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Author Topic: Life on an oil platform  (Read 1156 times)

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Offline JonHarbour

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #30 on: March 27, 2020, 11:00:37 PM »
Okay - the story of my first trip to Das Island...

Das Island is in the middle of the Persian Gulf - it is an oil and gas storage facility used to fill super tankers before the deliver their precious cargo around the world. It is large enough to be serviced by STOL (short take off and landing) fixed wing aircraft. I flew out there on a De Havilland Dash 8 a twin turbo prop. where the fuselage is below the wings.

The departure from Abu Dhabi is very routine, nothing exceptional at all. The landing is where it starts to get interesting... The runway on Das starts about 20m from the waters edge. When the approach starts, all you can see under you is water. Nothing but water. The plane gets lower... and lower... and lower... still only water. You eventually start thinking "bloody hell, I hope this runway appears soon!" but you get down to less than 50m altitute and still no runway! Suddenly land appears about 10m below you at the waters edge and a second later you are down!

Take-offs are even more fun. At one end of the runway is a massive set of gas and oil tanks. The aircraft cannot take off that directions, which of course is the direction of the prevailing wind... So the planes must take off with the wind and the runway is at the limit of the aircraft's envelope. So, in order to get off the ground, the plane taxis to the very end of the runway, such that the nose wheel is almost in the sand at the end of it. The pilot turns the engines up to full throttle and holds it on the brakes. At this point the plane starts rocking violently - it wants to "go". When the pilot feels he has enough "biff" behind him, it's off the brakes and  we are flung skywards!
« Last Edit: March 27, 2020, 11:08:07 PM by JonHarbour »
Still planning a layout...

Offline Graham

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #31 on: March 28, 2020, 12:12:29 AM »
really enjoying this thread, keep it coming.

Online Bealman

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #32 on: March 28, 2020, 01:23:20 AM »
Rather you than me, Jon (although it sounds like you secretly enjoyed it)  :thumbsup:
Vision over visibility. Bono, U2.

Offline JonHarbour

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #33 on: March 28, 2020, 02:12:36 AM »
 Guilty as charged George. It was a great adventure and an eye opener at the time!
Still planning a layout...

Offline busbar

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #34 on: March 28, 2020, 04:22:54 PM »
Like many I am finding this all very fascinating. Although I never visited a rig, I was a fixed wing driver of the workers from Aberdeen to the forward Helicopter bases of, initially Unst, and then Scatsta. I was a pilot with Brymon Airways (Plymouth based) when we introduced the Dash 7 aircraft onto the British register in 1981. We started with three new aircraft, two on oil contract at Aberdeen and the third on the Heathrow run from the West Country.
Unst, which was intiially to serve RAF Saxa Vord, is the last island, going North, in the Shetlands and had a runway 2001ft long , that is feet not metres, and the remarkable Dash 7 could land at Unst at maximum landing weight provided there was at least 5 knots of wind down the runway - not normally a problem in those parts. This enabled us to land with a full pax load of 50 and have return fuel for Aberdeen on board. Normally after the flight up it was a matter of sitting around for
four hours or so whilst the helicopers flew to the rigs and back.
In 1996 the helicopters were moved from Unst to Scatsta (by the Sullom Voe oil terminal) where the runway was less challenging with over 4400 ft. Brymon switched to Dash 8 aircraft for the contract later on.
It has been mentioned that the rigs were dry and rig crew, as has been mentioned, would often position to Aberdeen the night before where the bar was the last chance saloon. There were strict rules regarding sobriety which were necessary particularly for the helicopter phase. Sadly, on rare occasions the ground staff would call me to the terminal to assess whether a passenger was fit to fly (no brethalysers then) and a 'no' was probably the loss of a job. Not a nice position to be in.
Another topic, but Brymon Airways was instrumental in the creation and first operation of London City Airport in 1987, which when it first oopened had a very steep approach that only the remarkable Dash 7 could achieve.

Offline Milton Rail

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #35 on: March 31, 2020, 09:45:29 AM »
I am due to head home today, we are flying direct at the moment, to avoid Shetlands, but as of yesterday all the highland & island airports are closing at 3:30pm, so that has caused a few complications with our flights as we use those locations as alternates in the flight plan, as wel as refuelling points ... we can refuel the choppers offshore, but last night was told we hadn't sufficient fuel for today's flight (our crane was out of service for inspection and only became available last night and the fuel needs 24 hours to settle when a new tank is put in place) ... so our flight today will come via Wick.

