rig to drilling in the waters of Louisiana and Texas. The first operator to hire the Ocean Star was Ocean Oil and Gas. Eventually the Ocean Star drilled approximately 200 wells in water depths up to 175 feet. In 1992, the Diamond M Corporation purchased all of the outstanding stock of ODECO from a subsidiary of Murphy Oil, which eventually became Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc. in 1993.
In 1989 a non profit organization, The Offshore Energy Museum, was set up with the idea of developing a museum for “expanding awareness of the vast energy resources available beneath the world’s oceans, and to chronicle the unique heritage and technological accomplishments of the industry that discovers, produces and delivers these resources to mankind in a safe and environmentally responsible way”. The Offshore Energy Museum, with endorsements from the Galveston Historical Society, The City of Galveston, the American Petroleum Institute, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, The Zapata Offshore Company, and Global Marine Drilling, made a proposal to the Galveston Wharves Board, or GWB, (see; Offshore Energy Museum proposal to Galveston Wharves Board) for a letter of intent for support and to subsequently initiate a joint study for potential sites for a drill rig based museum along the waterfront of Galveston Harbor. The Offshore Energy Museum eventually became the Offshore Energy Center (OEC). With broad based industry support the OEC raised an initial $170,000 for the feasibility of placing the rig based museum in Galveston. In 1992, the first OEC educational outreach publication was produced and distributed to 10,000 children and special interests groups.
The list of initial supporters and contributors to the Offshore Energy Museum is extensive and is presented in the proposal. At the top of the list is Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation, headed by George Mitchell. George Mitchell is originally from Galveston Texas, and a graduate of Texas A&M University. In addition to his support for the OEC and the rig based museum, George was involved with offshore oil and gas, the renaissance of Galveston Island and the historical district, the development of Texas A&M at Galveston on Pelican Island and the promotion of the Texas Maritime Academy, the development of Pirates Beach on Galveston Island, the development of the Woodlands north of Houston, and the list can go on. One of the legacies that George and his wife Cynthia Woods Mitchell left to our community is the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
The OEC acquired the Ocean Star from Diamond Offshore Drilling in 1995. The same year the Founders Capital Campaign began, eventually raising a total of 3.6 millionn dollars for the project. In 1996 following total refurbishment, the Ocean Star was relocated to pier 19 in Galveston Harbor, and the OEC SOCIETY was formed. The Grand Opening of the Museum was April 27th, 1997. By September 1999, 70,000 visitors had passed through the museum. The Hall of Fame honoring Industry and Technology Pioneers was established in October, The educational Outreach Program was formalized and established and the Founders Capital Program was concluded successfully.
The museum has endured over the last 20 years, including the ravages of Hurricane Ike. On the morning of October 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike made land fall over eastern Galveston Island moving in to Galveston Bay, culmination in 103 direct deaths, 92 indirect deaths and 16 missing persons. a total off 37.5 billion dollars in damage caused by wind damage and flooding. Following the hurricane and the extensive damage to the Island of Galveston and the upper Texas Coast, Gulf Copper and Manufacturing Inc. was asked to assist with the refurbishment of the Ocean Star Museum and place it back into service.
Gulf Copper performed an extensive refurbishment of the outer hull, drilling substructure, main deck, exhibits, and museum interior. This was carried out in a time when the entire community was rebuilding in the aftermath of the direct hit and the 15 feet of water that was pushed back from Galveston bay flooding 85% of Galveston Island. The rebuilding of Galveston Island after Hurricane Ike was done in relatively short order, giving testament to the resilience, determination and perseverance to the people of Galveston and the Texas coast.
Today, in addition to the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum and Education Center , the OEC sponsors numerous programs for promoting the offshore oil and gas industry. The Hall of Fame recognizes those persons and technologies that took the industry to sea. Our Pioneers are individuals who distinguish themselves and become the character of the industry through their vision, drive, innovation, and leadership. These people are recognized in the Hall of Fame that is housed at the museum. Pioneering Technologies are those innovations that stand out in the development of the offshore industry and its resources. The Hall of Fame also honors the individuals and companies that contributed to the development of the technologies. Additionally, in 2000, the Pinnacle Award has been established to honor contemporary individuals for their contributions and inspirational leadership to the offshore industry. One of the Offshore Energy Center’s primary initiatives is Educational Programs. Educating the public about the industry, including its history and its safety and environmental record is of paramount importance among the Center’s objectives. The purpose of the outreach program is to enhance the science and technology curriculum for children from kindergarten to 12th grades, utilizing teacher workshops, field trips and overnight and summer camps. The Center works to promote the importance (past, present and future) of the offshore energy industry and its contributions to our quality of life. The program is also designed to ensure awareness of the industry’s contribution to and continued improvement of our environment. One of the jewels of the many educational programs developed by the OEC is the Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit (MOLU). This engaging traveling exhibit from the Offshore Energy Center features six self contained learning centers with curriculum-based, hands-on activities about energy and the technologies and sciences involved with the oil and gas industry with curriculum based on state and national standards. The MOLU is geared for 5th grade students, but is appropriate for other students as well. A pilot program finished in May of 2008, and the MOLU is successful with two units actively traveling around the United States. The exhibits are transported via truck/trailer for exhibition and set up in school gymnasiums or common areas. The modules are opened to reveal the display area which includes the various elements of each particular learning activity and accompanying materials.
The funds to support the educational outreach programs, the Hall of Fame, the Ocean Star Museum and Education Center are all derived from individual donations. The primary fundraising event is the annual Ocean Star Gala, which will be held this year on Saturday, September 23rd at the Westin Galleria in Houston Texas. Bruce Culpepper, President of Shell Oil Company, is the presiding Chairman for this years 20th anniversary Gala. We are hoping to see many of our friends and colleagues at this years event, please see the link to the fact sheet above with details and the contact to arrange attendance. Looking forward to seeing you there in support of this emblematic outreach program that is so valuable to our industry.
I am proud to be associated with the Offshore Energy Center and all of the dedicated people that work for and serve the organization. Sandra Mourton, as Executive Director, provides tireless leadership and direction. The Board of Directors, currently chaired by T. M. “Mitch” Little, Executive Vice President of Operations Marathon Oil Corporation, is a very active board with most board members putting in much of their time to the success of the mission. This success story will continue, if you would like to participate or contribute, feel free to contact me or anyone associated with the Museum, we will be happy to let you know how you can help.
The dates, names, and facts that I reference in this article are taken from the Galveston Daily News, The Offshore Energy Center publications and website, and The Ocean Star construction drawings. If there are any discrepancies or omissions, I will appreciate your assistance in making the appropriate corrections.
Be safe in everything you do,