Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Blood is thicker than water

#this should've been blogged about two months ago

So, not too long ago my aunt from New Zealand dropped by in Dubai. As it was on the weekend i could happily join them for a day of family reunion. How nice! And how typical for this kind of lifestyle. One lives here, one lives there, you meet in the middle - of the world. Hehe.

It was also the first time since November that i've talked German again. Obviously it was no big deal getting into it again. But during the day it happened to me three or four times that i caught myself saying a sentence in German and then realizing that i took an English one in my head and just translated it word-by-word. Thinking in English, weird. But i guess that was also when i was explaining my job for the first time in German. I don't know most of those technical/engineering terms in German, and i've just learned them them in English!

Oh well, too much text already. I'll give you some pics now.
The road to Dubai. Bloody cab driver tried to ripp me off.

My swiss unlce. Hehe. We get along well.
The classic "excuse me, could you take a picture of us, please?" shot.
And here's my aunt :-)
Le cool.
Gotta find that shot of the three of us wearing old-school sunglasses back in Murau, taken on their last visit to Europe.
Dubai tourism.
Swiss Burge ;-)
Happy face in the fake fort.
Pictures of people taking pictures. Hah, i was faster! Also take a look at the classic - read: non-digital - camera.
Asian lunch.
(yet another postcard shot)
Beautiful light. The way to the 360 bar at sunset.
Auntie&uncle in the infamous 360 bar. They liked it, too.

Family shot.
Mall bin.
Ski dubai. Indoor skiing. Top fakeness.
Fake St.Moritz. Real Swiss man.
Not related to the rest - this picture was taken in a Japanese "Alles 20 Schilling"-shop in Abu Dhabi. Just liked the weirdness there. And of course i bought some stuff. The chain is real Japanese, according to the Japan-loving friend of mine who brought me there.

So much for that, blogged long time after it happened. To explain the title, i'll tell you what a Bolivian friend of mine told us, just before he got into the car that took him to the airport to go back to Bolivia:
"Never forget, your family comes first!"
But then again, the last thing he said was "Maybe i'll never meet anyone of you again, so i'll see you in hell!". Good man.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Do What You Do


so, as promised, a blog with a little bit about what it actually is that i do here all this time in the desert. I mean, my work.

I help people drill a hole. That's it. Drill it to wherever they want to drill it. And tell them what's down there (yes, we only drill down into the ground). If you want to read on, i will go a little more into details.

To start you might want to familiarize yourself a bit with what's the situation on a rig. A good overview can be found in the book "A Primer to Oilwell Drilling" - a standard issue by some American oil organization, you might find it in your local library. A nice'n'easy read, a good introduction to what's going on at the rig. Kind of a standard work. You can read it, i actually had to, as part of my training.

And to those of you who've sent me seasonal greetings last december - it's already more than ten years that i don't care about "happy Julfest" anymore, but anyways, thanks for thinking of me :-) - it might cheer you up that my job is basically about setting up christmas trees.
Well, if our job is done they put a christmas tree on top of it and yeeehah they start producing, most of the time. Each time i go to/leave the rig i pass by some of them on the road. And no, i still don't care about Julfest.

For all animal lovers: Ain't it some funny place, a rig. We got a mousehole, sometimes also a rathole, a doghouse and a monkeyboard - next to the fingerboard.

But back to my job. They drill a hole, using a bit and after that some 'tools', so some pipes with more sophisticated stuff in them. That's where we come in. We, me: I am an MWD, in short. Or an LWD. Full job title might be MWD/LWD engineer. MWD refers to the drilling parameters, LWD to formation parameters. In other words, MWD data tell them where they are drilling to and how it's going so far, and LWD data helps to see what's down there.

We bring our own container, the 'logging unit', to the rig. Our own little room. Before we put our tools in the hole, they gotta be programmed. So we connect a cable from the PC in the container to tools through a hole in the outer pipe. And programm into the tool what we want it to do. In some tools we have to load lithium batteries which is quite a physical task, screwing them in with a, how to say, 1.5m long screwdriver-thingie... when we're ready preparing we're ready for pick-up. Which means the 'bottom-hole-assembly' will be screwed together on the rigfloor. Since most of that is our tools we are there to tell them how and make sure everything's allright. And we check how they screwed it together to get some more parameters. Depending on the job we also might have to put our radioactive source into our tools (yup, i'm a radiation worker now, with a fancy - well, not quite - badge on my chest measuring how much i'm taking. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Neutron, keep'em coming...)
Then they run-in-hole, i.e. they keep on screwing more drillpipe on top of our tools etc. and push it into the hole until they reach bottom. Not much to do for us whilst running in hole, but as soon as they reach bottom they start drilling, hence our job really starts. We're getting data.
So how do we get data? Our tools are sending a signal through the mud in the drillpipe, using pressure waves. On surface we got sensors to get the signal into our logging unit, into the computers there.
So most of the time we sit in our logging unit, monitoring the data and giving them to the client. Sitting in front of three monitors. As a friend of mine said "So, it's a totally Dilbert job!". Well, as long as everything is fine, yes, i guess so. Doing or twelve hour shifts - two MWDs at the rig.
But if something goes wrong, the signal is bad, you gotta do something. And each hour, more or less, depending on how fast they drill, you have to interact with the rig crew, get them to do what you need. Call them, and oftentimes go up to the rigfloor and talk to them (shouting, if things go bad). So much for that.

When they finish drilling they POOH! (pull-out-of-hole), so our tools come up again, we have to be there to supervise. And check our tools. After they've been laid down - keep in mind, heavy pipes, all done by crane etc. - we connect our computers again to get all the data that have been recorded downhole - more than what was sent up through the mud waves. In general, we produce logs from all data we acquire. Long vertical displays with some funny curves on them. Very important data for our clients.

Part of our job is also installing and de-installing all our sensors on the rig, deal with the rig crew, get the forklift driver, ...

Some words about my ten weeks here in Abu Dhabi: That was school, so university-like training but from the company. Getting up early five or six days a week, taking a one hour bus to our training center, classes and practicals from about 8:30 to 16:30, then going back. And about two or three exams each week. But fun. We were a class of 23 students, one or two instructors, good instructors. I've had fun. And now i successfully completed school.

Actually, right now i just came from the beach :-) ehehe.