While I have been writing these excerpts, I have been getting reminded of events along the way ... I started out as a lab technician back in 1988 and along the way, my company put me through a Chemical Engineering degree - that opened up a lot of new doors for me and really was a good decision personally.  I studied as a distant learning student, so it was hard going at times, but worth it.  The course I was on had been set up by ICI (remember them?) and was mainly lads from Runcorn, the Rock Savage plant in particular .. there were some characters on that course for sure!

After I graduated, I started to get involved in what are known in the industry as HAZOP's (Hazard & Operability Studies) ... usually for new plants, at the design stage, you go through every line on the piping diagrams and assess the hazards and how it will be operated, aimed at designing in Safety from the outset ... you use key words like, more, less, none, reverse etc. then apply those to flow, pressure, temperatures .... that sort of thing ... it can be laborious, but you do flush out problems and it has a big impact on what the final design looks like ... in those sessions though, you always get taught that you don't consider double jeopardy, i.e. things happening at the same time .. and you are always ruling out cases that are not credible ....

Which brings me onto the story I have....  I only started working offshore in 2008, the opportunity arose while I was in Azerbaijan, there had been a massive upscale in the offshore platforms there, grand plans to build 7 identical platforms, all built to the same design, interchangeable parts etc.... at the time I got the opportunity to go offshore as the Offshore Operations Engineer (OOE), there were only 3 new ones ... the first one, "Central Azeri" was what is known as a double jacket platform, effectively 2 platforms, linked with a bridge ...  it acted as a hub, collecting oil & gas from satellite platforms and sending it ashore in one large pipeline rather than each platform having it's own line to shore...

At the time I was there, there were two satellites West & East .. these were single jacket platforms and were still indepenant in terms of power, but they were also connected to "Central Azeri" (or the mother ship as it liked to be known)  for power, and they had sufficient generation to supply the 2 satellites too.  The 3 platforms were all interlinked with camera's too, all the main offices, control rooms etc. were streaming and the main offices had a multi-pane tv screen showing the various offices.  It was meant to promote a sense of team, and saved you wasting time trying to get hold of someone, as you could look on screen and see if they were at their desks or not.  Sounded good in theory, but in practice, a lot of the office incumbents didn't like the intrusion ... and either directed the camera's away or covered them over with make-shift flaps .... while I write that I am reminded of another anecdote of an OIM (Offshore Installation Manager) on one platform .... on those rigs, unlike most, the OIM's cabin was adjacent to their office, down in amongst the offices, the medic was the same, the clinic was opposite the OIM office & the medics cabin was separate, but next door.... the OIM's cabin literally was "ensuite" to the office ..... this particular OIM got a call in the early hours of the moring to their office phone ..... stumbled out of bed to answer it ......  well I won't say anymore, but safe to say they never went to bed after that without covering over the camera!

I was put onto "West Azeri" as OOE - was a steep learning curve, having never been offshore before, but was a great time, lot of camaraderie ... before I started there, an incident had occured on our main generator, a big fault occured on the alternator and burned it out .... pretty much the same priciple as you car ... but imagine if you will, instead of your 1.4l Astra engine, we have a Rolls Royce RB211 jet engine (the other place you will find them is on a commercial aircraft wing) and you can scale up the size of the alternator accordingly!  Fortunately, the mother ship had sufficent numbers of these, to supply  themselves and the satellite platforms, think they had 5 from memory.  So when I started there, summer of 2008, we were happily being supplied power while we worked out how to repair our own one.... as you might imagine, these were not off the shelf items and were large bits of kit to get in and out

My first trip went ok, shadowing the person I was taking over from .... my first trip solo was when it started to get interesting ..... as  mentioned, all the control rooms were linked ... we had a call with town (or the beach as you will hear it called) 3 times a week and all 3 platforms dialled in as they were managed by the same onshore manager.... during one particular call, the GPA (General Platform Alarm) went off on Central Azeri and they duly left the call and went to muster .... I didn't think anything of it for a while, it happens fairly regularly offshore, spurious alarms etc. (though usually at 3am in the morning!) until about an hour later I was in our control room and could see the control room on Central Azeri with them all still at muster, but wearing lifejackets.... it quickly became apparent that they were preparing to abandon ... there had been a large gas release on the seabed and we later heard that the gas alarms and warning lights were lit up like a christmas tree.... a short time later, the lifeboats were in the water and all the people got off safely, but as I watched from afar (about 5km) it gave me a new respect for what we were dealing with when I saw those tiny boats, with about 75 people in each, bobbing about trying to get to safety

Everyone was recovered safely, a lot of horror stories from folk about the amount of seasickness that occured (remember these are fully encapsulated boats, not the open top affairs you might remember from Titanic .... )  It was a nightmare for the onshore team when they finally made it back as virtually no-one had any papers on them, passports etc. as they had all been held at muster and straight to lifeboats ....

