That Little Girl

I came back on duty this past Thursday. Noelle and my crew were offshore, which means I get to hang around the shop and wait for them to come back or get assigned another job.

I was assigned another job, a highly prized Houma-Larose joint job. I find myself offshore on the Rowan Louisiana. This rig has been locally dubbed as the “break out” rig, as Albert and myself have broken out here and SpikePanda will soon follow suit. Typically, this rig is laid back. Today, it is a frenzy. Please follow along as I guide you through the process of planning and executing this job:

1. This casing inspection is due every month. The upcoming inspection was due November 4th. This is a routine cased hole job, and we were going to begin loading it out closer to November 4th…

2. Surprise! Company now wants to log the deepest portion of their well, which is open hole. This requires an open hole crew. They decide that its easier to just do their casing inspection early and get all wireline work done at once. ETA for wireline: Sunday afternoon. It is currently Friday morning. Rig still has to test BOP’s before we can go to work. The rig will be ready on arrival.

3. Surprise again! Rig gets exemption to delay BOP test, they want Wireline TODAY. It is still Friday morning. Laila quickly checks and ships some tools, while the bulk of the load out is taking place in Larose, where the open holers live.

4.a Laila, Harry1, and 5 others arrive at the dock at 10pm. This should be a 3 hour boat ride. More surprises!! This is a “work boat”. I have heard about these boats. They have beds and food. While this may seem like an upgrade from the traditional “crew boat”, it is not. This boat takes twice as long to get to the rig.

4.b There are two more people than there are beds. Captain tells us “the little girl and someone else will sleep on the couches”. Harry1 quickly volunteers to take the couch next to me. I wander around the boat and discover a kitchen. The crew alerts my attention to the walk in fridge, where water and cheese is stored. I walk in to the fridge; I grab water; I walk out. My crew is laughing. They tell me after I walked in, Captain says “where’s that little girl going?” Also, invariably, I hear him talking to someone and saying “that little girl”.This makes me want to say, “this little girl logs wells!!” and, “I’m right here?!” also, “You’re at your job…. you can’t refer to people like that!!”

4.c I wake up every two hours to violent swaying of the boat. Finally, the captain comes to wake us up to say..”uh…we’re here…. so… yeah.” I get up, grab my bags, stumble down the hallway, teeter down the stairs, and grip onto the walls for dear life. This boat is rocking over 7 foot seas. It is raining. Water surges over the sides of the boat and flows along the deck. We carry ourselves and our bags across the rocking wet deck and await the personnel basket. This is tricky, since the boat is rocking so much, the basket is not necessarily “stable”. If the boat dips too far down, the basket will be lifted up off the boat. We all throw our bags in the middle, and brace ourselves for the jerky ride.

5. We get to the rig just before 7 am. Surprise! The well started flowing, and chaos has ensued. The company man would have called to tell us not to come, but too late!! Now we’re on a job which should have been over by Sunday, but will not start for several days. No one here cares about getting our equipment set up because the well may explode at any minute. Crew morale is high, we are all hoping things will go so terribly, we will be sent home.

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Must Love Dolphins

A foreign world lurks under the surface. Initially, I wrote this post as a theme on how to get to oil and produce it…. However, it has evolved into a theme of steps you must go through to survive the elements, be them environmental, personal, economic, or political.

 Level 1: The Water

The treacherous Gulf extends its depth to over a mile in some places. Sharks and Barracuda patrol the waters as ships travel to and from locations. Helicopters come populate the ships with people. The large vessels are equipped with extensive machinery to not only navigate to a spot, but use dynamic positioning to stay on a point within a 10m window. They include personnel accommodations, catering, cleaning, and maintenance staff.

Level 2: The Gates

The sea floor is guarded by crabs, such as the one pictured below. This spider crab was spotted by the ROV (remote operated vehicle) on the Discoverer Enterprise. When on a ship, there are cameras which feed to the TV’s on the rig. This photo was taken off the television screen from the ROV channel.

Riddle Me This!

Once marine riser is put into place, drill pipe breaks ground and begins drilling. The BOP (Blow Out Preventers) is installed above the sea floor.

Level 3: Journey to the Center of the Earth

While drilling, or doing anything in a well, the pressures must balance out. For example, the pressure built up in the earth must be equalized by the fluid column which is in the well. On this last job, the rig shot holes through casings into a salt zone. The salt zone is of lower pressure, and consequently, began “taking” fluid from the well. To contain the well, the rig circulated out 12 lb/gal mud in the fluid column with ordinary sea water. Such issues are of grave concern and arise at every step in drilling, completing, producing, working over, and eventually abandoning a well.

Level 4: The Faithful Crew

I was recently in a rig meeting with the oil company, third-party service hands, and the drilling company. To conclude the meeting, the wellsite leader looked up from his notes and stated, “One rig, one team”, reminding everyone involved that this project is not about serving the letters embroidered on your flame retardant coveralls. All the interworkings and complex systems on a rig are striving for the same project. Ultimately, the crew’s health and safety should be a uniting factor. On another job, I met a third-party hand who was the rig health and wellness coach. She counselled people on the rig about their eating and exercise habits, as well as conducted health screenings, cholesterol and blood pressure tests. This was amazing to me. Hundreds of people work two weeks at a time, often risking their health, to make a living. We all work together to make the job as safe as possible.

