Land, Ho!

First and foremeost: I have started playing DrawSomething on my smart phone. Play me!

While waiting for my helicopter to leaving the rig, I wanted to get a closer look at the fish. I climbed down to the lower decks on the rig. I am sure theses areas are off-limits to me. Flashback to a memory with my cousins nearly 15 years ago… After sneaking several bags of candy into the theatre to see the Prince of Egypt, it was time to leave the movie. The candies were opened and much harder to conceal than before. I asked Orpheus, “How will we sneak them back out?” He casually stated to me “What are they going to do?…Throw us out?”  Rules be damned! And I climbed down another set of stairs. The fish looked bigger down there- end of story. I experienced the most peaceful helicopter ride ever. I was overcome with bliss as the chopper made a wide circle around the rig and headed back to the shore. The vibrations of the thumping propellers lulled me to sleep. I woke just in time to see the swampy green farm areas before landing at the heliport. Yesterday, I went to lunch with Lynn and Lauren, my manager. Lauren explained to us that we would be assigned to a ‘cell’ and have our own crew. My crew should be Harry1, DaffyDuck, and a man named Floyd whom I have yet to work with. This news made me very happy. Once I break out, I will be on the cell known as MP07.

Strange it is how with little sleep a person can function. I am so excited to “break out” and no longer be a trainee. The lack of job bonus has gotten old. Finishing up a job includes hours of paperwork and maintenance on your equipment. I am compiling the ticket for this job. I have spent a better part of this morning assigning bonuses to the other eight people I was with. All the while, checking “Observer, No Bonus” next to my own name. Since returning from the Sundowner XVI  a day ago, all I want to do is be at the office to work or study. All I want to do is be DAMNGOOD at my job. For those of you who know me well, you know this is an anomaly. I am capable and think highly of myself (sometimes), but I usually don’t place much importance on being DAMNGOOD, when PRETTYGOOD is GOODENOUGH.

Strange it is how happy I am. On a personal level, this job is tough. You’re never alone but always lonley in your thoughts. I find peace and quiet in the absense. What I used to regard as boredom is now quality alone time spent simply breathing. It is rare and precious. For the other 90% of my day, I spend my time smiling in the faces of my co worker companions and singing to myself. I think about all the things I could be doing if I still lived in Arizona. I think about all the things I could be doing if I stayed in Texas. I imagine the different possibilities I could be living out right now. They would have been miserable next to this. Don’t get me wrong, dear readers, I miss everyone of you very much. But I crave novelty and irregularity. I watch the sunrise and set on the water and spit at sharks to see if the tiny ripples get their attention. I am the new kid around here- “Little One”, “Super JFE”, “Killer”,”Junior”, “Curly” and “Snack-Pack”.

I climbed into my bed last night around 8:30 and woke at 6 to ride my bicycle to work 6 miles. Dawning three flashy lights on my back and front, I rode off into the morning, ready to attack another day at the shop. I sit at my desk and study. Let’s get technical again, shall we?

Controls are the Whataberger equivilant of defending a thesis, or taking the BAR or MCAT exam. I will go to New Orleans in about a week, sit with my manager, a sales engineer, and maybe some other bigwigs, to go over how much I know. This is terrifying. It’s so terrifying, that I am studying. Again, for those of you who know me well, this is another anomaly. (I should also mention that I clean my apartment and my room. I know what you’re thinking: Who is this girl?) So for controls, I have to be able to describe every aspect of the following:

In Service Quality/Health/Safety/Environment: Whataberger’s 22 Standards, Whataberger Wireline Standards, QHSE Management system, Hazard Analysis and Risk Control writing, and some other stuff.

Cased Hole Services: Know the ins and outs of the following downhole tools- Ultrasonic Imaging Tool, Cement Bond Log Sonic Scanner Tool, Nuclear Reservoir Saturation Tool, Perforating tools and explosives, Production Logging Tools. This is all the stuff I spent 3.5 months in Kellyville, OK trying to learn.