..... for us on West Azeri, once we knew our colleagues were safe ... we had a more pressing concern ... we had lost our power supply ... as part of the response to the gas release on the seabed, the platfrom had shutdown automatically (that would have been designed in at the HAZOP)  ....  on loss of main power, our emergency generator kicked in, which will give us enough power to keep our life support systems going, but it meant that our production plant tripped too ....    well we got ourselves sorted out, but it was a challenging time, we had to partially downman too ... and as events got moving, we were a staging post for the restart of Central Azeri ... initially it was a company called "Boots & Coutts" who came out (founded by Red Adair who you might remember from the news when they were trying to cap the burning oil wells in Iraq)  and by all accounts, the accommodation was awful, when the GPA went off, the galley had been getting ready for lunch service, so all the food had been left out, (this was about 2 weeks later) .... the freezers had been off.... everyones' personal belongings were strewn around their cabins ......

Once the initial mess was cleared up, the ops team started to go back to assess restart options and the routine became ... helicopter out to us, picked up pack lunches, helicopter over to Central .. did a shift of prep work then came back to us and then back to shore ... if we were crew changing, our guys would come out on that chopper too, wait until the shift was done on Central, then the offgoing shift would go back with the Central team ......

So 2 weeks after the initial event on Central, and on the last day of my 1st solo trip as OOE .... my back to back arrived, the Central team went off to do a shift on the stricken platform  and we were doing a leisurely handover when ........ everything went dark and the battery powered emergency lights flickered on ..... a quick realisation sank in that our Emergency Generator must have failed    :'(    turned out to be the coupling  ... not a quick fix .... and we had no back up ....  not emergency generators are not fancy engines like the RB211's ... they are basically big agricultural diesel engines, CAT or similar ... that will pull a train .... but they are not designed to be ran constantly  .... so we then found ourselves having to downman too, leaving only a handful of people onboard to try and restore power ..... 

So that was my introduction to offshore life ... the reason for the story?  Like so many things about my times in Azerbaijan & Angola ..... you often found yourself thinking "If I wrote this down, no-one would believe you"!    If I had raised the following situation with the HAZOP team back in london .... that we would have an emergency generator coupling fail, coincident with a platform abandonment on Central Azeri, while we had an exploded Alternator .... it would have been laughed out of the room as preposterous  and not only double jeoapardy, but triple! 

But as I have found out many times in this industry, you just can't predict the things that will happen, the way that they will happen, or the inventive ways the humans that work in this industry will find to hurt themselves!  but it is a small world and 10 years later, I find myself working back to back, west of Shetland with the OOE who was onboard Central Azeri that day and was one of the people who was in one of those small lifeboats that i watched & worried for in the waters of the Caspian.  They were difficult times and we look back now and saw how well we all responded and got through it... and it is that which gives me hope about how we will all cope with the current crisis gripping the world.

Stay safe everyone ... my helicopter is on its way !!


 




Online dannyboy

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #36 on: March 31, 2020, 10:19:59 AM »
Very interesting. It is quite surprising at times, just how much we do not know about this world of ours.  :beers:
David.
I used to be indecisive - now I'm not - I don't think.
If a friend seems distant, catch up with him.

Offline emjaybee

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #37 on: March 31, 2020, 10:52:37 AM »
Safe trip @Milton Rail

Enjoying the yarns, keep it up.
Sometimes you bite the dog...

...sometimes the dog bites you!

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I can explain it to you...

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Offline Gizzy

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #38 on: March 31, 2020, 11:25:25 AM »
That's quite an amazing set of tales there?

I've no knowledge of working on the rigs, although I've seen a lot of the H&S videos that came about following the Alpha Papa disaster.

I am now employed in helicopter training, but not with civil or rig support. I've also been employed as a Medical Equipment Engineer, and worked on Infra-Red equipment in heavy industry (Steel and Cement) worldwide, before returning to aviation, but my professional life doesn't come anywhere near your one for stories?

