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Keel laid for 4th giant rig at LeTourneau since ’92

LeTourneau Inc. welder Etta Irving welds the foundation of the Super Gorilla Rig VIII Thursday morning in the foreground as Super Gorilla Rig VII towers in the background. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[03/22/01] Work began Thursday morning at LeTourneau Inc., on the fourth jack-up drilling rig built there since 1992.

Donald Cross, vice president at LeTourneau, said workers laid the keel of the $200 million rig Thursday morning.

“It’s a major step in any shipbuilding process,” he said.

The process involved the laying and welding of steel that will form the base of the 707-foot-high rig.

Super Gorilla Rig VIII will take about two years to complete, Cross said, and will require about 1,000 employees to construct. The oil rig will drill 550 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico.

Construction is expected to be complete in the fall of 2003.

Super Gorilla Rig VII is nearly 80 percent complete, he said. The 574-foot-high rig is expected to be ready in September to be launched into the Mississippi River and floated to a Texas port for final outfitting.

Building of the exploratory rigs, which can be moved from site to site, was largely pioneered in Vicksburg, where more than 50 rigs were built before industry conditions turned sour.

The LeTourneau site west of U.S. 61 South was shut down and most equipment was sold off before operations were resumed nine years ago.