The weather finally permitted me to go out to the BP oil production Platform “Holstein,” 150 miles south of New Orleans.
I was wondering about the name of the platform, “Holstein". Most of the other platforms have "manly" or legendary names, "Mad Dog", "Thunder Horse" (which was initially "Crazy Horse" but was changed when some Indian tribe demanded royalties for using the name) "Atlantis," "Horn Mountain," "Marlin", and "Holstein"? A cow?
Apparently when the first oil comes out of a new oil field it's black as midnight. When the oil first came up from these wells it looked exactly like a chocolate milkshake so someone suggested "Holstein" a black and white cow that gives milkshakes…and it apparently stuck.
Well, that's what they told me, I could still be the gullible new guy!!!!
The biggest threat to my well-being is overeating. The food is incredible.
We had steak for supper Saturday night (I think today is Sunday). I watch the cooks prepare it. They have a grill outside and a checklist a mile long before they can fire it up and use it. The need special permission from the Ops center, a step by step plan of each step and each step requires two people to cheek off before they can move to the next one, one man holds a fire extinguisher while the other man grills the steaks. The close down procedure is even more complicated. They finally "deluge" the grill while taking care that none of the extinguished charcoal is allowed to go over the side. The water for the deluge is fresh water that has been salinized (is that a word?) to match the Gulf's saline content. They can't just pump up salt water and use is, it has to be "distilled" for the want of a better word, cleaned of impurities then changed back into salt water.
This is an incredible operation made all the more so by the enormous detail to maintain as close to a "zero" environmental footprint as possible. Nothing goes over the side except food waste that is ground to a consistency that would flow through a rubber sheet (well, small, anyway)
Anything that accidentally gets into the Gulf has to be recovered. If a hardhat goes over the side they send a boat to recover it. Even paper that accidentally falls into the water has to be recovered if possible and reported. Even the smokers can't flick ashes in the Gulf, but flick them into a fireproof container.
Next to safety, hygiene is high on the list. Every room has hand sanitizer and in the restroom you are first supposed to wash your hands with hot soapy water and then use sanitizer.
This is one of the larger platforms with 162 people on board at maximum. By law they have to have a lifeboat redundancy of 2 to one. There are four lifeboats that hold 86 people each. They are located on opposites sides of the platform so in the event that one side is engulfed in flames the other side is open. Once in the lifeboats you are (shudder) "quickly" lowered to the surface of the Gulf, 100 feet down.
Finally there are large inflatable life rafts that can be used in an extreme emergency (I've been too afraid to ask for a definition of "extreme."
We had an abandon drill this morning at 6:30. Fortunately I'd gotten up early and had already showered and dressed. I didn't have my contacts in and they sent me to my alternate abandon platform station on the OTHER side of the platform!
I hadn't been there before because normally you can't go out without all of the equipment except during drills and real emergencies.
It was….interesting. Walking on open grated walkways with handrails supported 100 - 150 feet above the Gulf. You look down and there’s lot of water below you!!! I was actually kind of happy that I DIDN'T have my contacts in!!!!
Tomorrow they're running a ROV down to the bottom (4,000 ft. +/-) So they have a big screen you can watch from the "peanut" gallery. Ever since they've been using ROVs, they feed real-time video back to several schools of oceanography because they are finding forms of life down there previously thought not to exist in the Gulf.
It’s just incredible. That's my stock phrase for the past 36 hours.
Here are the photos
I’ve been able to take. Because of restrictions I can’t take my camera outside because it is not approved for external use. I can take all the photos I want from inside. I’ll try to borrow an approved camera and take shots later on.
Before I can go out I have to have hardhat, safety glasses, steel toed boots, fire retardant overalls and nomex gloves