In General: Depth Control, Basic Equipment, Pressure Control, Telemetry, Cables, Computer system and networking in the logging unit, Generators, and some tension calculations for tools and cables.

Management: All kinds of stuff.

It’s daunting. I’m terrified. But determined.

Hide of an Elephante

Skip to bottom for quotes. Keep reading to hear about my life.

It is one of my goals to keep rigtales as up beat as I can. I will start off by saying that working offshore is great. You can do things by your personal style. For example, I have done a fair amount of my work while sitting in my bed under my snuggie. I also listen to whatever Pandora station I want or even stream Arrested Development while logging. However, I hate to admit the last day (day and a half/ two days/ what day is it?) have been really rough.   

I am a slave to the data. As I wake from a 3 hour nap, I crack open the laptop I have been spooning to check on my precious data. The truth about being a wireline field engineer is that you are a slave to the job long after the physical operation has been completed. You are married to the job until you’re back on land and the client is happy with the data you have delivered. At that point, you divorce that job and move on with your life. What happens offshore stays offshore. Until then, everything matters, and it’s your ass on the line 100 percent. You’re a slave to your equipment before the logging starts. You spend time sitting in the cab and making sure everything is hooked up correctly. You are a slave to the log, monitoring it vigilantly for days on end and adjusting parameters in the acquisition system.

Slave. I have been up for days, napping for 3 or 4 hours at a time, trying to polish data. Sometimes your system sucks and it corrupts your data. Sometimes you spend days trying to recover this data. Turgey, Cookies, O’Hershes all offer advise from their lessons learned. Lynn, Yogi and I die a little every time something doesn’t work. Then, one of the software champions, from halfway around the world, contacted us to help us through a data restoration process. It’s been a long couple days. I feel like I have bonded well with Yogi and Lynn on this job. I hate to use the comparison, but I imagine this is how soldiers feel about each other after combat together.  

No interesting shark sightings lately- just lots of logging. I have been looking at casing data and cement data. Let’s get technical for a moment as I explain my job:

When wells are first drilled, they are “open”. I have referenced “open holers” before. These are the people who log well data in open hole conditions. After the well is drilled, a steel casing will be put in. These are essentially steel pipes that line the inside of the open hole. Now, the hole is “cased”. I have mentioned before, I am a cased hole wireline engineer, or “cased holer”. After a hole is cased, cement will be pumped between the outside of the casing and the formation. This is important to create a proper seal and maintain well integrity. Cement is crucial to isolate zones in the ground. This means, keeping water zones and oil zones from leaking into each other. Now, when a client (Shell, BP, Chevron, etc…) wants to know data about their well, they can call up Whataberger to run wireline. In general, this service is a conductive cable with super high tech tools attached to the end. We lower the cable into the well and “log”. We can also run mechanical services, such as setting plugs, perforating (punching holes through the casing and into the formation for production), junk baskets, and other cool stuff. A lot of the logging that my specific location runs is casing inspections and cement evaluations. We also do a fair amount of plug setting as well, these take explosives to set. You may not have known this, readers, but you have been reading the blog of a licensed Louisiana Blaster. This means I have an explosives license from the state to handle, arm and detonate explosives. That of course, is just a very small portion of what we do.

I hate to bore you with that, dear readers, but I like to explain. Any further detail is highly classified Whataberger knowledge. Yogi is out here to run a very special tool. Yogi has her own crew. One of them is an African man named Sauce. Sauce is a little intimidating at first, but is actually very funny and supportive. Quotes!

“Look at all the screens in here. There are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight computers in here!! I’m getting out of here before I catch cancer. I’m taking a smoke break.”-Harry2, or Harry3. I have confused the order.

“Hey, If you’re not losing data, you’re not wirelining!”- A supportive Weatherford wireline hand. They were out here running one of their tools on our wireline. Weatherford is a competitor company.

