Black Gold in the Deep Blue: Report from Ground Zero
This hub was originally published during the BP Oil Spill. Shortly after publishing, I was told any employee publishing on the web about the spill would result in immediate termination. What we didn't know at the time, was ironically, the oil spill would largely end the offshore careers of thousands of people in the Gulf by January 2011. I am working on a hub to explain the coming financial devastation that I have yet seen discussed in any media. For me, I too have been recently laid off from my career in the Gulf, and now, being unemployed, I think I want to talk about the oil spill! After-all, what are they going to do? Fire me? HA!
So here again, I post in its complete original state, Black Gold in the Deep Blue.
Sorry it is not current news, but I think it is historic reading.
I wanted to start this hub over 3 weeks ago when I arrived on scene, but time for writing is short. When the incident first happened not much was said because no investigations had been done and little was known. Now, the news is everywhere. You probably know more over-all news regarding what is going on out here than I do as our news and information on the boat is very limited. However, I am on one of the submarine teams that is working 24 hours around the clock to stop this oil leak.
It is my hope in this hub you may learn something and see this whole situation in a frontline perspective the news can not give you. This is a report on location from someone actually involved with the project and not some reporter sitting in New York making phone calls.
This Hub will be updated as I can. I work long hours seven days a week. However, be sure to check back often as I will add new content as things develop and time goes along. First, I have to get this report up to speed.
I am writing this for the readers on Hubpages, though others may stumble upon it across the web my intent is for you, the fine people here on Hubpages.
City on the Sea
City on the Sea
When I work on the ocean, I typically spend 45-60 days at a time at sea. In the offshore industry this is referred to as a “hitch.” When I got the call to go to sea, I had no clue that I would be going out to work the Mississippi Canyon, Block 252, or as you probably know it, The Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill.
Despite the long and tedious time offshore, this hitch is important to me. Foremost, the Gulf and its offshore industries are vital to many facets of the American economy and they depend of the health of these waters. Second, many of most reputable offshore companies operating in the Gulf have come together to work as a team. There are over 1700 ships involved in this project. At my location there are over 100 large construction and support ships gathered here, and by pure coincidence, I am sitting on a ship right over the top of this disaster.
To look out across the water, especially at night, it appears as a floating city stretching in every direction. This “team” is doing everything, no expense spared to stop this leak.
Smoke on the water
Why is it taking so long to stop the leak?
People on land are frustrated. They want to know why it is taking so long to stop the leak. I will try to explain. Everything you do at the well site is nearly a mile away, 5000 feet below - in pitch black water. There is no light at 5000 feet deep. To even begin the job, you have to know everything about the site and its surrounding area. First we go down with the robot submarines, ( Remotely Operated Vehicles or ROV’s) and survey the sea floor, the debris, the well head, and the sunken oil rig; everything is mapped on a computer. It must be determined what is there, what is needed, where to stage things and how to put it all together.
At 5000 feet below the surface it takes time. The equipment we use weighs several tons. It has to be lowered which can take an hour or more, then it has to be positioned into place and put together with hydralic tools fitted to our submarines. Hooking all this up can take several hours to several days just to get one phase of the job done. Every job is done according to safety standards. We have a rule on the ship, if it cannot be done safely, we stop the job and make it safe first. Anyone can stop the job; from the Captian down to the common worker everyone has ALL-STOP authority on the job to make a situation safe for all. The many regulations we use also make the job much slower, but where someone's life is concerned, its the only option.
A Place to Park Your Gear
Next, we lower concrete mats to the sea floor to create a large staging area to lower equipment and large tools to, otherwise they would sink down in the mud and be impossible to lift for use or to lift back to the surface. Essentially, we lay a parking lot on the ocean floor and lower several tools and even a scrap basket or two. Tools are assembled on land, some have to be engineered for a specific task, assembled, welded and loaded onto ships and sailed to the job site. Then they are loaded onto the construction ships with huge cranes.
