The Shell Cougar
Shell's Cougar platform. Photography courtesy Shell

In the early 1980s, the Shell Cougar platform helped define the outer limits of the Gulf of Mexico—a steel monument to human ingenuity and innovation that pioneered a new wave of offshore oil and gas development around the world. Turns out that was only the first act. After safely producing more than 31 million barrels of oil equivalent over a span of nearly two decades, Cougar will now help sustain a healthy, vibrant Gulf ecosystem as an artificial reef.

“Cougar marks the end on an era for Shell because this is one of our last fixed leg platforms in the Gulf,” says Tommy Giddings, who served as Shell’s operations manager for Cougar in 1990 and now supports the Cougar decommission project. “I’m proud to be part of the Shell team entrusted with restoring the Cougar site and using the platform’s jacket to create an artificial reef that will give divers and fisherman joy for years to come.”

Shell donated the steel frame supporting Cougar’s deck and topside—called the jacket—to the State of Louisiana’s Artificial Reef Program and made a $619,000 contribution to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department to help maintain and monitor the reef. The jacket is now providing habitat for a variety of marine life, including red snapper, amberjack and many reef-dependent fish.