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posted 16 Feb 2018, 09:38 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 16 Feb 2018, 10:11 ]
Tony Bedassie is a lowly, grease-covered, dirty-fingered, yet proud, Compressor Technician
As Compressor Technicians, most of our major jobs are planned before hand. We then seek out the best opportunity to take our unit out of service since it directly affects the production of oil and gas. For weeks we begin preparations, ensuring we have all our spares in place, anticipating all the potential hiccups we might encounter.

In the case of an overhaul, parts such as pistons and so on can be prepped, clearances taken and marked. Parts are then put together. Tools are sorted and placed together with the parts for the job. We sit down and discuss for days on end, exactly what we are going to do. We write down our parameters and keep them with us.

On the day the job actually begins, everyone knows what they are about; everyone knows what their responsibilities are for that particular day. When we begin execution of that job, it's with a pace, simply because we know the cost associated with our equipment being down. There is no overtime involved, we work within regular hours. If we do go overtime on our own, we won't get paid. It's that simple. Sometimes we encounter hiccups. Sometimes the job forces us to go beyond what we originally planned. We take it in stride.

We may plan a job for a duration of five days, then the weather conditions might force us to take a day extra, yet we get it done. We
Compressor Station before conducting an overhaul.
brave the rough seas to get there. We then work straight through till evening because our time is limited. We don't stop for lunch, maybe a five minute water break but that's it. Our Compressor stations are always clean and well put away.

We face all the challenges of working on some obsolete equipment, so old that a foreign visitor involved in our line of work visited one of our stations and made a remark I'll never forget. He said that the only other place in the world that he knows of where such a Compressor exists is a Museum in Houston.

We cannot even get parts for them at times and sometimes have to recycle from the scrap yard or have them specially made. This is what we do and how we do it. Our bosses don't stand for failure. They put pressure on us to get it done and within the stipulated time frame. It's because they, like us, know the serious responsibility we hold not just to the company, but to the Nation at large. Our job is tough; our parts are large, cumbersome and heavy. There's no easy job on a Compressor Station.

On some evenings I get home, only to shower and hit the sack because tomorrow it starts all over again. I lie in my bed reviewing the day’s progress, planning out all that I have to do tomorrow: where I am going to start, who I will direct to do what to ensure a smooth flow of the job. We are few in number, just around forty workers, yet we are responsible for thirty-nine Compressors.

These two Power Pistons are each 15" in diameter
One of our pistons is larger than your average car engine. Some of our spanners weigh in excess of forty pounds, we strike them with fifteen and twenty pound sledge hammers. It takes two men to lift a connecting rod and three to lift a piston. We have to do pipe fitting, instrumentation, electrical, rigging and labouring. Our equipment involves the repairs of engines, compressors, pumps, turbochargers and turbines. We do it all without complaint: simply to keep the oil flowing from the wells. Without our compressors, we have no production.

The average citizen can never know what we do - the hazards we brave on a daily basis. A rupture of a line at two thousand psi may leave very little of our bodies to identify, yet we do it because we know how important our job is.

We gather around 7am at the terminal, awaiting transportation. We meet and greet with terms not suited for this forum. Then we seek each other out. The Compressor Technician goes in search of the E&I Tech., the Engineering Tech seeks out the Operator etc.

We discuss our problems with the equipment. We exchange ideas and experiences. We discuss the history of the problem, what checks have already been made and which new ones need to be carried out, and then plan our next move. The Eng. Tech might request we check his equipment since he has another job further away. It's not a problem. We'll take care of it. We arrive on our platform, two crews; two separate stations.

We talk to each other, find out what's going on with the varying equipment we are responsible for, exchange ideas based upon experience and if time permits, render actual physical assistance. If there's a problem in another field, it becomes our problem too. We discuss it, offer advice, volunteer to send parts when needed and so on.

If we have parts locked away which we no longer use but are needed elsewhere, we send it to them without their asking. It's what we do and how we do it. It's why such old formations manage to continue producing at sustained levels for this length of time. It's our culture, our bread and butter and indeed our future.

Of course we don’t do overhauls every day. On completion of such a job though, the work continues. Cylinders and pistons are cleaned
These two Power Cylinders were brought here manually. They were measured using an inside Micrometer and deemed reusable. They each weigh about 1000 lbs.
and measured for reuse or disposal. Our water pump is scrapped down, serviced, tested and stored away. Our hydraulic pumps are serviced as are our gas injection valves. Air inlet or mixer valves, turbochargers and superchargers are all repaired and stored. Our compressor suction and discharge valves are broken down and repaired. Serviced parts are then coated with anti-rusting sprays, plastic wrapped and stored for future use. Our parts aren't sent out to anyone, we rebuild everything on site.

Our tool cupboards are then emptied, tools cleaned, sorted and repacked. Our parts cupboard is next. Parts are sorted and an inventory is done to ascertain what we have and what needs to be ordered. We even do our own cleaning of our stations. It's normal to see us, from junior to senior personnel, with brooms and mops in hand.

After a certain amount of running hours, our units are taken off and a re-torquing (re-tightening) exercise follows. One cylinder head nut carries a torque of 750 lb/ft. And for those of you familiar with mechanics, no, we don't use a multiplier. One unit has around 48 nuts to be torqued.

We work together as a team, ensuring that our equipment stays running: liaising with other departments charged with the responsibility of doing computerised analyses of our units, generating performance curves from which they can oft times warn us before major failures take place.

Our bosses are strict, they set high targets. Our running efficiency target for this year is 97%. They don't take kindly to our failures and hate excuses. When we don't meet our targets we are severely reprimanded in front of everyone at one of our monthly meetings. When we succeed, we are also praised. It's what we do and why we as Trinmar Compressor Technicians are a proud bunch.

In order to maintain production from a gas lift system such as ours, proper team work, communication and co-ordination between all disciplines is imperative. The Operators determine how much gas at what pressure is required. Their function is to direct that gas to the wells which will give us the largest production. They can't know this without the Reservoir Engineers who monitor these formations. This information is passed on to the Production department who are in charge of the Operators. How do they get the information about these wells? The E&I Technicians provide the monitoring devices needed for measurement.

The Engineering Department ensures that our Gas and Diesel powered generators provide us with the power to run the equipment.
The big spanner weighs in excess of forty pounds
Once the oil and gas reaches the surface, it is then separated at our block stations. Engine and Motor driven pumps, which are maintained by the Engineering Technicians, now send it to our tanks on land. Should their pumps fail, the potential of our in-house tanks overflowing, is a real one. Oil spilling into our environment is not something anyone wants.

We also rely upon Fire Pumps located on each major location. Should a fire break out which cannot be contained by portable extinguishers, these pumps come into play. Our Engineering Technicians are responsible for keeping them in working order. We do have fires.

I have personally extinguished no less than six in my career here as a Compressor Technician. Our fire personnel cannot be everywhere at the same time. In most cases it's left to us normal workers to be the first responders.

I remember a Compressor catching fire on my platform one night in an area with a heavy gas presence. I dealt with it effectively but will admit to suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a few days later. You see there's nowhere to run to in an emergency. It's either deal with it or try your luck in the ocean. It's always a risk, from the minute you step foot on a boat you are in the firing line. Your life is worth very little. We manage our risks as best as we can. We work together to provide a continuous supply of crude to our refinery. We do all this without complaint, without much needed capital injections and infrastructural maintenance; simply because to not do so would mean the crash of our entire economy.

My coworkers and I are proud to have served this company and this nation over the many years and pledge our commitment to continue doing so for as long as we possibly can.