J. Ray Celebrates 50 Years at Morgan City

1956: Elvis released his first album; the film debut of Invasion of the Body Snatchers was frightening American audiences; My Fair Lady opened on Broadway; and J. Ray McDermott began operations at the offshore industry's first dedicated steel fabrication yard near Morgan City, La. Among the major events of early 1956, many are now trivia, but the Morgan City "fab yard" continues to have a profound and lasting effect on the region and the world. Since its humble beginnings on April 1, 1956, J. Ray's Morgan City fabrication facility has built more offshore structures than any other fabrication facility and has served as the model for new offshore fabrication yards around the globe.

"Starting with the first shallow-water tubular steel jackets for oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico, J. Ray has amassed an unequaled base of experience," said Morgan City Fabrication General Manager Steve Becnel. "Consistent delivery of high-quality products on schedule and with a can-do spirit has earned J. Ray its reputation as a world leader in the marine construction industry."

Becnel added: "When the industry needed larger structures for deeper water or unstable bottom conditions; when it needed lighter and stronger structures; when it needed lightweight tripod platforms for marginal field developments; when it needed large topsides for tension leg platforms; when it needed compliant towers and subsea templates; the Morgan City fabrication yard not only delivered those products, but was an active partner in the design process to ensure effective constructability."

How It All Began
In 1923, an East Texas wildcatter gave R. Thomas McDermott a contract to build 50 wooden drilling rigs. McDermott, who was 24 years old, asked his father, J. Ray McDermott, to supervise construction of the rigs, and the company that is now McDermott International, Inc. was born. R. Thomas named the company after his father, and over the next 20 years, J. Ray McDermott & Co. grew, first establishing itself in Texas and then moving into the oil fields of South Louisiana.

In the late 1940s, McDermott was using floating equipment for marshland work. As interest in the Gulf picked up, the company formed joint ventures and made acquisitions that allowed it to pioneer the construction and installation of platforms and pipelines to support drilling and development near shore. By the early 1950s, the company had leased land on Bayou Bouef near Morgan City to store and coat pipe. On April 1, 1956, this property officially became the offshore industry's first dedicated steel fabrication yard.

Projects of Historical Significance
One year after the yard opened, McDermott set a new depth record when it finished a jacket for 100 feet of water. Two years later, the company built one for 200 feet of water. In 1965, yet another record was set when a platform was built for 285 feet and again in 1967 with one for 340 feet.

The jackets and topsides built at Morgan City over the past five decades are a litany of the offshore industry's most significant projects. These include: Shell Cognac; Union Oil Cerveza and Cerveza Ligera; Shell Boxer; Ram Powell and Brutus; SOHIO Snapper; Freeport McMoran Main Pass; Mobil NGL and EKPE; Shell Auger, Ursa, and Mars; Oryx Neptune; Shell Cinnamon; Chevron Genesis; ExxonMobil Mobile Bay; Kerr McGee Nansen and Boomvang; Marathon South Pass 89C; British Gas Hibiscus; and more. At the time they were built, these projects set the standard for offshore development.

On November 20, 2000, J. Ray signed an exclusive agreement to fabricate topsides for four BP deepwater projects in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the next four years, extending into early 2005, more than 70,000 tons of steel were transformed on the Morgan City yard into four of the Gulf's largest deepwater production facilities: Holstein, Mad Dog, Thunder Horse, and Atlantis.

With as many as 3,500 employees and contractors working at the height of the BP Deepwater Development Program, Morgan City's careful attention to proper safety programs, procedures and tools translated into achieving excellent safety statistics. J. Ray's consistently superior safety record at the Morgan City facility, including a Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) of 0.00 in 2005, led to the company's coveted Five Star Safety Award.

During its 50th Anniversary celebration on Friday, April 28, J. Ray President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Deason will give special recognition to the thousands of employees past and present, who have made the fabrication facility successful over six momentous decades.

Deason will honor the 12 most senior current employees, whose combined seniority equals 470 years: Bobby Hemel (46 years), Chester Blanchard (44 years), Lawrence Mayet (43 years), William Clark (42 years), Leonard Buggage, Sr. (42 years), Allen Leger (39 years), Dale Giroir (38 years), Everett Clause, Jr. (36 years), Jerry Gray, Sr. (35 years), Douglas Sanchez (35 years), Dane Hebert (35 years), and Francis Sick (35 years).

"Today, as J. Ray McDermott's Morgan City facility celebrates 50 years of success, it also looks ahead to a prosperous future," said Deason. "Adjusting to market conditions, the Morgan City yard has repositioned itself to be competitive on small and non-traditional projects as well as on a new cycle of deepwater jackets, platforms, and subsea systems for the Gulf of Mexico and beyond."

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