Sunday Stills: Fire at MC 252

This post is for Terri’s Sunday Stills. This week the topic is “fire”. I don’t have many photos of fire. It’s not something I see very often (and not hoping to see more of). I’ve tried to take photos of campfires and they turned out as just one giant glob of white against a pitch black background.

I have been trained in fire-fighting. So I have fought quite a few fires during that training. I’ve taken the basic fire-fighting course at least a dozen times since my first in 1978. I’ve taken the advanced class a couple of times too. The US Coast Guard recently decided we have to take both of these courses a minimum of every 5 years (another painful expense due to STCW). Now, I teach it sometimes. It’s very rare that I can get a photo during the classes.

that’s me- 2nd from the left, back row

I was still working full time during and after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Luckily I was working as second mate/SDPO onboard the Helix Producer 1 (HP-1). I say luckily because President Obama declared a ‘moratorium’ which forced hundreds of boats into lay up and thousands of people to lose their jobs.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster was the worst oil spill in the US Gulf of Mexico (but not even in the top ten worldwide). 😦

for some it’s just another day in the oilfield- check out the guy getting his exercise walking the helideck!

I have read some of the investigations results, watched the movie, read a couple of good books, and I have my own ideas about what caused it. President Obama and his moratorium tried to come up with some ideas to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again. Although they did come up with some ideas and some changes have been made, I don’t think they’ve actually done much to get to the root of the problem (and Trump’s revisions won’t make much difference either).

I was Senior DPO on the HP-1 throughout the major response to the Macondo incident. That means I was in charge of the bridge and my job was to keep the ship stable and on position. The HP-1 was brought out to try and capture the oil that was spewing out of the blown out piping at the bottom of the ocean, about 5000 ft down.

HP-1 from the air

The HP-1 is a specialized type of ship. She’s a Floating Production Unit (FPU). Ordinarily she sits on top of the designated location, stabilized by the use of a dynamic positioning (DP) system. She’ll be attached to a series of marine risers (floating hoses). Those risers are flowing raw product (crude oil) from various production platforms in the area. The risers come aboard the HP-1 through a specialized buoy. As the product comes onboard, it is diverted through the ships systems to separate the oil from the water and other contaminants and then sent back through the buoy to facilities ashore to further refine the product.

We succeeded in connecting up to the well. We were only a small part of a massive response to the disaster. There were entire fleets of boats out there working to contain and clean up the mess. It looked like a major city all lit up at night. It was pretty hairy sometimes trying to maintain position so close to all those other vessels, especially when the weather kicked up. The SIMOPS and the people involved were incredible!

a few of the vessels responding to the blow out

We sat there for weeks, bringing what we could of the flowing oil up to our onboard facility. There was another similar vessel stationed on the far side of the drillship Discoverer Enterprise (which was stationed directly over the well). On the HP-1, we took what we could, we separated the gas from the fluid and flared (burned) the gas.

#flaring the gas off the stern of the #HP-1

We did not have a whole lot of storage capacity on our ship (a FPSU- floating production and storage unit) would have much more. Instead of storing it ourselves, we passed it on to a tanker. The shuttle tanker Loch Rannoch sent their hose over to us with the help of a couple of smaller boats. We would connect it up and pump over the oil and they would bring it in to shore for processing. They would go back and forth every couple of days as long as we were there.

Loch Rannoch getting ready to send over her transfer hose with the Seacor Rigorous

After they finally got the well capped and the oil stopped flowing, we were released, along with most of the other vessels that were still out there. We had to go to a shipyard (in Tampa) where we could get hauled out of the water for cleaning. We had been coated with oil all over our hull from the spill. Once we were all cleaned up, we went back to our buoy. As far as I know, the HP-1 has not had to leave it again since. I wish now I hadn’t quit that job!

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Small World

It always surprises me when I come out to work how really connected this community is. The seafaring community that is. The people who spend their lives working far from home, out on the waters of the world.

I almost always know at least one person on every ship I join. If I don’t know someone personally, I know people they know. 🙂

I am working on a rig right now on the semi submersible drilling rig “Sevan Louisiana”,  where the Captain/OIM is a good friend of a good friend of mine. He used to work on the same boat I used to work on at Oceaneering, just a little while before I started there. We know a lot of the same people there.

