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Author Topic: Life on an oil platform  (Read 768 times)

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Offline Milton Rail

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Life on an oil platform
« on: March 25, 2020, 07:00:32 AM »
By way of introduction - the platform I am on was brought on line in 2005, a very challenging location, not technically North Sea, but actually North Atlantic, lying about 75km west of the Shetland Islands.  It produces around 40,000 barrels of oil a day and can accommodate a maximum of 154 people, though we limit that to 147 for practical reasons and usually operate at nearer the 138 mark, though it varies constantly.

When I left for work on the 9th March, things were pretty normal, most of us travel up to Aberdeen the night before we travel offshore, staying at one of the many large corporately bland hotels that have sprung up around the airport there - the heliport is usually a bustle of noise, chat about what you did in your time off, how the family are, usual things... a bit of news in the background showing scenes in Italy of parts of the country being shut down because of a new virus ... but it feels surreal and a world away and not many people are talking about it.  As you might imagine, football occupies a large portion of the conversations, the mild joshing and leg pulling that goes along with that.... giving or receiving depending on how your team is doing!

Once you check in & get weighed (you and your bags) ... it is through to security check, all your bags are searched, a patient bunch of guys & gals who have the unenviable job of raking though peoples items, looking for contraband and items that are banned from being carried in a helicopter ... taking the inevitable "s*%T from an ignorant minority.... you then wait to get called through to departures ....

All checks done, you get into a bus to travel all of 150 yds to the aircraft ... fair play to those bus drivers, that shift must be soul destroying as the route they ply all shift is that 150 yds out and back, for each group of passengers.  We travel fixed wing (a Saab 2000 for those with an interest in that area) to Sumburgh, where we are met by some cheery faces of folk we only know by passing acquaintance, but they have got to know the faces of the regular travellers and always give a smile and a "hello again" :)

The waiting here can be variable, sometimes it is straight into survival suits and away if the helicopter is ready ... doing all the buddy checks, making sure suits are done up properly, life jackets and breathing systems working ... then away .... sometimes the wait can be hours, if the helicopter has just left for another platform, could be a couple of hours, if it is weather, it could be many hours, a phenomenon called "triggered lightning" is the enemy at this time of year.... and sometimes, if the sea state is above 6m (significant wave height) ... they just don't lift at alland you either get returned to Aberdeen to do it all again the following day ... or put to bed at the Sumburgh hotel.

There are quite a few platforms or rigs west of Shetland now, the nearest neighbour of mine is Clair Ridge, which came on line at the end of 2018, much bigger than my wee platform, but in our eyes, good things come in small packages :)

After a 30 min flight, the passengers (or PAX as we are known) become POB (Persons on Board) .... and, once we get the all clear to leave the aircraft, we collect our bags and head down into the accommodation - on a busy flight there will be 19 of us so it can get a bit congested in the Heli Admin area, but it is noisy as those who are departing are waiting to greet their back to backs, Geraldene our stressed Heliadmin barking orders to folks who aren't listening ... too busy catching up with people they haven't seen for a few weeks and busy swapping over the life jackets .... but after a short while, her voice starts to catch people's attention and they realise if they want to go home, they had better go!

Then it is a fight to get yourself out of the flight suit and settle down to get a welcome brief from the OIM (Offshore Installation Manager) ... normally that would be me doing it, but the day I travel out is the day I get to take a seat and listen to one of the other team members deliver it!  That welcome back brief done, it is a case of checking in, getting your cabin and muster point allocated, taking possesion of your personal H2S detector and then disappear into the bowels of the accommodation ... getting cheery welcome backs as you go

I normally travel out on a Tuesday and we get onboard about 11:30, so just time to drop my bags in my office and head up for some food - food is one of the main pleasures offshore and we are well served by the 10 person strong team of chef's, stewards and the all seeing Camp Boss.... arriving at the servery, I am greeted by "Kiwi" ... no-one knows his real name, but you guessed it, a New Zealander who now lives with his family in Portsoy on the North East coast of Scotland ... a bit of banter ensues and our plates are soon filled with tasty grub.  The whole platform comes together in the galley, a functional space with a tv lounge and pool table/dart board off to one side ... you don't go hungry offshore, a great array of hot & cold options, the team do a great job catering for a variety of diets and appetites ... but the puddings and ice creams are always a favourite .... depending on which nightshift baker is onboard, there will be some fresh scones available .... I normally grab one to have later in the day with a cup of tea ....