Level 5: The “Man”

I’ve been working for BP a lot these last few months. While this has mostly entailed taking a “random” alcohol and drug screening every week and a half, it has sparked my ears to talks of political discourse. You must tread lightly and not bite the hand that feeds…. After the Deepwater Horizon blowout in April 2010, deepwater drilling was put on hold for a moratorium. The ban on deepwater drilling drew a significant blow to the nation’s, and specifically local economy. Since the moratorium, federal regulations have been tighter,and audits more frequent. The blow out and the moratorium are very sensitive subjects, both on and offshore. However, they are not ignored. I have learned to keep my opinions to myself and do more listening, for there are many, many opinions and considerations. I would like to note, that on the whole, most people regard the drilling ban as a bad idea, primarily due to the devastating blow to business and the economy. A company man said to me, “When an airplane crashes, you don’t shut down the airline industry for two years…” While I have my own reservations to this statement, the man makes a lot of sense. The point here is, there are a lot of politics and policy involved in offshore operations. It should be stated here that the regulations for working on the North Slope in Prudhoe Bay Alaska are completely amazing. They will be discussed later.

Level 6: The Ecosystem

I am certain the environmental impacts of the oil spill do not need to be listed, as they have been prominently showcased in the media over the last two years or so. Gulf ecology proves complex and quite enormous. Certainly, the sheer quantity of rigs must interfere with and alter ecological adaptation. Truthfully, it is the “goal” of every oil and drilling company to minimize impact on the environment. However, this is a complete contradiction to the nature of the business. Small oil sheens are seen covering the water’s surface all the time. These are not likely from the well, but from something on the rig leaking. In any case, they are ignored. There is a famous, and very stupid, “Marine Debris” video. Every offshore worker has endured this video at least half a dozen times this year. It defines what is marine debris and outlines the penalties for throwing things into the ocean. However, it is not uncommon for people to casually drop things into the gulf from time to time. I am sure the rig itself has to create some sort of disturbance to the sea creatures. If they hear like we do, they are not happy.

Level 7: Fear

Sharks, underwater egress, heights, flights, creepy people, dead animals, spiders, explosives, radioactive sources, pumps under high pressure, and confined spaces. But fear is all in your head…. or is it?

The Smoothie

I had been making smoothies at every meal. The ingredients varied, sometimes the smoothies were good; at other times they were not so good.

Smoothie #1– Spinach, strawberries, pineapple, milk, vanilla protein powder, honey, cinnamon and ice.

Smoothie #2– Spinach, blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, milk, chocolate protein powder, honey and ice

Smoothie #3– Milk, banana, chocolate protein powder, honey, and ice

Smoothie # 4– Strawberry banana yogurt, blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, nutmeg, and ice

Recipe #4 became my favorite, and I modelled all future smoothies after its success. My crew shared the first three smoothies with me. The next day, I tried to get them to try smoothie #4. I tried and failed.

“No Snack Pack. I got tore up from the smoothies you made yesterday! I was up from 3 o’clock in the morning until 5 o’clock.” – Winnie

“What do you mean!? They were all fruit!”-Me

“Well, Snack Pack. They was a little too fruity for my booty.”

Stay tuned for more adventures from my next job… where I return to the Discoverer Enterprise to cut stuck pipe!

 

Debate

To begin this hitch, we are offshore for BHP on the CR Luigs. The rooms on this rig are spacious and nice. I am relieving an engineer, so essentially I just wait for our turn to operate, then I go home. We are setting a plug and then a sump packer. The plug is effectively the bottom of the well. The sump packer is like a plug, but set 50-100ft above the plug. The space below the sump packer is the “sump”. From my understanding, it holds debris which settles to the bottom when the well starts producing.

All Galley’s have something which makes them special. Some have crappy, crappy food, but cheese cubes at the salad bar. Others have a popcorn machine, or candy. This galley has industrial blenders for people to make their own smoothies. After we all finished eating, I noticed these machines and pointed them out to my crew, Archie, Winnie, and Mr. Boxes.

“Everytime someone makes a smoothie, I have to beg to try a little bit.” -Winnie

“Do you want me to make you a smoothie?!” -Me

“Yeah.” -Winnie

“Really!!??” -Me

So I went to the salad bar to begin my great concoction. Spinach, strawberries, grapes, and pineapple. Milk and ice. Winne came over and added a scoop of vanilla protein. I then added some cinnamon and honey. We blended the drink. I proudly marched back to the table and poured Winnie some of the smoothie.

“OH MY GOD!!” He yelled as he pulled the cup away from his mouth. Archie began to laugh uncontrollably, so I grabbed two more cups to make him and Mr Boxes try it as well. The four of us sat at a table drinking the weird smoothie. Consensus was that it was “not that bad.” We agreed for breakfast we would try to add peanut butter or maybe a banana.

“Hah! Snack Pack! It’s been a while since we made a job together.” -Winnie

“My bag lost 14 lbs.” -Me

“You finally realized they was gonna feed you offshore!?”-Winnie

….

After eating our meals and drinking our smoothies, I poured some Lucky Charms.

“I feel sorry for Mr. Boxes.” (A comment about all the random stuff I was eating…) -Winnie

“Cereal doesn’t make you fart!” -Me

“All that other sh!t you putting in your body will!!” -Winnie