Remember, I am out here and don't see the TV news or the newspaper, etc. I have no idea what you know and don't know. I am trying to illustrate what happened and why it is taking so long to stop it. If this is all repeat information, I am sorry, I have no idea. Besides, having been in the media myself, I know full well how they make stuff up along the way, it is also why I quit years ago.
For example, we were told that CNN reported we were trying to cut the well head with a chain saw. A chain saw? Really? A 21" steel pipe a mile below the water with a chain saw? Point made. Perhap's I will say something you don't know, or perhaps contradict something some newspaper made up along the way. Let's find out!
Basic Oil Rig Hook-Up
When the rig sank...
The oil platform sank because the fireboats filled it full of water. A floating drill rig is much like a large square boat, when you fill them with water they sink; just like a boat filled with water would sink. Did they sink it on purpose? I have heard yes and no. Personally, I have no idea. They may have sank it on purpose as the only means to put the fire out.
We have had the sub down around the DWH rig to have a peek. It's pretty gloomy.
When the drill rig sank it pulled over the riser with it, bending and breaking it. The primary bend was at the bottom, but the leak was small at the bend above the well head. The major leak at the time was the far end of the riser pipe still attached to the bend. In order to stop the leak we first had to cut the riser into manageable-size pieces. A mere 40 feet of the riser pipe weighs 65,000 pounds. Each section had to be strapped up via robots, then connected to a crane, then cut back in sections, moved to a storage area, then cut again and again until we got back to the well head.
As we cut the sections back, the bend above the well head began to split open until it was now the major leak in the system, and the original leak was the small one. Regardless of the leak or its size, the riser had to be cut out of the way so we could get to the main pipe. This alone took many days to complete.
CNN says it's a chain saw....
The Diamond Wire Saw
The next step was to cut the pipe just above the main flange. We lowered a hydraulic diamond wire saw to cut the pipe and put in place with our ROV.
The diamond wire began cutting. It was working very well. Oil began spraying out of the cut made by the wire, engulfing the saw, but it was still cutting away. Suddenly, the saw stopped. The blade would not move one way or the other. It was a complete puzzle to everyone, the wire was stuck and it made no sense. Oil kept pouring from the cut as everyone involved tried to figure out what was wrong.
After several attempts to get the saw going again, the diamond wire finally broke.
A diamond wire costs $3500.00 and that doesn't include the saw.
Did you know oil can freeze?
Oil and gas was pouring out with such force and speed, the oil itself began to freeze around the saw. The saw was soon covered in a thick layer of frozen oil. It was clear another approach would have to be tried.
Next update I will show what we did next. In doing so we discovered what caused our diamond saw to stop and break and also prevented us from simply shutting off the well from the shut off valve right after the incident started!
Keep checking back - more great photos coming!
Drill Ship Struck By Lightening!
Fire Breaks Out! 6-15-2010
In a freak storm, lightening struck the Discovery Enterprise Drill Ship causing a fire. The Discovery Enterprise is the main ship working to stop the Deep Water Horizen oil leak. Around 9:30 AM lightening struck the ship starting a fire. Alarms sounded and the ship immediately shut down the flare boom while fire crews rushed to the blaze. All other crews reported to emergency muster stations for evacuation. Fortunately, the fire was put out in short order and the ship was deemed safe. Crews stayed on board. Few details are available at this time, however, the flare boom is back in operation and the vessel appears to have continued working.
Ships in the area assisting with the oil leak were on alert and prepared to leave so fire ships could have clear access. While largely inconsequential, for many the incident was a gloomy reminder of the fire that destroyed the Deep Water Horizon.
Some of the workers say, "this well is cursed."
Continuous Updates to Come!
Be sure to check back every now and then as I explain the machines, the process, and the obstacles we encounter trying to stop history's largest oil leak. I also have some very, very unbelieveable, upclose and personal pictures never seen anywhere that will be shown only here, on Hubpages!
- Harlan Colt