So there is a hopefully interesting wee piece about how we normally get to and from work.... but things were about to change.......
 

Offline emjaybee

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2020, 08:27:27 AM »
@Milton Rail what's a H2S detector? Also, do you have the same accommodation room each visit, or does it very like a hotel?

Thanks for going to the effort of writing this.
Sometimes you bite the dog...

...sometimes the dog bites you!

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Offline Lawrence

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2020, 08:45:05 AM »
@Milton Rail what's a H2S detector? Also, do you have the same accommodation room each visit, or does it very like a hotel?

Thanks for going to the effort of writing this.

Hydrogen Sulphide @emjaybee

see https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/hydrogensulfide/hazards.html

Offline NGS-PO

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2020, 08:48:14 AM »
As a Bristow Helicopter Engineer, it is good to hear that your interactions with the Bristow team goes well.  Not everyone appreciates the effort that goes into getting you guys out and back in safety.

Thanks for your post.

Best

Scott.
(PLEASE NOTE: Unless where obviously posting on behalf of the NGS, all posts and views are my own and not connected/endorsed by the Society.)

Anxiety is a lot like a toddler. It never stops talking, tells you youíre wrong about everything, and wakes you up at 3am.

I get nervous about just about everything. Sometimes I literally donít know why Iím anxious. I just am and no-one seems to understand that.

Offline dannyboy

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2020, 08:48:45 AM »
A very interesting piece  :thankyousign:, looking forward to another slice.
David.
I used to be indecisive - now I'm not - I don't think.
If a friend seems distant, catch up with him.

Online Bealman

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2020, 08:54:18 AM »
H2S.... yeah, horrible stuff. My meager contact with it was as a science teacher, but a small test tube of the stuff was quite enough for me and the kids!

Wouldn't surprise me if experiments involving that are banned in high schools now. If I was still working a ban certainly wouldn't bother me.
Vision over visibility. Bono, U2.

Offline Milton Rail

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2020, 09:00:40 AM »
Morning emjaybee, thanks for flagging my thread up and moving it out of the way of the Covid support page - glad you and other see some interest in it :)

H2S is Hydrogen Sulphide, we have it in our oil reservoir and hence the associated gas - we have fixed (as in permanent) detectors all around the platform, but we each get a more sensitive personal detector as an additional protection.  The levels are not particularly high, but enough to merit the personal detectors to protect people

For the core crew, they generally get the same room, we all have lockers that we leave our gear behind in when we go home, saves us carrying it all in and out each time, for the assortment of vendors & visitors, they don't get that "luxury" and get put where there is a space, often resulting in 3 to a cabin when we are full - I have the added luxury of a cabin to myself and as much as possible we try and put people with someone on the opposite shift, so they are sharing a cabin, but not in it at the same time.  But your analogy to a hotel is not far from the mark!


Offline emjaybee

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2020, 09:36:19 AM »
It's definitely interesting. It's one of those 'world's' where you think "it's a drilling platform, they drill into a pocket of oil and pump it ashore", but I'm guessing there's a lot more to it.

The film Deepwater Horizon kinda showed a lot of stuff, but it, obviously, didn't explain a lot of the workings and you don't know what is fact or fiction.

So yes please, do continue, there'll be a fair few more questions.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2020, 08:37:22 PM by emjaybee »
Sometimes you bite the dog...

...sometimes the dog bites you!

----------------------------------------------------------

I can explain it to you...

...but I can't understand it for you.

