PORT ISABEL, TX — An underwater construction company will dock its freighter here to load about 38 miles of pipeline that the ship will carry to offshore oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico, officials said Thursday.
Subsea 7, an international subsea engineering and construction company, plans to use its 515-foot ship to lay oil pipelines as part of its first mission at the company’s new $40 million pipe assembly plant at the Port Isabel-San Benito Navigation District, officials said.
The Seven Oceans freighter will dock for the first of three sojourns within the next three weeks, officials said.
The freighter will use its massive reel to spool 4,300-foot stalks of pipe onto its deck, officials said.
Outside the plant, long racks hold 46 4,300-foot stalks of pipe with a total weight of 10,000 tons, said Bob Cornelison, the port’s director.
“It’s pretty mind-boggling,” he said.
The plant marks the Rio Grande Valley’s entry into the offshore oil industry, officials said.
In July, the plant that employs about 90 workers began welding 40-foot lengths of pipe into the 4,300-foot stalks, Cornelison said.
From Monday to Wednesday, the ship will use its 62-foot reel to spool about 12 miles’ worth of pipe, said Greg Donnelly, the company’s operations manager.
The plant’s high-skilled welding helps give the pipe its flexibility, Cornelison said.
“The welds survive the bending and unbending. That’s why the welds are so high tech,” he said.
The freighter will depart on the first of three missions to the central Gulf, each time carrying 3,500 tons of pipe to offshore oil wells near the Louisiana coast, Donnelly said.
The ship will lay pipeline along the seabed for five to six days, said Donnelly, who said he didn’t know the seabed’s depth.
“It will be unreeling it and spooling it on the seabed,” he said.
The ship will return twice to the port in 10-day intervals, each time reeling in about 12 miles’ worth of pipe before carrying the load to the central Gulf and laying pipeline along the seabed.