It’s almost tangible out there in the oil patch. You can feel it and see it the minute you land on an offshore rig or platform, and you’ll most definitely feel its grip once you start working there.
It’s a complex mix of being part of something, yet not quite; an aloofness that spans from the oil companies through to the service companies and spits ironic disdain at the workers in healthy gobs.
What’s that son? Just got up at 3am to catch a chopper? Flight delayed? Didn’t get here ’til seven o’clock at night? Well, the whole rig is waiting on you son. You’re good for sixteen hours work from now according to the law (assuming we ignore that travelling part that you dare not mention or we’ll report you to your service company).
This is the oil patch, son. Man up.
And such things happen each and every day out there from the North Sea to the Gulf of Mexico. I know this, because I’ve done it on numerous occasions; been subjected to rules that are malleable in direct proportion to how much pressure the rig is under. The safety of the individual, depending upon which rig and country you fly in to, will on most occasions be sacrificed for the dollar.
And that’s the oil patch. It will make fantastic promises to be good, to toe the line, to paint the streets of every oil city with unfathomable riches, to make young men and women well off, or to leave everything just as it was before they got there. Some of it is true, but there’s always a caveat with the oil industry. There’s always a ‘get out’.
I almost choked on my breakfast this morning as I read that Shell would be asking the UK government for permission to leave the legs and storage columns of the iconic Brent platforms – the ones that set the crude oil benchmark – in place following decommissioning. The request, in my mind anyway, is perhaps the most offensive thing a global conglomerate could do to a country. It pretty much falls into line with all the warnings that the environmentalists said would come about, and the details of such a request are staggering.
The plan, if one could call it that, is to remove the topsides (the giant hulks poking out above the sea) and leave the legs and concrete structures in position. The legs, Shell have warranted through extensive engineering studies, should be left to naturally rot over the course of the next 500 years whereby they may or may not be struck down by the gigantic waves that rip through the North Sea oil fields, and will most probably fall into their own footprint; neatly and with less environmental impact than removing the structures.
I left an extra empty line there, because… well… wow.
Those poor oil majors, fretting over diminished shareholder return due to finishing a job or doing it properly. Those frightened, cowering super corporations, worrying over how best to let a structure containing contaminants collapse uncontrollably over the course of ten generations while they shrug their shoulders and ask the next service hand to get out his bed three hours after he pulled a sixteen hour shift as he’s the only specialist guy on the rig due to them squeezing the service companies so tight that their green hats popped off.
It literally beggars belief, but it’ll happen. Of that I have no doubt.
But regardless of the prospect of kids emerging from a dip in the North Sea in the year 2246 and asking their parents what the pretty radioactive sludge clinging to their faces is, let me be first to propose thrilling pleasure cruises of the mysterious North Sea towers. Let me be first to say that it’s all part of a magical grand plan to provide fantastic man-made coral reefs that will sustain and encourage the most endangered species of wildlife to flourish, and will bring about eternal happiness and joy to Sponge Bob’s friends, family, and descendants. And let’s all pay homage to the visionary wisdom and almost seer-like eco-responsibility of such a proposal.
And remember… this is the oil patch, son. There’s always another mug.
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