Saturday, March 9, 2013

Working Subsea

Right now I'm contracted to one of the major oil producers in the world. My main responsibility is to assist in pushing the manufacture of the hardware for a Workover/Completion Riser System. The 'kit', as we call it, is what they use to set the X-mas tree on top of the wellhead, secure it in place, and get it ready to be hooked up to the manifold. All of this happens at several thousand feet under the water.

This particular system is designed to operate at a maximum depth of 6000 feet. It consists of individual assemblies that are called the Surface Flow Tree (SFT), the Emergency Disconnect Package (EDP), and the Lower Riser Package (LRP). In addition to these three vital assemblies, there is a long string of riser pipe, designed to maintain the load and be the conduit for hydraulic and electro-hydraulic communication with all three.

The Surface Flow Tree remains on the drilling rig to act as a last ditch blow-out preventer should the Lower Riser Package fail in its duties. The EDP is a highly technological safety feature and lies at the top of the 'stack'. Should the drilling rig lose its dynamic positioning system, or if the seas become so volatile the ship begins to drift from the forces of wave and wind, the EDP can disconnect from the tree up to 10 degrees, effectively separating the ship from the well and avoiding an environmental catastrophe. The LRP is the subsea blow-out preventer. Should something go wrong with the well, the LRP has the ability to cut the tubing in two and to close around it.

A X-mas tree is the valve and control assembly that masters the well on which it sits. A pipe design with a connector on each end is called a 'jumper'. One connector is fastened to the X-mas tree, and the opposite connector fastens to the manifold. The manifold is fed by many wells where the product is routed to its export pipeline(s). These lines take the product to shore, a platform and then to shore, or to a Floating Production Storage Offloading facility, or an FPSO. This is a floating vessel that separates the oil from water, or liquifies natural gas for offloading. The pipelines run to just underneath the FPSO and product then flows upward in what we call production risers. Tankers can then sail out to the FPSO's location and load oil from a buoy.

It is a privilege to work around this technology and with the people who help to make it happen. I found a heartfelt love for the ocean while working in this industry. I see firsthand the tremendous lengths oil companies go to regarding safety, superior technology and manufacturing strictures in order to keep its personnel safe and the environment clean. I'm fully aware it's more to keep from paying out lawsuits and fines than anything else. However, the expense is there...the effort is there...and I help to build the best so we don't get hurt and nothing gets harmed.

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