Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

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Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby Haggis@wk » Sun Dec 14, 2008 12:11 pm

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
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby Schmeelkie » Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:18 pm

That's pretty cool! The safety precautions sound intense! NIce to know you're not allowed to throw anything into the water - can't believe they'd try to retrieve a piece of paper - amazing! Can't wait for the outdoor shots...
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby analog » Mon Dec 15, 2008 1:26 pm

fascinating machinery, Haggis.

There's so much fascinating stuff goes on in heavy industry of which we the people are absolutely unaware. But it takes a personal story to make it interesting.

In the power plant where I worked two mechanics took 35mm slides of a reactor overhaul for their kids' grade school class. Word got around and they were in demand by schools all over the county.

Sadly industry leaves their PR to the advertising departments and misses the power of personal involvement. Nobody would believe a slick madison avenue commercial claiming the guys on an oil rig worry about things like paper falling in the water.

I worked in a '70's vintage nuke plant where we got worse press than Nixon. But I still meet younger adults from the community who remember those two fellows coming to their school....

I look forward to your more of your pictures and firsthand commentary......

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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby piqaboo » Mon Dec 15, 2008 2:54 pm

WHat all is it you do in that office, when you are not resting your feet that is?

I'd want my head at the other end of that lower bunk. Something about the ladder....

Great to hear the info, see the pix. Thanks!
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby barfle » Mon Dec 15, 2008 5:44 pm

I'm impressed with the cautions against pollution, including trash. I saw the PBS series Carrier, and there was a piece on trash disposal and what could and could not be disposed of overboard.
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby BigJon@Work » Tue Dec 16, 2008 1:15 pm

Is there any perceptible motion of the platform from the wind and the waves? Or does the machinery drown all that out?
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby Haggis@wk » Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:52 pm

BigJon@Work wrote:Is there any perceptible motion of the platform from the wind and the waves? Or does the machinery drown all that out?


Yes. Yesterday I could feel the platform rolling, primarily due to high seas, 4- 6 ft. waves. Last Thursday, when the weather kept me away the people on the platform said that was the biggest rolls they had ever seen. The combination of waves and wind were causing chairs to roll across the floor.

I'm writing up another installment and I'll try to post it tomorrow evening. I'm leaving to return to the beach tomorrow PM. Because I couldn't do my job Sat. and Sun. I spent 16 hours working yesterday and 12 today.

I'm going to post some more photos and go into how they make this thing move. It is a registeed sea going vessel and they have to have people with Master Mariner Documents on duty all the time, just like any ocean going vessel. The spar floats and is controlled by 16 chain/cables. Each link in the chains are six ft tall and weigh over 300 lbs. and they have 12,000 ft of chain/cable on each anchor....incredible.

More to come, I'm off to bed. Oh, BTW the bunks are all select comfort mattresses; you make them as firm or as soft as you want. More tomorrow.
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby jamiebk » Wed Dec 17, 2008 10:20 am

Haggis...is that an anchored oil rig or one of those semi-submersible, self-positioning (GPS) (i.e. dynamic) ones. I am always amazed at the technology on these things. A number of years ago, we wrote some bonds to guarantee construction of two of these monsters. Friede Goldman Halter was the company doing so. Unfortunately, the technical specs and costs were beyond the company's capability and the job literally broke the company.

I take from your description of the rolling that you were probably on a semi-submersible platform.

For those interested, here is a description of the various types of platforms:

Fixed platforms - These were the first units to be used. Preference has been given to them in fields located in water depths to 200m. Fixed platforms generally consist of modular steel structures installed at the operation site with piles driven into the seabed. Fixed platforms are designed to receive all drilling equipment, material storage, and staff accommodation, plus all well-production facilities.

Jack-up platforms - These consist basically of a barge fitted with a support structure, or legs that when activated mechanically or hydraulically, are lowered until they reach the seabed. The platform is then raised above the water level to a safe height, away from the action of the waves. These platforms are mobile and are pulled by tugboats or are self-propelled. They are designed to drill exploratory wells on the continental shelf in depths varying from five to 130 meters.

Semi-submersible platforms - Semi-submersible platforms consist of a structure of one or more decks supported by submerged pontoons. A pontoon moves in accordance with the action of waves, currents and winds, and this may damage the equipment that is to be lowered into the well. That is why it must be set in position on the surface of the sea, within a tolerance radius dictated by the sub-surface equipment. Two kinds of system are responsible for positioning the pontoon: the anchoring system and dynamic positioning system (GPS guided).

The anchoring system consists of 8 to 12 anchors and cables and/or chains, like springs that can put the pontoon back in position when it is moved by the action of the waves, winds and currents.