I have mentioned the elusive Company man (CoMan) on every job. Sometimes there is a wellsite witness in addition to the CoMan. Much like the CoMan, the WW can vary in temperament and intensity. This go around, the WW is the “stop watch” or “old school” proto-type. This means he is always rushing you and asking you to go faster or make prints when you are not ready yet. In between runs, Sauce, Yogi, Harry2, and myself sat in the unit discussion how to handle CoMen and WW’s. “When a CoMan is bothering me, Bing (operator) will ask me, ‘Is he bothering you?’ I told him ‘yeah, can you get rid of him?’ I don’t know what Bing would eat, but he would go eat and then just have the smelliest farts. It was gross, but it got the CoMan to leave the unit.”-Yogi

“I’m going to the Galley. Do you want anything?”- Sauce

“No thanks.”-Yogi and Me

“Do you want pickles?”-Sauce

“Yeah! That sounds really good actually.”-Me

“Okay. I’ll bring pickles……. Pickles are green spicy things, right?”-Sauce

Sauce came back with a tray of assorted pickles. Sweet pickles and sandwich sliced pickles.

After School Special

It is agains my style to post so quickly, as I fear it doesn’t give readers a change to catch up or readers will skip a post. However, this is too important.

I tried to google some images to explain, but nothing seems to does it justice.

I went to eat a midnight meal. The cooks were unloading groceries. Unlike unloading groceries in your home, this looked more like moving offices and unpacking boxes. The cook (same crazy cook who wakes you up for his McGriddles) says to me “You just missed it, we threw a bucket of slop over to feed the sharks.”

“Whaaat?”

“Yeah, and they were all *strange sound effect and hand gestures* and fighting. We’re going to throw another bucket over later tonight.”

“Well, you have to come get me!”

I prepared my plate and took a seat in the galley. Barbeque beef, yesss! After eating, I left the galley and walked to the edge of the rig to watch the subsurface world. I didn’t expect to see so much as it is dark outside. The sea be poppin around 11:45pm. I stood at the rail, a friendly observer 100 ft away. Baracudas casually mingled with the common fish, much like a little ocean night club. Sharks patrolled the area, their size and strength emphasizing they were not to be mingled with. They are the bouncers. Strangely, the waters are more dynamic at night, splashing as fish break the surface in erratic pursuit or flee. The critters of the ocean night club dart around the waters much like your eyes may dart from side to side after placing in a contact in the morning. I had enough watching; it was time to take action.

I walked back into the galley. The cook spotted me and asked me, “Do you want to feed the sharks?” “Yes”, I replied very matter of factly. “Go that way.” He gestured to walk outside and to the right, out of sight behind the building. Though I felt somewhat like I was about to make a drug deal in an alley, I met the cook behind the galley next to the rig railing. We walked to the corner, and the cook threw over a 4 gallon bucket of food scraps.

Then…. they came. The fish made an angry mob surrounding the food bits. Fish were muscling each other out of the way to get a nibble at half eaten french fries and mashed potatos. Dozens of sharks emerged, eager to get a piece of the trash pie. They overtook the fish, occupying the center of the now expanding mass of food on the water’s surface. I repeat: dozens of sharks breached the surface trying to eat barbeque sauce and watermelon. Then….. the seagulls came flying in, like fighter jets, snatching bread crusts off the surface. Sharks would snap at the birds, only to be bested in the battle. The birds squawked as their lives flashed before their eyes before they flew away. This was no ‘feeding frenzy’; this was all out feeding war: Sea vs Sky vs Sea. Every creature snapped. They snapped at each other; they snapped at food. I think they just snapped and hoped for the best.

“I just hope when I fall in, they recognize I’m the one that feeds them.”-Cook

“One day, I saw a 20 ft hammer head. I backed away from the railing.”-Cook

“I come out here 4 or 5 times a night to watch them.”-Cook

“If I ever get caught doing this, I’d get run off the rig!”-Cook

“I thought you were allowed to throw food this far off shore?”-Laila

“No, I’ve got a food grinder right over there. I am supposed to put the scraps in there. But I just come out and throw the hell out of some slop buckets!”-Cook

Fish Fryday

It has been one week since I have seen a car, a Wal-Mart, dirt, or a pool table. I have failed to mention in previous posts, but I play pool now. I am terrible at it.  

