For all the good news in the oil business these days, its long-term future remains uncertain. The rise of electric vehicles, the potential for stricter climate regulation and the volatility introduced by fracking all pose threats to the industry. But oil companies still need to place their wagers on the future of energy, and in a few weeks Shell is placing a big one on the Appomattox Deepwater Platform, which sets sail soon from the Texas coast.
Until very recently, the age of exploring for oil deep in the ocean looked like it had possibly come to an end. Crude was too cheap to justify the massive expense and significant risk involved with deep-water projects. Offshore oil service companies were going bankrupt, and international oil giants were canceling offshore projects. Shell was meanwhile building the Appomattox.