In the dynamic positioning system, there is no physical connection between the platform and the seabed, except in relation to the drilling equipment. Acoustic sensors determine the driftage, while the computer-controlled propellers in the hull bring the platform back into position.

Semi-submersibles may or may not be self-propelled. In any event, they are more mobile and are preferred for drilling wildcat wells.
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby Haggis@wk » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:41 am

From the BP website:

Located adjacent to Mad Dog and Atlantis, the Holstein field is located in the Green Canyon area about 150 miles south of New Orleans and is permanently moored in 4,344 feet of water. The platform is the largest production, drilling and quarters (PDQ) truss spar in the world. The floating platform’s mooring system also is the world’s largest for a floating object, extending three-quarters of a mile from the surface to the ocean floor.


The spar has a diameter of 150 ft., the last one build was 100 ft. According to people here there probably won't be any more spar platforms this size (150 ft.) Apparently all the data points to spars between 100 - 135 as the most economical. This platform cost $1.8BIL!!

There are 16 wells, 13 are in use, and two are being drilled. A company called Pride International handles the drilling and those guys are the real deals. I've been taking applications for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) that all mariners and oil field workers have to have by 04/2009. The process involves taking electronic fingerprints and more than a few of these guys have fingers missing. One guy showed me a finger that had been reattached.

When I ask for job title it’s usually “roustabout” or “roughneck”

My flight today has been cancelled (hmm, have to ration that last cigar) and I'm finished up here so I'll get paid to eat incredible food another day!!

I'll upload some more photos later.
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby jamiebk » Wed Dec 17, 2008 12:43 pm

Haggis@wk wrote: more than a few of these guys have fingers missing. One guy showed me a finger that had been reattached. When I ask for job title it’s usually “roustabout” or “roughneck”


I can believe it...every time I see pictures of oil workers wrapping chains and clamping equipment onto those massive drill bit shafts, I shudder at the thought of getting one's whole hand "removed".
#######################################
In oilfields, roughneck is one of several roles in the hierarchy on an oil rig. A roughneck's duties could include anything involved with the connecting and "tripping" of pipe down the well bore, and the roughneck is the person when it comes to general work around the rig. The roughneck is part of the crew.

The crew of a land-based oil rig can be further divided into several positions:

Toolpusher: The boss of all crews on the drilling location, he usually lives on location for a few days at a time.

Driller: The head or boss of the crew. Responsible for the control of the rig's machinery during drilling operation and most other rig operations.

Derrickhand (Derrick-man): Responsible for the "mud", the water, or oil based mud; the mud pits where drilling fluids are circulated around the system, and the mud pump. Drilling mud is a mixture used in drilling oil and gas wells to lubricate the hole and keep oil and gas downhole. Also assumes the position in the derrick, usually 80 to 110 feet off the ground, while "tripping pipe". That is the process of "racking" 90 feet or 60 feet lengths of drill pipe back in the mast when pulling out of the hole and the reverse of this when running in the hole.

Motorman (Motorhand): Responsible for the maintenance of the various engines, water pumps, water lines, steam lines, boilers, and various other machinery incorporated into the rig. On a four-man drilling crew the motorman is also the chainhand.

Floorhand (Chainhand): Works the "make-up" tongs on the Driller side of the drilling floor while tripping pipe in the hole. Traditionally, pipe was tripped by throwing chain (wrapping a chain around the bottom pipe, attaching the new piece of pipe, and "throwing" the chain to make it jump to the new piece before drawing in the chain to fully attach the new pipe). Today, throwing chain is considered dangerous by OSHA and is against its regulations. Most roughnecks see it otherwise, but various safer machines are now used to trip pipe. These safer machines are almost without exception markedly slower for tripping pipe, which is probably the reason for the roughnecks' disdain.

Leadhand (Worm): Also a floorhand, usually the lowest member of the drilling crew. Works the "break-out" or lead tongs on the off-driller side of the drilling floor. The position on the off-driller side of the floor that this person works is referred to as the "worm-hole". "Worm" is often used as a derogatory term among more experienced roughnecks.

Roustabout (Leasehand): On bigger rigs and on offshore rigs a person who does most of the painting and cleaning so roughnecks can take care of other work.

Ginsel: The worm’s helper. Also derogatory insult given from roughneck to roughneck. Also called the fifth hand.
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby analog » Wed Dec 17, 2008 2:08 pm

This platform cost $1.8BIL!!


And there's how many of 'em around?
Wearing out at some rate....

gasoline really IS a bargain.


I'm going to post some more photos and go into how they make this thing move.