Lynn came to the rig and morale is still high. We spent some time laying in our beds looking at well data together. It felt like oilfield summer camp!

At oilfield summer camp, your day is broken down into very specific activities. Each of which are specifically designed to help you with the very technical and detail oriented life as an oilfield service hand. Oilfield summer camp is a lesson in both discipline and maturity. Let us go though a typical day… (all times are guesstimated)

Wake Up Call- 04:30 : The cook comes into your room to wake you up. He wakes you up not only because it’s almost crew change time, but because he made “McGriddles” and does not want anyone to miss out. The good thing about wake up call is that it is totally negligable. This oilfield camper just kept bunk curtain closed and waited for the morning harassment to end. I’m not trying to get out of bed this early just for a pancake with sausage. I’m not trying real hard.  

Wake Up Call Version 2.0- 08:45: That’s more like it! Oilfield campers wake at their leisure and mosey into the galley for some coffee. This is the time where campers sit with their mentors and go over the job safety agreement sheet you have to sign before getting a work permit. After obtaining the permit, it is time to get to work.

Obtain Safe Work Permit 10:00: Go downstairs to the production office. Explain to them that you have a generator, which has a button that you will be pressing to start it up. Explain to them that you have been obtaining permits for this same task all week long. Smile and be patient as they pour over you job safety checklist. After the man at the desk gives you a permit, you must go upstairs and have some other guy approve and sign off on it. After that man signs it, you must go back downstairs. Keep smiling, remain patient. Permit obtained.

Wild Life Sighting- 10:30: Campers stand on walkway of rig and look out into ocean. There are HUNDREDS of fish swarming at the surface. Some fish are big, some are shiny, some are skinny, some swim sideways, some chase other ones, but they are all fantastic. If there is any activity near the surface, all the fish will swim towards it. If something very active is occurring near the surface, the sharks will come. First one, then two, they stay under all the fish, and you can just see a shadow underneath the water. Sharks don’t lurk at the surface unless there is an occasion. The campers will be so excited to see the sharks. A camp counselor will then entice all the fish by scooping ice out of the ice chest and hurling buckets of ice into the water. Fish will go crazy, sharks will race to the surface, exposing their dorsal fins to the campers above. Fish from all over the ocean flock to the scene. “They’re probably thinking, ‘Damn, it’s f&$%ing ice again'”, The counselor narrates. I love this job. I love it so.

Lunch-11:00: It’s fish Friday. Happy Lent. This camper happened to come across a really inspiring blog post last night. This is the excerp:

It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You won’t get any coddling, and you won’t get any sympathy for your “struggles”. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.

Don’t even consider the possibility of a “slip”. Unless you physically tripped and your face landed in a box of doughnuts, there is no “slip”. You make a choice to eat something unhealthy. It is always a choice, so do not phrase it as if you had an accident. Commit to the program 100% for the full 30 days. Don’t give yourself an excuse to fail before you’ve even started.

You never, ever, ever HAVE to eat anything you don’t want to eat. You’re all big boys and girls. Toughen up. Learn to say no (or make your Mom proud and say, “No, thank you”). Learn to stick up for yourself. Just because it’s your sister’s birthday, or your best friend’s wedding, or your company picnic does not mean you have to eat anything. It’s always a choice.

http://sleepeatgymrepeat.com/

And so, I ate watermelon and fish. No Slim Jim and no Peanut M&M’s.

Troubleshoot Or Something-12:30: Now is a critical learning time for campers. Campers sit in the corner of the logging unit and look at blogs and try out new templates for their blogs. (Feedback welcome) Meanwhile, another third party service hand will try to hook up one of their downhole tools onto your wireline. You will assist by carrying around a multi-meter to allow for people to check resistance in the cable, placing a wire in a box to short out the circuit, and fetching water. Camp is tough sometimes, but it is always a learning experience.

