Tuesday, September 11, 2012

News from The Gulf of Thailand

The ROV inside the tether management system
The captain maneuvering the vessel near one of the platforms
Sunset from the gas fields of the Gulf of Thailand

One of the central processing platforms
Video from the ROV showing the Van Veen grab sampler on the seabed
Sediment Profile Imaging camera

September 9th 2012
Today is our 6th day of survey in the Gulf of Thailand and the work continues to progress relatively smoothly. There is a large crew of Thai Scientists this year so there is often very little work for me to do when we are not using the Vibrocorer. I help out when I can but mostly I just read and wait for the times when I am needed.

The first few days we had some fairly marginal weather conditions. The sea-state was certainly not unsafe for a vessel of this size but rough enough to make launching and recovering our equipment difficult. With the swells and short period waves combined the seas were up to three meters. When the vessel was oriented with its stern to the seas the deck would go awash and we would often get wet. For the last 24 hours it has been quite calm with seas less than 1 meter, now it hardly feels like the vessel is moving. The downside to nice weather is that it’s also sunny and blazingly hot during the afternoon.

We have been sampling very close to some of the central processing platforms and using the ROV to verify the location of pipelines and observe the sampling equipment. The live video that the ROV provides has been very interesting. With the ROV we have observed many kinds of fish including parrot fish and a sting ray. The fish are often found hiding around the pipelines as this is the only place where corals grow. The ROV has also been able to observe the sampling equipment and determine if the sample is good before we bring it back to the surface. When the ROV operator is observing the vibrocorer he has been able to inform me over the radio the penetration depth of the core barrel so I know when to stop and recover the sample.

I have been working from noon to midnight so I am been enjoying nice sunsets, despite the fact that there is almost always a well platform or supply ship on the horizon. This oil and gas field continues to be developed quickly and I have noticed new structures this year that were not hear last. When I see a big thirst for oil and gas like this developing I am always wondering how long it will last. And what will we do when it is gone?  And when I say “we” I don’t mean the United States I mean the world.  Oil and gas exploration/exploitation is a global issue, I don’t want to sound too down trodden but I just can’t fathom how we will meet our future energy needs as oil and gas become less and less abundant. I suppose we will adapt and find alternatives as we will have no other choice, after all we are humans and that’s what we are good at - using our big brains to survive for millions of years and populate just about every corner of this planet.

September 10th
We are headed into Songkla to offload the ROV and the ROV operators. Also departing will be the two operators of the sediment profile imaging (SPI) camera along with their equipment.  I haven’t talked about this piece of equipment yet but it is worth mentioning because I am very impressed with its design and performance. The SPI can be described as an upside down parascope.  The main components of the SPI are a downward looking digital camera mounted inside a pressure housing with a mirror and a glass plate. The SPI captures a photo of the sediment profile by probing down 8 to 10 inches into the seabed. Of course there is a lot more to the equipment to make it all possible but I won’t get into the details. The image the SPI captures can then be studied to learn about the sediment and the animals that live in it. Very cool!

It has continued to be clear, calm, and HOT! I have yet to find a thermometer on this vessel but some of the surveyors estimated it was 40C today. For me 40C might be just as bad as -40C especially when you are required to wear so much PPE. It feels like standing in a banya with all your closes on.  It doesn’t take long to become soaking wet from your own sweat. I am looking forward to the mild temperatures of fall in Seattle.

September 11th
We are in port today. I was able to call Molly and check my email but other than that it is just another day on the boat. I won’t be going ashore as there is really no reason to do so and I don’t have a vehicle to get out of the port. By tonight we should be headed out again for the last few days of work. I am hoping we take on a little bit of fresh food but mostly I am hoping for some ice cream. The request was made to the “camp boss” in charge of the food orders so I will cross my fingers and check the freezer tonight.  Either way these last few days should go by quickly.

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