This week, on the FPSO ( Floating Production Storage & Offloading facility) on which I’ve been working for the week , I’ve been looking at components and systems all the way from the riser, where the oil/gas/ water mixture comes up from the seabed, to the offtake hose where the oil is pumped into a tanker which takes the oil to markets around the world.
It worked out that I was able to watch an offtake, when the tanker comes into the back of my FPSO, Ningaloo Vision. I’ve seen this before, on other facilities, but never here. It’s a feeling of completion, seeing the product of all the equipment on which I work, leaving the facility in it’s final form.
In the simplest terms, the process that happens is that
- The oil, gas and water are separated
- the oil is cleaned up and filtered
- The gas is compressed and sent back under the seabed
- The water is pumped back under the seabed
- Other equipment keeps the living areas cool, make the water, process the sewage, gives us compressed air to use, lifts the food and stores to the deck, all that type of stuff
It’s a very noisy, dirty and sometimes smelly place. I was wandering around today, unwittingly, with grease on my face after visiting an oily, greasy area and have been in my work gear and boots all day, every day. The uniform of fluorescent orange and blue gets very tedious after a very short time. The hours I’ve been working have been just ridiculous.
However I’m at home there, on Ningaloo Vision, surrounded by people and processing plant. To be very cliched, the lows are very low but the highs are high. It’s exhilarating and there is a very strong feeling of teamwork. While the days are long and there is a lot of both stress and pressure, there is a lot of laughing and jokes, with a very egalitarian atmosphere of eating together, working together, sharing rooms and always thanking both the cook who prepares seriously good food, and the guy or girl who does your laundry.
I mentioned the physical aspects of the job in the last post. There is an immediacy in seeing the pipes and vessels and all the equipment for which we, as office engineers, spend our lives working on the drawings and documents. I find these trips add a clarity to why I do the work I do, particularly when talking to the people who use, maintain and rely on this equipment every day.
Also, I just enjoy being there. I always have enjoyed being on site, since being a graduate in a refinery many years ago. Physically, the routine of frequent, sometimes strenuous exercise ( climbing ladders, crawling around scaffold) combined with good, frequent food seems to work for me. Each time I’ve been offshore, since the treatment, I’ve seen physical improvements. This time, as well as just managing the steep stairs and ladders better, I’ve managed longer hours than I would have considered possible even a year ago. I’m exhausted now, but not distressed and no symptoms have come back.
Before I went to Russia, I had accepted that my site career was over and felt lucky to still be a desk engineer. The treatment and following recuperation has given me back this part of my profession; I hadn’t realised just how much I missed the climbing, the noise, being physically present in the plant. That’s what makes my job real for me.
To finish off, a photograph from 2007 as is the header photograph; the previous photos all from the most recent trip.