One of the other DPOs used to work on a rig I did some temp work on a few years ago. He remembers me from when I was there. The crane operator was also on that rig.

The galley crew used to work with me on the HP-1 a while back. I remember how they spoiled me with little towel animals on my bunk every day. They’re great bunch of guys (and good cooks). 🙂

I’ve been here almost 2 weeks and it looks like just about everybody but me is fixin’ to go home soon. The rig is almost deserted anyway, we’re staffed with the bare minimum manning (warm stacked). We won’t get more crew til we hear if we’re going to get some work.

Thursday is crew change day and I’ll have a whole new crew to work with. I hope they turn out to be as easy to work with as this one.  I’ve still got another 4 weeks to go!

PS- Sorry I haven’t been posting very often, this is the first time I’ve been able to stay online long enough. Internet is not allowing me to do nearly as much as I’d like.

Remember the Deepwater Horizon

Today is the anniversary (April 20, 2010) of the blowout on the Deepwater Horizon and the loss of 11 crew members.

offshore helix mc 252 and intrepid 096

The Gulf of Mexico and its offshore drilling industry is still being affected by what happened that day. I’m sure it will be for a long time to come.

I’ve seen a few posts lately about the new rules enacted since then being finalized and put into effect. Some think they will put a complete stop to offshore drilling (greatly cheering the environmentalists). Others think business will go on as usual and there’s nothing really new coming, that it’s all just standard industry policy already. I don’t know who to believe or what to expect.

I just want to go back to work, like all the other hundreds of thousands of people laid off since the price of oil hit the skids.

We were talking about it at work this morning. They have a new movie about it coming out in September. Some of the people in class were involved in the aftermath at Macondo, so was I.

offshore helix mc 252 and intrepid 147

I was a SDPO on the Helix Producer 1 (HP-1), a floating production unit (FPU). They brought her in to connect to the ‘capping stack’ and transfer the oil flowing out of the seafloor to tankships. Those ships would then bring the oil to facilities ashore.

I’ll never forget that operation. Flying out to join the ship, it looked like we were approaching a city at sea. There were so many boats around, it looked quite chaotic. Once I got settled in and started my hitch on the desk, I learned the procedures for conducting smooth operations with so many other vessels so close together.

offshore helix mc 252 and intrepid 174

SIMOPS coordinated everything. That helped.

We were actually attached directly to the capping stack and so collecting at least some of the oil flowing from the well. We took it aboard, ran it through our production facilities to separate the oil and gas from the water. Then we would flare off the gas and transfer the oil to a waiting tanker.

flare

Since the tanker was a DP-1 vessel, they would choose the best heading for the operation. We would position ourself (along with all the other vessels to either side) to ease position keeping for the tanker. A small tug would bring the transfer hose to us and once everything was connected, we would start the transfer. Once completed, they would deliver it to shore for processing, etc.

offshore helix mc 252 and intrepid 172

We would load a tanker every couple of days. The same operation was proceeding with other vessels on the other side of the Discoverer Enterprise which was positioned directly above the well.

This all went on for months. It was a major operation. Pretty much the entire Gulf of Mexico was roped in to help and everything else was shut down. The president declared a ‘moratorium’. No new drilling would even be considered for  months afterwards. Thousands of rigs, ships, people were thrown out of work. It also affected the fishermen badly and the states surrounding the Gulf were up in arms about the damages to their coastlines and their tourist industries. The marine environment was very seriously damaged in some areas and is still recovering.

I hope nothing like this ever happens again. Many people have been working to ensure it never does. Below is a summary of those ongoing efforts.

Marking the fifth anniversary of the Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico, a summary of inquiries into the tragedy flags up key ways to prevent a repeat

Source: Oil and gas takes lessons from Macondo – DNV GL

offshore helix mc 252 and intrepid 154

I always wondered how that guy could walk the helideck every evening with that flare going off so close. Whew, hot baby

*If anyone is interested, these are all my own photos. I have a lot more.