[bated breath icon] I really like big machinery and hope you can get into the generation and propulsion rooms. When I took Cape May ferry into Maryland that's where I headed - to see the huge diesels, if memory serves they were seven cylinder Colts. Our power plant had 20 cylinder EMD's for emergency power, to me huge recips are another form of music....... too bad i missed the steam era. Doubtless your platform will be gas turbine generators and who knows what propulsion probably electric.

Sounds to this landlubber like a great adventure, Haggis, and i'll bet those oil rig guys can tell some tales!!!

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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby Selma in Sandy Eggo » Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:37 pm

Older oilfield dudes are fun to get talking. Full of indecipherable commentary concerning oddball thingummies that you do untranslatable things to and with, in order to access that sticky black stuff underground. (I reached this conclusion in a VFW hall in Odessa, in the company of a Texan ex-husband and a couple dozen old buddies of his, about 90 minutes into beer-and-catching-up. I'm probably the only reliable witness to the event, I dislike beer...)

They are handy to have around in the event of mechanical failure. They all have tools in the back of the truck and if a part is needed, one goes off to fetch it as the others proceed with the teardown.
>^..^<
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby Haggis@wk » Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:50 pm

Image

Here's a photo I scanned and uploaded to my photo pag. There's more detail at http://i.pbase.com/t1/03/422403/4/107187296.7Fq7JsQf.jpg plus I've geotagged the photo to the GPS coordinates you can click on that and see, precisely, where the platform is located.

As I posted earlier, there are several other platforms around us with 10 - 20 miles. Some BP and some other companies; Shell, et al.
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby jamiebk » Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:52 pm

Haggis@wk wrote:Image

Here's a photo I scanned and uploaded to my photo pag. There's more detail at http://i.pbase.com/t1/03/422403/4/107187296.7Fq7JsQf.jpg plus I've geotagged the photo to the GPS coordinates you can click on that and see, precisely, where the platform is located.

As I posted earlier, there are several other platforms around us with 10 - 20 miles. Some BP and some other companies; Shell, et al.


Haggis...I tried to access that link but it came up "Forbidden". What the heck kinda stuff are you looking at? Am I going to have the FBI tagging me now? :rofl:
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby Haggis@wk » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:54 pm

No, I posted the wrong link. Here's all the gallery

http://www.pbase.com/jimhogue/oil_platform_holstein

I Geotagged the photo to the actual GPS coordinates so you can get an idea where the platform is located.

My flight back to shore was cancelled so I'm here one more night. I consoled myself with arare filet, asparagus, bke potatoe with fresh made peach cobbler with ice cream. Sigh.
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby Haggis@wk » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:29 pm

analog wrote: [bated breath icon] I really like big machinery and hope you can get into the generation and propulsion rooms.


Analog, they are coming. I got a whole bunch of photos from some of the guys here and I'm trying to sort and catalogue them so I can be accurate when I post them.

Here's a progression chart of the various spars. I'm also going to post an image of "Thunder Horse", also a BP platorm. It's a "semi-submersible" so accurately described by Jamie, above. It is, literally, the largest floating platform semi-sub or spar in the world. Whereas Holstein has a max capacity of 166 (limited by bed space and 2X available lifeboat space) Thunder Horse has 300+!!
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby BigJon@Work » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:34 pm

What are the helical blades on outside diameter for?
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby jamiebk » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:37 pm

Haggis@wk wrote: It's a "semi-submersible" so accurately described by Jamie, above.


Haggis...Thanks for the compliment, but I dug that information off of some web pages I found. I thought they would be of interest to everyone. I have basic knowledge of the platforms but not that much.
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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby David Parsley » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:06 pm

Jim,

Thank you for responding to my comments on your Pbase Photos and for this link.

Interesting to see in your comments that the oil rigs are kept to very tight pollution rules. It was like that in the early 80’s when I worked there. I remember when the J Storm 8 blew out drilling with oil based mud. They were over 10,000 feet down when they hit a high pressure that blew the entire drill string and all of the mud through the derrick. It did not catch fire so after everyone returned to the rig, a major clean up of the oil base mud from the rig and the gulf floor began. Since it was in less than 200 feet of water divers spent several weeks sucking up the mess. Then USGS sent their divers down to make sure that there was nothing on the floor.

After every jack up rig moved USGS would inspect the bottom to insure that nothing was left behind. I never remember them sending a boat to pick up a hard hat. The beaches in Texas were littered with trash that had blown off of the drill rigs and production platforms and supply boats. It seems from your comments that they have a better handle on this problem.

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Re: Life on an Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Postby Shapley » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:12 pm

Hello, David.

Welcome to the B.com BB!

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