I managed to get scheduled for a trip to the BP Greater Plutonio FPSO (Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading) vessel just offshore from Luanda. At this stage I unfortunately don’t have any pics, as I wasn’t sure what the procedure for pics was, and I know they are pretty tight about it, but I have asked the Telecoms guy there to send me a few, so hopefully I’ll be able to update this a bit later with some then.
A CGI picture of the FPSO – Looks small? It is 310m long, and 12 stories high!
Okay, I can’t really say much about the vessel itself, the layout, or operation, or any of that – NDA stuff, but what I can say is it is pretty amazing! (I have included several links at the bottom of the blog for those interested in knowing more). It is 310 Metres long, and 12 stories high. It has a lift inside that services 7 floors. It can accommodate approx 140 people. The accommodation section is the big white building at the rear, and this is split from the “plant” area by a fire break/safety “air area” – the gap just in front of the accommodation block. We arrived by chopper, and what an experience.
So the flight was from the Sonair charter “terminal” at the airport and was scheduled for around 14h. We checked in at 12h30 and everything went fine. I only had my laptop bag, with my laptop, and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – you are required to take as much of your own PPE with you as they can’t provide everything for everyone – overalls, gloves and goggles in my bag, along with 3 shirts, 3 boxers and 3 socks inside it. My boots and helmet were separate in a plastic packet. Well, that got turfed. You are not allowed to take any plastic on board, so they gave me a mail bag, with Explorer written on it (BP use a drill rig called GSF Explorer in another area further out to sea), that I put my helmet and boots in. We then waited for the flight to be ready.
After the bus ride through the airport tarmacs, we arrived at a Sikorsky S-76C+ helicopter that was to be our ride.
A picture of a Sikorsky S-76C+ chopper. Similar to the SonAir ones.
This was pretty much my first time in a chopper, though I do think I have been in one before, in fact, yes, I have been in a chopper before, but this was great. It actually taxis down onto the runway,and you pretty much expect it to travel down the runway on the wheels before taking off, but whilst you are in place, it just lifts up straight up, leans forward and flies off. Pretty strange feeling. The noise as the engines power up for the lift is pretty nerve wracking, and the whole heli shakes quite a bit. Next thing you are airborne and flying out past the Ilha and soon the coast is behind you.
The one thing they teach you in the HUET course, or advise you against, is sleeping in the chopper, yet within 5 minutes virtually everyone on board is asleep. This is due to the very monotonous and soothing vibrations that he flight produces. As it was my first offshore flight I remained awake the entire time. Though I don’t know if I’ll be doing that again on the rest of the flights. Soon we were above a cloud base that had appeared offshore, and about 30 mins later we descended through this to see the ocean once again. As we cleared the cloud base, everything around us was pure white, and you couldn’t see anything. I was watching the guy opposite me, and it was obviously his first flight as I could see the entire white of his eyes. He was nervous as hell. However, once we cleared the clouds, he was cool.
We soon arrived at our destination, and the pilot informs you of this before you arrive. This according to statistics is the highest risk time for accidents – Landings. I once again checked my exit strategy, luckily being right next to the door you kinda have THE exit strategy. 🙂 The vessel looks small at first, but the closer you get to it the larger it gets, until you soon realise that this thing is friggin massive! The flame was burning a bright orange colour from the top of gas flare, the long tower at the front of the vessel, and that was an incredible site to see it so close. There was virtually no smoke coming from the vessel at all, and it was just gigantic when you finally arrived. The landing was great and we waited for the signal from the HLO’s (Helicopter Landing Officers), before removing our earphones, unbuckling and exiting, just ducking as you reach the rim of the rotor reach. Once inside we removed our foam inner ear plugs, and started to take in our surroundings. I noticed my mailbag being carted off to the admin section, and quickly retrieved it.
