Drift & Drive

A vast network of supply routes currently serve the Brazilian offshore oil industry, delivering food, people, goods and oil back and forth from the mainland. Drift & Drive imagines a consolidated transport network, positioned strategically in relation to an existing network of submarine pipelines that anchor the plan’s three proposed hub islands. The hub islands act as moments of exchange for agriculture, energy, oil and residents.

One motor-powered route, oriented south to north, carries oil and gas resources as well as people between rigs and refineries on a daily schedule. The inverse ‘drift’ route, carries agriculture and energy harvests from north to south, concentrating those cargoes which do not require speed along the natural currents of the ocean. Between hub islands, a series of agriculture and energy islands punctuate a route derived from the ocean’s current. Drift + Drive aims to cut average travel distance in half, reducing the ecological footprint of offshore living and the systems, which support the process of extraction while forming an offshore template for harvesting.

Drift + Drive creates a unique territory within the vastness of the ocean. Building upon the congestion resulting from existing oil processing, the plan instrumentalizes the local condition of ocean currents to establish a bounded territory in contrast to the vast homogeneity of the sea. Once established, the project consolidates the logistics of harvesting oil, agriculture, renewable energy as well as the movement of diverse demographics into a territorial figure. This figure is comprised of the agricultural and energy islands, island hubs, drift boats, and mobile oil boats.

Two types of boats form the mobile components of the plan: the Drift Boat, responsible for moving food and energy, and the Mobile Oil Boat, responsible for moving oil and people. The two types of mobile loops each relate to a different frequency in an oil worker’s schedule. The Drift Boat, for instance, indexes the daily work schedule on a fourteen-day cycle (twelve days of drift and two days of drive). This frequency aligns with the established work cycle for oil rig workers of two weeks on the rig for working and two weeks off for rest. Thus, while workers are on the rigs, their family members can occupy the Drift Boat, and both worker and family can reunite at the Hub islands after two weeks.

Agricultural Islands are statically placed according to an average fourteen-hour drift period between islands. Islands separated by greater distance are connected by a faster current, while a slower currents demand islands that are closer together. This curve of Agricultural Islands harvest food for the population of the Petropolis. Although the islands can house a small local population, they are primarily staffed by the mobile inhabitants of the Drift Boats, who arrive on a daily basis. The stationary Agricultural Island and the mobile Drift Boat develop a symbiotic relationship — The Drift Boat provides water for crop irrigation and labor while the harvest from the stationary island is loaded onto the vessel.

The Agricultural islands are highly specialized. The type of crop and its combination of land and climate requirements results in a variety of island typologies, ranging from floating, flooded and enclosed types. Some islands operate under an internal organization of crop rotation. These islands balance two complementary plant species that are rotated seasonally to maintain soil nutrients. Based on the crop types, the islands are deployed along the drift route in order of perishability.

A series of passive Energy Islands are deployed along the ‘drive’ route, making up the other half of stationary islands which link the Hubs and outline the territorial system. These islands contain fields of point energy harvesters that passively generate tidal, solar, and wind energy. The energy collected by the Drift Boats on their drive up current is distributed to Hubs and Agricultural Islands on the drift trip. Energy islands offset the islands’ energy consumption, and act as charge stations for the Drift Boat. In order to fulfill the energy needs of both Hub Islands and the Drift Boat, each Energy Island outputs 190Mwh per day. The islands, positioned seventy kilometres apart along the drive route, allow for a tug boat with a fuel cell engine to dock and charge at every island.

Three interconnected floating cities, the Hub Islands, house a population between ten and twenty thousand people and are made up of workers and their families, administrators, engineers, and tourists. The master plan connects to the mainland only via the three Hub Islands, and thereby accommodates a necessarily dispersed field into its consolidated system. The figure of the organization of islands and hubs embodies the conveyor belt of continual exchange that characterizes the harvesting mechanisms of the proposal.

Drift & Drive reconfigures the logistics of moving products from sea to land. The current system, in which shuttle tankers attach directly to rigs and pipelines on land, fails to take full advantage of passive systems. By combining overlapping functions and schedules to eliminate extraneous travel time and energy cost in a highly hybridized system, the plan develops a new internal logic, less dependent on mainland resources but still connected to the Brazilian market. Embracing an ecological and political agenda around the economy of production, infrastructural elements that spatialize the complexity of oil extraction, suggest a new discourse of energy harvesting and consumption systems.

Project Designers:  Joanna Luo, Weijia Song & Alexander Yuen
Project Advisor: Neeraj Bhatia
Rice University, School of Architecture


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