Thursday, September 29, 2011

Oil Platforms in the Gulf of Thailand

Multiple processing platforms with attached well head and two attached living quarters

Supplies being unloaded from a crew boat at the living quarters

I was amazed by just how massive these structures are

Sunset with four well head platforms on the horizon

The living quarter platforms are very well lit at night, whereas some of the unmanned well heads have almost no lights at all.

The flare towers always make for dramatic photos (the flare towers are for burning off excess gas).
One of the most amazing things I experienced while working in the Gulf of Thailand was visiting the oil platforms.  I learned that there are actually many different types of platforms.  Most are unmanned "well heads" where oil or gas is extracted. There are literately hundreds of these in the Gulf.  From these platforms the petroleum is piped along the sea floor to a "Central Processing Platform".  Attached to the processing platform by a walkway are the living quarters (LQ).  The LQ are their own little world where people work, sleep, eat and attemt to live normal lives.  There are offices, picnic tables, and even a small soccer field underneath the helicopter landing pad.

To get from our boat to the platform required a ride on a basket.  I found riding on the basket fun, but was surprised by this method of transport given the overwhelming focus on safety by the oil company.  The only thing that keeps you from falling off the basket is your own arms wrapped tightly around the ropes, no safety harness, no redundancy.  So I couldn't help but laugh when I was riding on the basket and thinking about how I was told earlier in the day that I needed to ware safety glasses while scooping mud with a spoon.

The amount of infrastructure in the Gulf was impressive. It was not unusual to see a dozen or more platforms on the horizon.  It made me think a lot about our dependency on oil and what we will do when it is all gone.  I'm not just talking about America, all around the world we are consuming more and more oil and its important to keep in mind that it won't last forever.  It might not be our problem in this lifetime but its never too early to start thinking about alternatives.  Maybe all those platforms can be fitted with wind and water turbines and solar arrays to produce alternative energy rather than extracting fossil fuels.  But then how will you get there to service the platforms?  Our ship took on over 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel at the start of the survey!

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