Thanks for taking the time to recount just what happens in your industry....
Gizzy

Gentleman, scholar, railway modeller....

Offline Dizz

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #39 on: March 31, 2020, 12:13:17 PM »
Very interesting  :thankyousign:
Stay safe Andrew  :thumbsup:

Offline Lawrence

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #40 on: April 01, 2020, 02:20:41 PM »
I take it you are home now Andrew? Just a guess as all the cloud cover seems to have moved down to my end of the Tay and it seems much brighter in the West  ;)

Offline Milton Rail

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #41 on: April 30, 2020, 05:20:47 PM »
Hello again from the relative calm of the North Atlantic, hope you are all well & keeping safe

After an eerie (but have to say blissful) 3.5 weeks at home where I managed to tidy up the garden, woods and outbuildings, planted a mini forest (~500 trees) and reorganised a large old compost heap that we inherited with the house (reckon I must have shovelled & sorted around 6 tons of compost & still only 1/3 done), it was time to return offshore

Gone were the old days of driving up to Aberdeen the Monday night before a Tuesday crew change, now we were called up to Aberdeen by 9am on the Saturday morning, I also had the added complication of having an issue with my car that made me reluctant to drive it, but no garage open to repair it ... but the company has gone above and beyond in ensuring safe passage for everyone going offshore, be it hire car provision or taxi door to door.  Thus I found myself in a shiny smart Mercedes E-class with a chatty Londoner at the wheel called Mark.  Lets just say we had an eclectic chat that covered many topics!

Arrival at the hotel saw a one way system to check in, markings on the floor at 2m and a screened off reception, pots for clean & used pens as you signed in and a small welcome pack including hand sanitiser provided.  Straight to room and belongings dropped, it was back down to a makeshift testing suite in the ballroom.  What followed next I had been forewarned of .... but that didn't prepare me!  A swab right to the back of the throat (gag reflexes well and truly tested) .... and then a swab thrust to the upper extremities of each nasal canal..... that brought tears to my eyes.....

After that, we had to remove ourselves to our rooms and self isolate until the following Tuesday .. we were allowed a 1Hr walk each day, but physical distancing was to be practiced at all times so as not to undo the efforts made so far.  I had been warned about the relatively sparse menu options, so had an extra bag of nibbles, beer & wine!  In the end the food was pretty good, you phoned down your choice and it got delivered in takeaway boxes to the door for you to eat in isolation - lots of curry options mind.

It is the first time I have really had to rely on daytime tv for amusement .... and I found my days became .... 4 episodes of "Come Dine with Me", followed by 5 episodes of "4 in a Bed" followed by another series of 4 episodes of "Come Dine with Me" .... by which time we were into Tipping Point and The Chase!  There were also a few episodes of Colombo, Lovejoy & Auf Wedersehen Pet thrown in for good measure.

After all that quality me time.... I was happy to hear on the Monday morning that I had tested negative and fit to fly on Tuesday ... after a final temperature check, we were all allowed onto the bus that shuttled us around to the heliport and from there, we went through the relatively familiar process of check in & security searches ... albeit a bit slower as we spaced ourselves out.  The security folks were also taking a few more precautions as well, but still showing the same professionalism.

With the high incident rates in Shetlands, we had already started to avoid the island, so after donning the survival suit, the pressurised assisted breathing life jacket & an anti-viral snood (impossible to practice physical distancing in a helicopter, so the snood is to cut down the risk of transmission) it was time to settle into the uncomfortable chopper seat for the 1hr 50 min flight .... despite making a schoolboy error and forgetting to keep a book to hand, I ended up sleeping 95% of the journey!

So here I am, back in the wilds of the Atlantic, ready for another 3 weeks of surprises, banter and battles - I'll wrack some brain cells and think of some other bits to share

Cheers for now 

Offline Lawrence

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #42 on: May 01, 2020, 10:03:51 PM »
At least they appear to be doing their best to take care of you Andrew, will you get a couple of days in quarantine on your return or be allowed straight home?
Stay safe fella  :thumbsup:

Online crewearpley40

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #43 on: May 01, 2020, 10:13:08 PM »
Look forward to more interesting stories .maybe sketches on your dream layout to pass time off

Online Bealman

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Re: Life on an oil platform
« Reply #44 on: May 01, 2020, 10:15:24 PM »
Take it easy, Andrew, and thanks for posting this fascinating stuff. It is a truly educational experience for me.  :thumbsup:
Vision over visibility. Bono, U2.

 

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