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Living and working on an oil platform

Offshore platforms are among the most extreme working environments in the world, but they are also among the most attractive. Pompiliu Macovei talks about a typical day on the Petromar Central Platform in the Black Sea – about shifts, leisure time, compatibility with private life, and how to brave the wind, waves, and fog.

I’ve been working on the Black Sea platform in the Black Sea for five years. I think it’s the most exciting job, but of course you have to be aware that it entails a lot of responsibility and that there’s a lot of things you have to do without.
Pompiliu Macovei, Production Supervisor, OMV Petrom

Up to 100 people work around the clock on the platform in summer and winter, in bad weather and meter-high waves, to make sure that the wells and production operations run smoothly and safely. Technicians constantly check to make sure the installations above and around 50m-below water as well as all systems are working trouble-free. OMV Petrom has been producing oil and gas in the Black Sea about 100 kilometers off the coast of Constanta for almost three decades now. During this time a total of around 13 million tonnes of crude oil and 19 billion cubic meters of gas have been produced. “I work offshore for two weeks in a 12-hour day shift the first week and a 12-hour night shift the second week. Then I am home with my family onshore for two weeks“, says Pompiliu on his working patterns. “Only being able to see my wife once every two weeks isn’t always easy and I often miss out on important family occasions. Put simply, you have to plan your time onshore really well, but I am used to that from my job”, he says.

Running like clockwork, day in day out

Pompiliu’s day starts with the shift change, and then it’s time for a planning meeting. The Romanian compiles production reports, conducts production test programs, is responsible for the trouble-free flow of the oil and gas that’s been produced, and supervises the water injection program and pipelines underwater. “I always like to take on any new challenge that improves the production process. In order to stay sharp for my job, we have regular special offshore technology, safety, and survival training. This way I can continue developing my skills and expertise. Our health and safety skills are an essential part of our company culture. It is our responsibility to question anything and everything, should safety be in doubt,” says Pompiliu. But collegiality also plays a major role offshore, because it’s a team job. “We have to be well coordinated, talk to each other a lot, and support each other to make the right decisions for production and safety procedures.”

At the mercy of the elements

The only way for Pompiliu and his colleagues to get to work and back to Constanta’s harbor is by helicopter, and then only when the weather is good. But what if his trip home is delayed because of bad weather? “You have to be prepared for that. Transport between the platforms and the shore can only run if the weather conditions are favorable – ‘safety first’ applies here too. In spring it is sometimes so foggy that the helicopter can’t operate for days. In winter we often have winds of up to 160 km/h and 11 to 12-meter waves. We just have to be patient. But you learn this quickly when you decide to take a job offshore. The result is that we look forward to home and our families all the more”.

Table tennis on the high seas

What does one do for recreation on the high seas, far away from restaurants, cinemas and football pitches? “After my shift I try to relax as much as possible. We have internet and can watch TV in various common rooms; of course I also speak to my family a lot on the phone. But staying fit is also important – I spend a lot of time in the gym and it’s never boring when you can play pool or table tennis with colleagues”.

But why not see for yourself how life works on an offshore platform:

Pompiliu Macovei gives the OK to continue production following routine checks.
The best connection: the way over the bridge to the individual production areas.
Safe transfer of a colleague to the next offshore platform.
The team testing the system in the production field: are all pipelines and valves closed?
When you’re far from home, good contact with colleagues is essential.
The role that the underground plays for ordinary folk is replaced by the helicopter for our colleagues at Petromar-Central Platform, bringing them safely back to land.
You have to stay fit if you want to work on an offshore platform...
…but you mustn’t forget to have fun. Good team work is always important.
Not something you see every day: the mobile drilling rig “Uranus” arrives.

A special event – visit of the “Uranus”

But it’s not only the crew that has to stay fit for living and working offshore. From time to time the Petromar Central Platform also needs a fitness unit: for example when more extensive repairs are needed. Then a mobile offshore drilling rig is rented – as was the case a few months ago. “Visits” like this are something special even for Pompiliu: “Mobile drilling rigs like ‘Uranus’ help to ensure that our production from the Black Sea stays at maximum level 365 days a year. We don’t get a visit from a drilling rig like this every day – docking always is a challenge and a major event in what is already a very special job”.

Have a look at our video to accompany the 6,634-tonne mobile drilling rig on its journey from Constanta’s harbor to Petromar Central Platform and find out just how much work is involved in the simple word “docking”.
 

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