Around 1891, the first submerged oil wells were drilled from platforms built on piles in the fresh waters of the Grand Lake St. Marys (a.k.a. Mercer County Reservoir) in Ohio. The wells were developed by small local companies such as Bryson, Riley Oil, German-American, and Banker's Oil.
Around 1896, the first submerged oil wells in salt water were drilled in the portion of the Summerland field extending under the Santa Barbara Channel in California. The wells were drilled from piers extending from land out into the channel.
Other notable early submerged drilling activities occurred on the Canadian side of Lake Erie in the 1900s and Caddo Lake in Louisiana in the 1910s. Shortly thereafter wells were drilled in tidal zones along the Texas and Louisiana gulf coast. The Goose Creek Oil Field near Baytown, Texas is one such example. In the 1920s drilling activities occurred from concrete platforms in Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo.
One of the oldest subsea wells is the Bibi Eibat well, which came on stream in 1923 in Azerbaijan.[dubious – discuss] The well was located on an artificial island in a shallow portion of the Caspian Sea. In the early 1930s, the Texas Co., later Texaco (now Chevron) developed the first mobile steel barges for drilling in the brackish coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1937, Pure Oil (now Chevron) and its partner Superior Oil (now ExxonMobil) used a fixed platform to develop a field 1 mile offshore of Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana in 14 feet of water.
In 1946, Magnolia Petroleum (now ExxonMobil) drilled at a site 18 miles off the coast, erecting a platform in 18 feet of water off St. Mary Parish, Louisiana.
In early 1947, Superior Oil erected a drilling and production platform in 20 feet of water some 18 miles off Vermilion Parish, La. But it was Kerr-McGee Oil Industries (now Anadarko Petroleum), as operator for partners Phillips Petroleum (ConocoPhillips) and Stanolind Oil & Gas (BP) that completed its historic Ship Shoal Block 32 well in October 1947, months before Superior actually drilled a discovery from their Vermilion platform farther offshore. In any case, that made Kerr-McGee's well the first oil discovery drilled out of sight of land.
When offshore drilling moved into deeper waters of up to 100 feet, fixed platform rigs were built, until demands for drilling equipment was needed in the 100- to 400-foot depth of the Gulf of Mexico, the first jack-up rigs began appearing from specialized offshore drilling contractors such as forerunners of ENSCO International.
The first semi-submersible resulted from an unexpected observation in 1961. Blue Water Drilling Company owned and operated the four-column submersible Blue Water Rig No.1 in the Gulf of Mexico for Shell Oil Company. As the pontoons were not sufficiently buoyant to support the weight of the rig and its consumables, it was towed between locations at a draught mid-way between the top of the pontoons and the underside of the deck. It was noticed that the motions at this draught were very small, and Blue Water Drilling and Shell jointly decided to try operating the rig in the floating mode. The concept of an anchored, stable floating deep-sea platform had been designed and tested back in the 1920s by Edward Robert Armstrong for the purpose of operating aircraft with an invention known as the 'seadrome'. The