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Shell's 13-Year Journey From Discovery to First Oil Shows Why U.S. Output Is Flat

Offshore sector never fully recovered from the advent of shale and more recent oil-market busts

Shell’s Vito oil platform docked at a construction yard in Ingleside, Texas, on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. 

Shell’s Vito oil platform docked at a construction yard in Ingleside, Texas, on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. 

Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg

Questioned by U.S. lawmakers this week, chief executives from the nation’s biggest oil companies took great pains to explain why they haven’t raised production fast enough to tame skyrocketing energy prices.

For Shell Plc’s highest-ranking U.S. manager, Gretchen Watkins, the answer was 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) southwest of Capitol Hill, floating in a shipyard near Corpus Christi, Texas. As Democratic lawmakers grilled Watkins and other executives about high gasoline prices, hundreds of workers in red and tan coveralls were putting the finishing touches on the Vito offshore oil platform. The 20-story production facility that weighs as much as a battleship is expected to begin pumping the equivalent of up to 100,000 barrels daily from beneath the Gulf of Mexico later this year.