Life on a platform

Required to work for up to six months a year, oil workers are well compensated for the undeniably hazardous conditions in which they work. Wages are typically higher than in similar engineering disciplines and the larger platforms and spars come complete with facilities more appropriate to a cruise ship than a floating factory. These can include private rooms for the 100+ crew, cinemas, 24-hour restaurants and even gyms. Supplies are usually brought in by helicopter or ship, making oil platforms better stocked than most workplaces and significantly more important to the local economies in which they reside. It is estimated that every offshore worker supports up to ten more in local industries such as food, transport or maintenance. However, the dangers are constant and largely unpredictable. Offshore drilling involves not only dealing with highly flammable oil and gas – with the added danger of this being pumped out at exceptionally high pressures – but also extreme wind and sea conditions. When danger strikes, support is often miles away by helicopter or ship, and despite the high levels of training and increasingly safe equipment, offshore fatality rates have been on the rise in recent years. In addition to this, workers are often prone to alcoholism or drug abuse to overcome the isolation and gruelling 12-hour shifts. 

 The working space on board an offshore platform where drilling rigs, production facilities and crew quarters are located. Larger platforms may use nearby ‘flotels’ for crew quarters. 

 Jackets are usually vertical steel sections piled into the seabed, protecting the central drill shaft against damage or interference. 

 With each platform required to service up to 30 wells at different depths and positions, flow lines and umbilical connections are needed to connect them all to the main rig. 

Oil rig teamwork
A small selection of the different roles on a rig…

 A highly specialist discipline, the drillers are those who operate the drilling equipment, including making the initial hole in the seabed. The driller is effectively in charge of everything that happens on the rig fl oor.
 So called because of their position at the top of the derrick, derrickmen are usually working roughnecks responsible for guiding the pipe into the drill as well as operating mud pumps and other such machinery. 

 The grunts of the oil business, roughnecks work in teams of three and are mainly responsible for manual work both during and after drilling. They can also be called on to operate other equipment such as mud shakers. 

Tool pusher
 On an offshore rig, tool pushers tend to be department heads in charge of drilling or other essential functions such as engineering or operations. They may also assist with administrative work, such as payroll or benefi ts. 


Drill Ships 

Designed for speculative or deep-water mining, these vessels are converted to include a drilling platform in the centre. Drill ships use sophisticated sensors and satellite tracking to keep them moving while lined up to the well. 


Made up of fl oating pontoons and columns able to sink in the water where they are anchored to the sea fl oor or kept in place by steerable thrusters. Effective at drill depths of up to 1,800m, they’re designed for quick deployment. 


Mobile platforms can be raised above the sea on extendable steel legs. Designed for depths of 500m or less, they are useful for small to midsized deposits and typically only support smaller crews. 


An immovable structure of concrete and steel that rests on the seabed with deck space for multiple rigs, crew quarters and production facilities. Their design and expense makes them appropriate for larger offshore deposits. 


Perfect for major oil fi elds, such as the North Sea, spars are drilling platforms fi xed to giant, hollow hulls that can descend up to 250m, still above the ocean fl oor and secured by cables. 

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