We were met by Steve our Telecoms man on board, and first thing had to attend a Safety briefing. After that we were shown to our cabins, and given a tour of the vessel in full PPE, as you are required to wear it every time you are outside. The vessel’s structure is quite amazing, and what is even more amazing to me is that there are people out there who thought this up! How to build something like this and how to put it together! That blows my mind more than anything else. This module to that module to there and there, and then eventually to the tanker waiting for the oil. So, as you can all read, this puppy can produce up to 200 000 barrels of oil A DAY, with storage capacity for 1.7 million barrels, and exports of 1 million barrels per cargo, every 5 days. Now you have to admit that that is seriously impressive. You do the math,using an approximate oil price of $130 per barrel. Ouch!! 😮
On our tour around, I got to put my hands on the oil pipeline that comes in from the sea, and the most interesting thing is . . . it is warm. Apparently the oil comes in at around 50-60 degrees centigrade. Now, it is not something that I had ever thought about, the temperature of oil, but I was surprised to find that it is warm. We were also shown the sun deck, the most important part of the vessel, and the only part you can go without PPE gear. I also happened to see a pod of dolphins frolicking in the sea quite close by. The vis out here is awesome . . . and that’s not due to it being cold! 🙂
I fixed the issue we were sent out for, and also had a really good site visit of what is onboard, and what is fully expected of us in a support role.
The vessel is stationary – fixed in place, yet at times I could definitely feel it move. Not a lot, but ever so slightly. Steve reckons I am mad, but I tell, I could feel it moving. Whether it was rolling or just rising in the swell, not a lot of that either, I couldn’t tell. But, it definitely moves.
I got a wee bit of time in on the sundeck the one day. Half an hour in the sun before lunch, and I now know why a lot of the guys have such dark tans, for blokes that spend their entire time indoors or in PPE kit. They don’t! There were quite a few chaps outside on the sun deck, and it is like a magnet I am told – sun. Especially since it is overcast quite a bit apparently.
The accommodation was okay, apart from the fact that I think a tank had slept in my bed before, as the mattress was squashed flat on the one side! Other than that is was okay, and each cabin has it’s own bathroom with a shower with great pressure in it, which makes a change from the Luanda Res! Our pressure is crap! The food was decent too, as ship food goes I guess, though I still must say the FSV Bourbon Oceanteam 101 had the best food I have yet had offshore.
There is a gym onboard, I never got to use it as I wasn’t feeling great, and a little cinema too. The one lounge also has table tennis. 3 or 4 TV rooms litter the vessel, with each cabin also having it’s own TV. And overnight/same day laundry.
Outside the heliport entrace door is a big sign bolted onto the side of the wall: HYUNDAI. They apparently built this vessel. Ummm, okay, that is a change from the crappy cars we get back home!! 🙂
The one thing I must say, is that it appears to be very well organised and everything is in it’s place. Very “Prim and Proper”, in typical Brit style.
Thursday I was contacted by the offshore network manager and told that we needed to send someone to the GSF Explorer – an offshore rig, as they required someone for an installation/support issue there too. I offered myself as it was Francisco’s 30th Birthday on Sunday, and his wife had plans for him already. Friday morning I suddenly find out all hell has broken loose as there was now a chopper coming out to get me specifically for the trip to GSF and it has caused absolute chaos as it hasn’t been properly approved, or the correct channels haven’t been used. Classic! Eventually that was straightened out and I was scheduled to head out Saturday morning via chopper to Kwanza base in Soyo, up North on the Congo border to refuel and then fly from there to the GSF. Cool, I haven’t been there yet. 🙂
I arrived in the departure “lounge” at 08h Saturday morning, watched the safety video – another one again – and pull out my laptop to do a bit of last minute work. A while later, I realise it is past 09h. Hold on, my flight is supposed to be at 09h. I check with the guy to be told that everything has changed. I am now going to be flying back to Luanda with the Sedco Express guys (a rig close by) and then heading by fixed wing to Soyo on a plane, and then to the GSF by chopper from there. Cool, even more travelling, and experiences. Throw it at me. I reckon this travelling is costing them a small fortune, like my entire yearly salary (haha), but that is the nature of the beast I guess. 🙂
The flight eventually arrived around 11h or so, and I was gone. Grabbing my bag on exit, I once gain noticed EXPLORER on the side of the mail bag . . . Coincidence? I think not! Once again a quick look at the incredible structure before it slips out of view, and we ascend to the heavens again.
Interested in the BP FPSO – Greater Plutonio? Read more:
Easy Going Guy 😉