Playback-14:30: After your e mail finally restores itself after a half day hiatus, you will start to fiddle with the data you logged days ago. You mentor will sit and approve the changes you make. It will take several minutes for the software to recompute with every change, so you just keep updating your blog. You find that perhaps you are learning something, and a strange feeling seeps through your head and into your gut. Maybe I won’t suck at this job, afterall.

Dinner- 17:00: It’s fish Friday. Now it’s fried fish Friday dinner. You opt for more watermelon. What the eff happened to the salad bar?? And some crawfish gumbo thing. Immediately following dinner is the

Rig Safety Meeting- 17:30: Here, campers are let know that there are two safety meetings, one at 05:30, and one at 17:30. The Oilfield Summer Camp president requests your attendance to both. That’s great, we’ve been here for a week and no one has asked this of us.

Helideck Skipping- 18:00: Campers are let onto the helideck to frolic. Campers skip, lunge, shuffle, walk and jog in small circles, whilst wearing steel toe boots, hard hats, and coveralls. While mid lunge, campers notice that people can see them, and realize what a spectacle this has been. Campers realize that there is no need to be self conscious. I‘ve been trapped out here with you a-holes for a week now, I think its about time I embarass myself.

More Computering- 18:30: Campers and mentors return to the logging cab to do more of the same. Campers edit prints and learn to create proper digital files that are not 2gigs using a conversion application.

Days End- 20:00: Campers are dismissed to their bunks for showers. After showers, campers are expected to upload the data they’ve been working on all day.

Midnight Meal- 23:00: After a long day at camp, it is time for midnight meal. If I’m lucky, fried fish Friday is over and the salad bar has been restored..

To the Lifeboat!

If the weather today was ‘raining’, then I never want to be caught offshore in the event of a hurricane. There was thunder; there was lightning. Trash cans went flying, and rain mercilessly struck the wireline unit. Even the water puddled on the floor of the rig made cresting waves, like a baby ocean mimicking the restless blue giant below. Selina and I, slaves to the job, stayed in the unit, ignoring the strange storm abrewing. We also did not hear the emergency alarms sound. Yogi, the other engineer on our job came crashing into the unit. Rain dripped from her hard hat as she exclaimed “What the f*$% are you guys doing? The rig is shut down, everyone is in the galley waiting on you and we’ve been trying to page you with the walkie talkie for 15 minutes!!”

Whoops. Together, we three ladies braved the elements, wading in steel-toe deep puddles across the rig to the galley. I thought we would be sitting though a safety meeting or emergency briefing. Rather, the rig took this opportunity to give a presentation on using checklists. I am not exaggerating. In this moment of crisis, we sat in the small galley, smelling of wet rig hands, to listen to a presentation on making checklists. It was an interesting and useful presentation; however, my mind was elsewhere. Mid presentation, the rig alarm sounded. Some guy who I guess was in charge (I feel like everyone is in charge in some capacity. Alls I know is, I am not in charge.) Stood up and declared, “Everyone to your stations.”

This is not a drill, I thought. As I rounded the corner to my assigned lifeboat, lifeboat 2, everyone did an about-face mumbling “false alarm”…. At least the checklist meeting is over, I thought. A brief moment of panic was quickly overcome, and we returned to the logging unit to pack up our stuff.

The weather continues to grow more unfavorable….

“Oh my gosh… what IS that?” – Selina, on my Snuggie.

My mentor, Lynn, comes to the rig tomorrow to relieve Selina as she goes on days off. Someday, when I am no longer a trainee, I will get days off too. Rest assured I will come visit every one of you in turn, dear readers. Anyhow, I have yet to make a job offshore with my mentor. She is pretty much my hero, so I want to show her what a great trainee I am. I feel like tomorrow is my first day of Kindergarten….when I met Mrs. Murphy for the first time. I was so excited and wanted so badly for my teacher to like me. I remember Mrs. Murphy asked me how old I was and I got nervous and answered 4 instead of 5. I feel more or less like that, except I can keep my cool much better now. I am 23 (as of one month and one day ago). I think people have ‘adult kindergarten’ experiences. They keep you young.

