Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

Dear everyone,

I am sorry I haven't blogged much recently. I've been in a three month training course in Tulsa, Oklahoma and haven't found much that I thought would be generally interesting. However that's all gonna change.

In about a week and a half I will leave the States to my new assignment in Duri, Indonesia. The visa and training departments of my company had a miscommunication which left me without a visa to return to Russia. So now it's sunny Indonesia for me. Hooray.

And in other news I am getting married July 10. In Utah. To this gal:

We couldn't be happier.

Yours truly,


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Views on a Rig at -30 C

So my current cold record is -40 degrees (which is the same in Celsius and Fahrenheit). These pics were taken at around -32 C. That, dear friends, is cold.

I thought I might explain a bit more in depth what the work is that I do. I am not going to go into the physics of the measurements that I make, but rather the physical rig-up of the cable on the job. First the cable attached to the truck pictured below (where the data is read and recorded) is run to a wheel on the drill floor:

From that wheel (on the right in the pic below) the cable strung up about 60 feet into the derrick:

A similar wheel hangs in the derrick and holds the cable like a pulley as the cable plunges back down to the ground next to the pipe on the left:

For the type of job I was working on here, the cable travels paralell to the drillpipe for a while until it is fed into the pipe itself where it is connected to the downhole tools that are actually making the measurements. Sections of drillpipe are lowered by a huge crane to push the tools deeper and deeper into the ground. The pipes are screwed together by the large machine on the left:

And that is basically the path of travel for the wireline cable in a job involving drillpipe (without drillpipe it's as simple as lowering the cable attached to the tools into the hole from directly above.

But there were some great looking shots while I was on the rig. Like this of the sunrise:

And this of the sunset:

Here is an assortment of the tools that sometimes get used.

And this is the view from the drill floor (as is the first pic).

And that is the rig at -30. A note on what that feels like: your breath freezes as you inhale so it burns as you breathe and your toes begin to freeze after about 30 minutes regardless of what high-tech footwear you are issued. Fortunately, I can warm up frequently (on the order of 15 minutes every hour).

Anyhoo, have a happy holiday season everybody. I'll likely get back to blogging after the new year.

my roflcopter goes soisoisoisoisoi

I went on a very long job to a remote location for one of our clients that is not a national oil company. This is the means by which I got to the job:

From the town where the helicopter was leaving from (we stayed 3 nights there):

A view from the helipad:

What I saw on the way to the job:

Apparently there are some winter roads that lead through the forest that we could have taken if we wanted to go the long way around:

Pasha, one of the operators I was working with:

Pasha was calling me Michael for a while. Which I fine I suppose, since to me it seems all the Russians are either Sasha, Misha, Dima, or Vanya and I confuse them all the time.

What one of the helicopter operators was wearing on his feet:

More of what I saw from the window:

X marks the spot:

How we were transporting all our equipment:

An abandoned hut at the well site:

This is Ivan, a pen pal I made there:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Russian life: Banya and Trains

Part 1: Banya

The Russians have a long tradition of sauna use which they call 'banya'. There are public saunas with either common rooms or private rooms for rent, but the ultimate bayna experience is at a private home. I was invited on my last day in Noybarsk to celebrate a coworkers promotion at another coworker's cottage where he had built a banya.

The banya itself is heated by wood fire in a brick stove (they import oak from the south because it burns better than the local pine).

One goes to banya to clean and sweat out all the grime. The Russians beat/slap themselves and each other with 'brooms' made of oak or birch leaves on branches. It's painfully refreshing and great.

The postcard hanging above me reads, 'Go to the banya after work.' Great advice.

After spending time in the heat, one cools off by showering cold water, jumping in a lake, or rubbing snow on oneself.

But the real banya experience is in the food. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and greens are put out with freshly grilled kebabs. They also serve sala which is (as well as I can figure out) seasoned lard. It's surprisingly delicious. And in true Russian fashion there are bottles of vodka shared. I was told that at banya you either drink or bathe, not both (I think they don't want the inebrieated to pass out in the heat). Though that rule seemed to not be held to fast.

All in all, the banya experience is one not to be missed.

Part 2: The Train

What the airplane ride or roadtrip is to Americans, the train expedition is to Russians. I rode the rails from Noyabrsk to Pit-Yakh the other night. There were a few mishaps. 1. I over packed and had to ditch a bag last minute. Which was sad and means all my books are in Noyabrsk (why do I insist on traveling with a veritable library? I honestly left 15 books behind).

2. I missed the train. I was late getting to the station, and confused about which train was mine, so I was standing on the platform trying to board a train that wasn't mine while my train left the station. So I had to pay a taxi the same price as the train ride to drive me 20 minutes to the next station. Ridiculous.

