Sunday, January 10, 2010
The Offshore Experience
Fancy the movie star lifestyle of an overseas oil worker? Who wouldn't? Here are some things you can do at home to simulate that offshore experience. Try them out for yourself and then ask yourself "how much should they pay me to put up with this?"
The Ride Out
If you are lucky you will be on a helicopter. Find four of you largest friends and stuff yourself into the back of an Austin Mini. Make sure that the engine of said mini has no exhaust manifold. The noise and smell are essential to the experience. Get the driver to randomly swerve or brake the vehicle. Remain in your cramped position for approximately 2 hours. For the extreme simulation nobody is allowed to shower for at least 24 hours prior to departure and a diet of brussel sprouts and kidney beans is mandatory.
The Offshore Office
For this simulation you will need a space slightly larger than a closet. You will be spending 12 hours or more per day in here so it’s important to get the ergonomics right. Your workspace should not allow you to stand completely upright if you are over 5' tall. Air conditioning should be one of two types; artic or non-existent. The ambient noise can be simulated by installing several vacuum cleaners inside your workspace and switching them all on. Next, find a 50's style loudspeaker, set it to full volume, disable the volume control, and place the speaker approximately 15 cm from where your head will be. The speaker can be connected to a microphone located somewhere else in the house. At random intervals have you wife, girlfriend or significant others scream into the microphone that the mud weight is now 9.7. Even better if they can randomly operate an impact drill for several minutes at a time or just beat a hammer against a piece of pipe repeatedly. Need to use the toilet? No problem. Just go up and down eight flights of stairs each time you need to go. Alternately you can walk 5 times around your house. Before you leave your "workshop" however you need to put on a hard hat, steel toed boots, safety glasses,earplugs and gloves. Remove these items upon entering the toilet area and put them back on when you leave.
Sometimes the rig accommodation can be quite nice. Single rooms Television sets, internet connections, and the like. Those sorts of accommodations are reserved exclusively for oil company personnel and senior members of the rig crew. As a service hand you will never ever see these rooms. Expect to be sharing your room with at least 3 others and your bathroom with at least 7 others. Guaranteed there will be at least one who snores like a freight train and another who has some sort of annoying idiosyncrasy such as hawking up their phlegm or continuously flossing.
To simulate this find someone someone to follow you around and record in minute detail every moment of your workday. These daily reports get collated at the end of the well into thick reports complete with pie charts and process diagrams that illustrate with a clarity only hindsight can provide where you supposedly departed from the critical path of your job and why the oil company should withhold payment for the 3 minutes of non-productive rig time that you spent re-booting windows or using the toilet. At a million dollars rig charges per day it’s easy to find people who are this anal. Wellsite witnesses make a living by trying to demonstrate your incompetence to Oil Companies - if you must deal with them use either simplistic language suitable for 2 year olds or overwhelm them with technical jargon as to the possible reasons why the induction tool response is not following its expected profile. Information imparted freely to customers will generally be used against you so keep it mum - less said the better.
The Return Trip
Part of the fun of working offshore for a service company is that you never really know when you will be going back. Could be a day. Could be a week, or even a month or two. The usual case will be that the company man decides at the last minute that he needs the bed space and will tell you to drop tools and get on the chopper that is arriving in 5 minutes. You scramble like wildebeests trying to simultaneously pack your things, finish your job and leave your workspace in some semblance of order for the next guy coming out. Typically you realize, while stuffed into the chopper halfway home, that your watch is still sitting quite comfortably in the rig accommodation just waiting to be nicked by the first bloke who happens along.
If this is the sort of dream existence that makes your heart beat a little faster then by all means get into the oil business. Prices are going up (at the moment) and the panic layoffs of 6 months ago are slowly turning in to the where-do-we-find-people mindset that is furrowing my boss’s forehead as I write. Otherwise I suggest that you get a normal job and remain blissfully ignorant of the hoops we in the patch jump through to keep gas in your tank.