In Case You've Wondered

My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.

If you're here for the stories, I started another blog:

One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.

I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Guess They Were Bored

It was a typical summer day: hot, with temperatures in the nineties and a light breeze from the southeast. The light wind gave the Gulf a small chop, which gave the emerald water a chiseled appearance.

We’d lost some gas, so the production site on the bank called to let us know. A quick glance at the board indicated which well had shut in, so we only had to call the boat and go for a look.

The boat was tied to the main platform, so the skipper only needed to fire the engines, back the boat and the deckhand to remove the ropes. We were on board within a few minutes, heading toward the satellite platform.

As we approached the platform, I examined the drilling rig they’d placed next to the well structure. It was a submersible rig, which was best for the relatively shallow water at our location. Around 500 feet long and 150 feet wide, it sat on the flat bottom. I never figured out how they leveled the platform and never asked.

We tied to the small, four legged well structure, which was connected to the single leg production structure by a short catwalk. As the boat was tied, I looked up at the rig. The rail at the drilling floor was lined with curious hands that stared as we went to work.

Climbing the ladder to the well deck, I started my job, which was to close the gate valve that was on the production pipe. We always closed it first, in case the automatic valve was re-pressured and the well opened up too fast. 

Below the seabed was a valve in the tubing, which would close if the volume of gas was too high. It was designed in case a boat hit the platform. An uncontrolled well was not something anybody wanted, especially if there was a wrecked boat, with ignition source, either caught on the structure or in the immediate vicinity. At thousands of pounds of pressure, the gas, when ignited, would melt steel like butter. Opening the well too fast caused the valve to close, also. That was frowned upon, since it required bringing the big work boat to the platform and using back pressure to reopen the valve. If that didn’t work, an expensive wireline barge was brought on site.

While I closed the valve, the pumper-gauger crossed the catwalk, climbed the ladder and went about looking for a problem. I stayed, in case the problem was minor and I could start putting the well back on line.

I looked at the CRBBM relay after I closed the valve. It was hooked to the fire loop and the pilot manifold. If the plastic line melted, the control pressure was released and the automatic valve on the well head was closed. The same thing happened if the high or low pressure pilot released the pressure due to pressures beyond the settings. It was closed, so I manually pulled the relay. If the problem was intermittent, pulling the handle would leave the relay in the open position and the control pressure would have opened the automatic valve. It didn’t, so I placed a tagged wire through the hole in the stem. This allowed the system to be pressurized again, when the problem was fixed. After that, it was just a matter of pulling the wire, getting back on the boat and going to the next task.

Within a few minutes, the pressure returned to the control system and the automatic valve opened. The pumper-gauger appeared at the upper rail and told me to start bringing the well back on line.

I cracked the valve, which caused an immediate loud hiss. This well had pressure of over 5000 psi, and high volume, so I was slow in opening the valve. Usually, this took about five minutes. I’d open the valve a little, allow the pressure to equalize, and open it some more.


That was a sound I wasn’t used to. It wasn’t loud, but it was very unusual. I looked up to the work platform, but the pumper-gauger was off doing something else. Before I could really think about it, I smelled something even more unusual: ripe banana.

I looked down and found a pulverized banana about two inches from my right boot. Instantly, I knew where it came from. It came from about 60 feet above and was launched by one of the rig workers.

Looking up, I found the spectators that lined the rail had disappeared. The drill stem was still turning, and not making much progress. I figured they were drilling rock and waiting for the bit to become dull. Considering how much pipe was in the racks a few days before, the task of tripping pipe and attaching a new bit was soon to come. The rig hands, caught up and bored, decided I was fair game and tried to hit me with the banana.

I kept looking up at the drill floor as I opened the valve. Eventually the well was completely back on line and the system  working as designed.

I looked toward the production platform and found the pumper-gauger was climbing down the ladder. I asked: “Are we good?” He gave a quick thumbs up and I pulled my tagged wire from the relay, with occasional glances up toward the drill floor. The rail was still empty, but that didn’t mean they weren’t planning another attack.

We were soon on the boat, and the skipper slowly backed from the platform. I made one glance toward the drill floor and still found nobody to be seen. I wondered if they decided on something else to do, or the tool pusher caught them with their game. It didn’t matter. We were soon out of range and off to another location.

Over the next few weeks, the rig was on that location. Eventually, it left without success, but I did manage to watch the crane operator dunk a few of the hands on crew change day. He carefully let them down toward the boat, then swung them over the water, dunked them twice and carefully placed the man-basket on the crew boat. I found it funny and hoped at least one of the dunkees was the man that threw the banana. In a perfect world, he was and the other rig hands who participated were included. 

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