Offline crewearpley40

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2020, 09:43:32 AM »
Sounds lovely having your own space to jump on the forum  think of own loved ones    trains, the sea air

Offline Tom U

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2020, 10:09:33 AM »
Thanks for the interesting read.
Around 1978 to 1982 I worked for Dan Air at gatwick on line maintenance.
Occasionally I would get deployed to Aberdeen to cover for leave or etc.
Dan Air operated HS748 aircraft on rig support from Aberdeen, taking the rig workers to Sumbugh where they would transfer to helicopter to the rig.
We had to be at Aberdeen airport before daybreak to prepare the morning's aircraft.  In the winter this included being on a cherry picker spraying de-icing fluid on the aircraft prior to departure.
One deeply embedded memory is of winter mornings heading out to the airport before hotel breakfast time, so with an empty belly and getting frozen to the core by the time the first aircraft departed.
But then the pay-off, back to the Sgian-dubh hotel for a huge fry-up breakfast on a plate so hot the food was sizzling on it.  and also (am I beyond the statute of limitations now??) a shot of whisky.  As I type I can still feel that warmth radiating from my innards to my frozen extremities.  Then back to the airport to meet the returning aircraft for the second wave - but in a much better frame of mind.
In 1982 I moved to SE Asia to escape the cold!!!

Offline port perran

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2020, 10:29:17 AM »
Fascinating stuff Andrew.
A glimpse into a world of which I know nothing.

Martin
If it looks right then it most probably is right.


Offline Milton Rail

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2020, 10:33:38 AM »
As a Bristow Helicopter Engineer, it is good to hear that your interactions with the Bristow team goes well.  Not everyone appreciates the effort that goes into getting you guys out and back in safety.

Thanks for your post.

Best

Scott.

Thanks Scott, we get a fantastic service from the Bristow team (& Eastern), often in difficult circumstances and people sometimes lose sight of just how much behind the scenes work goes on just to keep these airframes in the air

Cheers Tom, it was a vastly different world then, Piper Alpha triggered a transformation in the North Sea, much as Deepwater Horizon triggered a transformation of BP ... I will keep my own counsel on events depicted in the movie, but while it is a good portrayal of the risks offshore works face, the events depicted have a very Hollywood spin to them and a read of the investigation report is a much more balanced summary of what transpired... but in the end it was still a humble tribute to the 11 people who lost their lives in that event.

Drilling is just as simple as you say... but the challenge is to find the reservoirs in the first place and then know where to put the drill bit!  Drilling not my expertise at all, but it relies a lot on the skills of the driller, the team on the drill floor, lot of team work in difficult conditions and never quite knowing what they are drilling into

Online Bealman

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2020, 10:43:21 AM »
Is it true that the drill doesn't go straight down? I think I read somewhere that one platform can drill in a wide radius around it.
Vision over visibility. Bono, U2.

Offline Lawrence

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2020, 11:19:41 AM »
As a Bristow Helicopter Engineer, it is good to hear that your interactions with the Bristow team goes well.  Not everyone appreciates the effort that goes into getting you guys out and back in safety.

Thanks for your post.

Best

Scott.

Ah, so you're the one  :D We shared a hanger with the Bristows chaps when I was down the Falkands and flew out to Weddell Island on one of their aircraft. Many years ago I had an interview for the Simulator managers job up at Aberdeen, it was carried out by the current manager, a curious French chap who clearly didn't want to give up his job! I didn't get it, possibly because I asked for accommodation as part of the package which would have meant him giving up his flat  ::) >:(

@Milton Rail I had a couple of lads from Halliburton in on Monday, was sorting out a couple of 700 Bar Leo Records for them as they were flying out on Friday, we do a lot of work for the oil & gas industry, above and below water, just wish the ROV pilots went a bit easier with our kit and lord only knows what they do with our subsea housings when they get them aboard ship  :doh:
Anyhoo, stay safe Andrew, hopefully when this is all over I'll pop across the river for a visit  :thumbsup:

Offline joe cassidy

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2020, 11:20:27 AM »
Are you allowed booze on the oil rig ?

 

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