The Largest Oil Rigs in the World

Designed to probe the deepest, darkest depths of our planet, the contenders for the largest oil platform in the world are colossal, mechanical behemoths that dwarf many of the largest structures built on land. Read on to discover the astonishing size and scale of the world’s biggest offshore platforms.

Building Big Engineering
25 July 2023

Unlike any other workplace on the planet, the world’s biggest oil rig and the pretenders to its throne are staggeringly complex structures, incorporating some of the most advanced technologies known to humankind. Their very complexity serves as a reminder of the insatiable drive for progress, while also hinting at the lengths people are willing to go to fuel the modern world, reaching hundreds of metres into the sky and penetrating the sea bed thousands of metres below.

These megastructures are small worlds unto themselves. The contenders for the largest offshore oil rig house hundreds of workers who live and work in some of the planet’s most hostile environments. Equipped with sleeping quarters, kitchens, medical centres and even recreational facilities, these superstructures are designed to keep operations running smoothly all year-round in the face of swollen, tempestuous seas and unimaginably harsh weather conditions.

The largest oil rig in the world can be measured in a number of ways –

  • By platform height, excluding the base (known as topsides)
  • By total weight including the base and underwater moorings
  • By BOE (Barrel of Oil Equivalent) which is the total amount of energy produced combining both oil and gas
  • By the highest number of barrels of oil a rig can produce daily if conditions were ideal, known as capacity

Where possible, we are going to use the last option, the capacity to assess the world’s largest oil rigs. It’s also worth noting that when we talk about capacity in terms of the number of barrels, one barrel is defined by the oil industry as 158.9 litres.

Gullfaks C

North Sea drilling rig (Credit: Stuart Conway via Getty Images)

Location: North Sea | Capacity: Approx. 39,000 barrels per day

Situated in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, Gullfaks C is a concrete gravity platform and is believed to be the heaviest object ever moved when it was installed in the mid-1980s.

The total weight is approximately 420,000 tonnes, including a 370,000 tonne substructure and 50,000 tonne topsides. In its peak production year of 2001, Gullfaks C produced 180,000 barrels of oil per day which made it the largest oil platform in the world at the time. The total height of the structure from the sea floor is approximately 380 metres and can accommodate a crew of around 300.


Petronius oil rig (Credit: Kuni Takahashi / Contributor via Getty Images)

Location: Gulf of Mexico | Capacity: Approx. 60,000 barrels per day

Named after the ancient Roman writer active during the reign of Emperor Nero, the Petronius oil platform was believed to be the tallest freestanding structure in the world prior to the construction of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It may not be the largest offshore oil rig in the world, but it is the tallest. Sitting 210 kilometres southeast of New Orleans in the USA, it’s 640 metres from the sea floor (known as the mudline) to the tip of the flare boom and weighs approximately 45,000 tonnes.

Petronius is known as a compliant tower, built to move in harmony with the ocean’s swell rather than resisting it. This flexibility in design lets it yield and sway to an extent exceeding 2% of its total height. By contrast, conventional structures typically limit their sway to no more than 0.5% of their height.

Berkut Oil Platform

Offshore Berkut oil platform and supply ship. (Credit: Sergei Dubrovskii via Getty Images)

Location: Sea of Okhotsk | Capacity: Approx. 90,000 barrels per day

The $12 billion, 220,000 tonne Berkut Oil Platform is one of the largest oil platforms in the world by weight. Sitting in one of the most remote and inhospitable bodies of water on the planet, Berkut was amongst the most challenging engineering projects ever attempted. The underwater base is made up of 53,000m3 of concrete and 27,000 tonnes of steel and the 145-metre tall topsides weigh over 42,000 tonnes. It has been built to withstand temperatures of -44°C and has an annual capacity of 33 million barrels, or 5.2 billion litres.


Perdido offshore drilling and production platform (Credit: Gary Tramontina / Contributor via Getty Images)

Location: Gulf of Mexico | Capacity: Approx. 100,000 barrels per day

The deepest floating oil platform in the world, Perdido (Spanish for ‘lost’) is moored in around 2,450 metres of water 320 miles south of Galveston, Texas. One of the world’s biggest offshore platforms produces around 100,000 barrels of oil and 5.6 million m3 of gas per day, and the topsides are as tall as the Eiffel Tower.

Olympus (Mars B)

Olympus Mars B platform (Credit: Bloomberg / Contributor via Getty Images)

Location: Gulf of Mexico | Capacity: Approx. 100,000 barrels per day

Olympus is a contender for the planet’s largest oil rig. Designed to withstand hurricanes, it started operations in 2014 in the Mars B oil field, around 209 kilometres south of New Orleans and sits in over 900 metres of water. The colossal deepwater platform supports a workforce of just under 200 people and is believed to weigh around 109,000 tonnes.


Oil worker drilling for oil on rig. (Credit: Tetra Images - Dan Bannister via Getty Images)

Location: North Atlantic | Capacity: Approx. 150,000 barrels per day

Sitting in the freezing North Atlantic around 315 kilometres east-southeast of Newfoundland in Canada, the Hibernia is the world’s biggest oil rig. The 37,000 tonne topsides are mounted on a colossal 600,000 tonne gravity base structure containing storage tanks capable of holding 1.3 million barrels of crude oil.

It began operations in 1997 and the serrated, star-shaped concrete base is built to withstand a collision from a six million tonne iceberg. The amount of oil in the fields served by Hibernia is estimated to be around 1.4 billion barrels.


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