I apologise for not having updated you all with what has been going on in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and its environs over the last few weeks, but I’ve been flat out at work.
During the winter it is difficult to get construction and maintenance work done on the oil and gas facilities in Russia, so during the summer everybody is running about like mad trying to get everything done before the snow comes. In addition, last week the first part of the gigantic LNG facility at Prigorodnoye south of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk was commissioned, using gas imported from an LNG tanker moored at the offload jetty. As the project is some way behind schedule, it was deemed a good idea to try to save time by commissioning some of the completed sections of the facility ahead of time. The pipeline which would supply the gas to the facility is not in place yet, so in order to commission the various parts they needed to import it, which marked the first time ever that Russia has imported LNG, by sending it backwards from the offloading jetty into the storage tanks (which are cooled to -160C under normal operating conditions). Exciting stuff, eh? Anyway, this period of LNG import required me to spend a considerable amount of time hanging round the site in case things went wrong. As it turned out, it went without a hitch, which is a major credit to the engineers in Sakhalin Energy.
The weather has varied from week to week between brilliant sunshine with bright blue skies and dreary low grey cloud. Temperatures have got up to 32C, and sometime in late May/early June the entire south of the island turned deep green and vegetation, which appeared from nothing in a matter of days, shot up to form an underbrush three feet deep. Grass on Sakhalin grows in metres per second, but the local authorities have not yet heard of lawnmowers. Instead vegetation, inlcuding grass, is kept at bay using gangs of men with strimmers. With the vegetation came the mosquitos, which are horrible massive things which sip on blood like my wife sips on Mai-Thais around swimming pools. They leave horrible itchy bites which take a few days to go away. A week or so back I bought myself a mountain bike so I could join a group who regularly ride the excellent trails and tracks around the city. Unfortunately, along these trails and tracks the mosquitos attacked me with such ferocity it left me wondering what these things eat when I’m not around.
This evening I am taking a 14-hour overnight train to a town called Nogliki, which is halfway up the island. From there I have a 3-hour trip by 4WD to an Onshore Processing Facility (OPF), which is only the third most remote such facility in the region. The other two require a plane trip from Nogliki to Chayvo yet further north, or a flight to Khabarovsk and a further 16-hours in a Kamaz truck. Sounds like I should convince my superiors to invest in a company helicopter. In any case, people tell me the train trip to Nogliki is entertaining, and judging by my previous adventures on Russian trains they are not making it up. I’m also expecting a whiff of nostalgia as I make my bed and buy my compulsory tea in a metal-framed glass from the babushka who terrorises the trains’ passengers into behaving.
So for the next few days I’m out of town, and depending on the state of the internet connection at the OPF, I might not be posting until late in the week. So in the meantime, I’ll leave you with some pictures I’ve taken over the last month or so with my new Canon 30D and EF 24-105 L IS USM lense. There are a couple of promotional shots I took of the new terrace bar at the Pacific Plaza Hotel, where my wife is the sales and marketing manager. I’ve included them just for the hell of it.