3. I ended up in the ladies' section. I finally boarded the train and was shown to my compartment, where the lady who was asleep in there informed me and the conductor that she had a ticket for the women's section. The conductor said, 'well he has a ticked for your neighboring bed, so he's staying.' Awkward. Good thing I just fell asleep quickly and the lady was gone before I woke up.

There you have it. Banya and trains. Happy December all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A wee note on ingenuity and departure

First, I work with engineers. And engineers solve problems. Even small problems like running out of gas. And it's not as easy as just finding the gas can:

My coworkers insisted that I take a picture to show the folks how backwards Russia is, but I assured them that this kind of thing is far from extraordinary. The guy pouring the gas wanted me to make sure his face was not in the picture. I obliged.

Second, I'm leaving my fair Noyabrsk Sunday night and heading to Pit-Yakh where I will finish training before heading home for the holidays. It's been nice here and it will be nice to explore someplace new. Sunrise, sunset.

Actually, this is sunset.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Last night I returned from a 5-day stint in the field. During that time we completed two jobs and I made a few lists:

Things I've seen people do:

1. Drink warm whole milk topped with melted butter.
2. Eat spoonfuls of jam plain.
3. Sleep 12 hours in one 24 hour day.
4. Sleep 0 hours in one 24 hour day.
5. Eat Ramen noodle soup with hefty spoonfuls of mayonaise.

What I like most about working in the field:

1. It's like I'm always camping. All the wellsites here are located in or near forests.
2. The world is my toilet. See previous point.
3. The stars at night are big and bright. And you can see the Milky Way. And shooting stars.
4. It is possible to sleep 12 hours in one day (if the job is going smoothly, and you are not in charge, and the workers on the rig trip in pipe slowly).
5. The camp kitchens are much tastier than the base cafeteria.
6. The cold. I really do like winter for some reason.

What I like least about working in the field.

1. No soap. It's like I'm always camping.
2. When the world ceases to be my toilet, a dirty old outhouse becomes my toilet.
3. No internet (to look up constellations, keep in touch, blog, etc).
4. It is possible to sleep 0 hours in a day (if the job has problems, or if your are in charge, or it just takes that long).
5. The camp kitchens do not have hours that work with an odd sleep/work schedule.
6. Catching a cold. Sleeping in one room with the first person who caught the cold does not improve your odds.

All in all, I really like working in the field. A lot. And I am getting over my cold (can one overdose on vitamin C? I think not). I am leaving for another job in a few hours.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Bring on the cold

I went to a job a few days ago. We were working in temperatures between about 20 and 30 below zero (in both temperature scales). For the absolutists out there, the coldest it got was 241 kelvin. This is what I looked like:

For those interested, my winter coveralls are quite warm--it's like walking around in a sleeping bag all the time. They are so warm. Sauna warm. Even in the bitter cold weather. My gloves and boots on the other hand, are a wee bit lacking. Something about steel toes doesn't conduct warmth very well.

This is what the rig looked like:

And this is what the surrounding forest/tundra looked like:

The grasses on the ground looked like this:

This is what we looked like in the truck after a couple of days (Aleksey, the engineer got the least amount of sleep of us all):

On the whole, winter here is beautiful, but the sun sets at 4 PM:

And during the day you get pretty pictures of the power lines going to the rig:

Happy Early Mid-November everyone.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Partay in Tyumen

While training during the day, my classmates and I have been having lots of fun in the evenings in Tyumen.

We went to a fancy schmancy restaurant called The Golden Turtle:

Afterward, I was in the mood for karaoke, so we walked a few blocks only to discover that the karaoke place had a $10 entrance fee which was steep for myself and many of my classmates (especially as we only had a half hour before the bus) so we walked to the lovers' bridge and I snapped a few photos:

You can't really tell, but the rails on the side of the bridge are covered with locks. Apparently every city has a spot where lovers come, lock a lock and throw away the key, thus sealing their love. Here they typically through the key into the river below.

We don't just have fun. We do train some; it's just mainly during the day:

But we also party. This was at a place called Giraffe:

Apparently Elena was a little tired or got caught during a blink.

I had no idea bowling was so popular in Russia, but apparently it happens in almost every city. There are two bowling alleys in Noyabrsk, and that's a town of only 100,000. I thought of ordering a White Russian, but ended up sticking with the Sprite.

I also spent an evening with these folks:

The Palmers are LDS missionaries from Utah living in Tyumen. They are spending two years struggling to learn Russian and help the people here. I also went to a church Halloween party with them which turned out to be pretty fun. A lady who had worked for about 15 years for the circus did some magic tricks.

After the party, I met up with many of my coworkers to continue the Halloween festivities. I was out until 1:30 with them, but when they headed for a dance club, I cut out. Not that I'm chicken or anything, just that I'm the world's most awkward dancer. I did get a good shot of a local Orthodox church while we were walking around though:

Happy November everyone.