My wife has gone to St. Petersburg for two weeks to renew her passport and see her family and friends, leaving me on my own.

June and July are going to be busy times for all of us on Sakhalin, and a spell of sunshine and a change of scenery is in order, so tomorrow I am going to Singapore for a ten day holiday to see an old buddy of mine.

I might even write a blog post or two when I’m there.

A Russian Training Course

Yesterday I sat from 8am until 4pm in a decrepit old Soviet classroom attending what was described as a training course in industrial safety.  In actual fact, this training course was no more than a Russian bloke very slowly reading out Russian Federation Law No. 116 line by line, in Russian, and then pausing whilst it was badly translated into English.  The training course cost $375 per person, and did not include lunch, nor even coffee.  To be fair, they had laid on two bottles of mineral water costing 70 cents each, but that was it by way of refreshments.

So why did I attend?  Under Russian Federation Law No. 116, there is a requirement that all persons in a position of responsibility working in connection with hazardous facilities, which includes oil and gas plants, must attend a training course to familiarise themselves with the law and its requirements.  In other words, it was compulsory.

Having found myself slipping into deep coma and my major organs shutting down in an attempt to keep my brain functioning throughout the day, I was reminded of my fluid mechanics lectures in university.  Words alone cannot do justice in describing boredom of this kind.

Anyway, I will shortly have an exam on the subject in which I will be expected to answer questions from a badly translated document, examples of which follow:

In what term the organisation which has commissioned industrial facility, represents the documents necessary for registration in the state register?

To that the technical devices used on hazardous facility while in service are subject?

Who does determine the order of carrying out of extraordinary examination?

I’m sure this is all very worthwhile.

A Seven Mile Hole

One of the good things about being in the oil industry is that you are never far from some seriously impressive technology, and Sakhalin Island is no exception.  This article from Upstream Online

US supermajor ExxonMobil said an extended reach well at its Sakhalin 1 project on Russia’s Pacific Sakhalin Island had set a world record for the longest measured depth.

The company said the Z-11 directional well, drilled by its local unit Exxon Neftegas, had reached a total measured depth of 11,282 metres, or over seven miles.

The well was drilled to the Chayvo field, which lies eight to 11 kilometres offshore, from the Yastreb rig, the world’s largest land rig. The Z-11 well was the 17th extended-reach well drilled at the Sakhalin 1 project.

ExxonMobil said the well was drilled in 61 days, ahead of schedule and below cost. It said the well was drilled using its proprietary Integrated Hole Quality and Fast Drill Process technologies.

The Chayvo field reached peak output of 250,000 barrels of oil per day in February after starting production in October 2005.

As the article says, the oilfield being drilled lies offshore Sakhalin Island.  Rather than going to the expense of building an offshore platform, the Exxon-led consortium simply plonked a gigantic drilling rig on the beach and drilled diagonally out to sea.  Being able to drill a hole 7 miles deep is impressive, let alone being able to drill such a hole into a pressurised hydrocarbon reservoir.

One day, when the oil age has gone the way of the stone age and the iron age, historians will record how man managed to recover hydrocarbons from the world’s most inaccessible places and people will marvel at the ingenuity and the technology they used to do it.  The North Sea platforms and the ultra-deep water semi-submersibles in the Mexican Gulf will likely be the subject of documentaries for centuries to come. 

The engineering feats that have been achieved, and are still being achieved, in the oil and gas industry will never be forgotten; I take comfort in the fact that I am involved in this, and that my contribution – along with that of thousands of others – will collectively never be forgotten either.