As I type this:

*Crashing Thunder*

“Hollie Sh!t” -Yogi

“I think I just peed a little..”-Laila

“In your Snuggie?”….”Did you really just pee?” -Yogi

“No!”-Laila

“I can never tell with you.”-Yogi

Caught Between a Rig and a Windy Place

I will be stuck on this rig for days. The job delay is broken up by false hope of getting to rig up. initially, we were told we would not get started until Wednesday. After going to bed Monday night, we were woken up and told we would start. False alarm 1. We were told to stand by and start in another 4 hours. Five hours later, we were woken up to start. excessive wind speeds shut down the operation. False alarm 2. If the wind dies down soon, we will be called to start. False alarm 3. If the wind does not die down soon, the rig has to test the B.O.P’s (blow out preventers, a critical component of well control) by tomorrow, Wednesday night. The BOP testing will take a day.

I have been scheming ways to get myself off this rig. My plans were as follows:

1) Maybe I can feign sickness like I did that one time in the first grade and my mother let me stay home from school….. That won’t fly unless I actually get sick. I am feeling rather queasy… I should not have eaten all that pizza, french fries with liquid cheese and cheeseburger. Maybe if I throw up in front of everyone off the side of this rig, they will force me to go home.

2) This rig is outrageous about safety compliance. Maybe if we piss them off enough with a disregard for getting our work permit renewed every 12 hours, we can just be run off the rig.

Alas- I have made peace with my surroundings. When life gives you wind, you pop some pop corn, throw on your Snuggie, crawl into your bunk space, stream videos on Hulu and blog your heart out. You go to the daily safety meeting, look around at all the rough necks, ex military,ex con, and roustabouts. Count yourself as one of their kind.

During the safety meeting, people can submit ‘stop’ cards, where they write down something unsafe or safe they saw and what they did about it. They are called ‘stop’ cards because if something unsafe is happening, you are supposed to stop the job. After discussing the rig’s activities, the meeting leader reads the stop cards aloud to the group. He then asked “does anyone have anything else to add?” After a brief silence, the man next to him announced to the group,

“I saw Gunner trying to pee standing up. I stopped the job and told him it would be safer if he squatted.”

The Downside

Facebook chat with my sister:

Sister: what’s UP!

Me:oh, nothing. sitting offshore being lonely

Sister:aww
mayy!
you never lonely!!
do you want a video conference with [my cat]?
 

When you’re offshore, you have to ‘work’. For Selina and I, this means wearing our onseys and sitting in the computer cab all day wasting time. Total time spent working today: 3.5 hours. We have to wait for the rig to move around pipe and prepare the well for us to log. At that point, we will be working 4 days straight. I forgot a book. I don’t want to study. In light of these events, I sit around and day dream about riding my bicycle and doing other fun things….

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..

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Daydream adjourned.

This rig is fairly old and very colorful. Literally. The floors are green, the cranes are yellow, and every pipe/pump system is a different color. It feels like a McDonalds playhouse. Instead of slides, I get to run up and down stairs. Older rigs and newer rigs vary on several things. The most glaring to me is the personell accommodations. There has never been a female on this rig. Now there are two.

“We’ve never had a female on this rig.”-CoMan, Gus

“Never ever?”-Selina

“Nope. Women were not allowed.”-Gus

“Well, times change.”-Selina

And so, the rig had to completely rearrange their living quarters for Selina and myself. We have our own room and bathroom. None of the bathrooms lock on this rig, as that is a fire escape hazard. On the other side of our bathroom is the room where our crew is staying. They just have to use another bathroom. Our room also has a thermostat in the corner. It was set to 60. I turned it to 65. Today, several people have been approaching Selina and I about touching the thermostat. Apparently, it controls the entire building. Apparently, no one could sleep because it was too hot in the living quarters. Ooops…

The upside: I get paid for this sh!t.