Gas sale contract securedStorting approves landfalls

The first Norwegian operatives

person by Kristin Øye Gjerde, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Phillips hired its first operator personnel for Ekofisk on 12 February 1972.
— Teddy Broadhurst at Ekofisk. Photo: Husmo Foto/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Teddy Broadhurst was one of the fortunate appointees. He recalls:

I began as a roustabout on Gulftide, and was placed fairly quickly with the crew handling the actual process – probably because of my language skills. Phillips appointed its first operating personnel for the field a year later on 12 February. Those of us who were in Canam were taken on without any application process, health checks or the like. I remember that a form was filled out and, after I’d signed, I switched from working for Canam to becoming a Phillips employee. Our pay also went down, it must be said, but we eventually discovered that working for an operator company conferred status. This was also a secure job.

Erik Lima joined the company at the same time as a trainee operator. He relates:

The big difference between working on a production platform compared with an exploration rig was the corporate culture. Phillips was a company which was in Norway to stay, while Odeco was more of a transient. It stuck more to the American culture throughout, while Phillips was prepared to change. I think that was the biggest difference.

Where we were concerned, this was a transition from a more insecure position to a secure life. Phillips was an outstanding company to work for. Emphasis was given to ensuring that employees felt safe, both they and their families. After all, we received very good pension plans, insurance cover and so forth.

I started as an operator trainee. I was one of those who could draw on earlier offshore experience. We were supposed to help train up the others on the field. Training on land took place on the first floor of a building alongside the Dickens pub [in central Stavanger]. Phillips used training materials developed by the American Petroleum Institute (API). Our trainers were regular Phillips staff from the USA – operations supervisors, maintenance supervisors and the like. It used only its own staff.

One of those who remained was Duane Mills, the husband of Norwegian Kari Mills, a very able man. He was one of our first teachers. Vacant premises at the Lilleborg Fabrikker soap factory in Sandvika were used, as well as Phillips offices at the Dusavik base.

Then the company started sending us offshore, primarily to Gulftide. Phillips had hired Flopetrol, a Scottish firm, to run the production. So we had to learn Scottish. That could be difficult to understand at times, especially when they got cross. But we learnt a lot about production.

An operator’s job is primarily to monitor and log, record pressure and temperature, check that everything is in order, and take action if anything goes wrong. The metering system was read off once a day to calculate how much oil and gas had been produced. We learnt that there, and it was very interesting.

Egil Berle was among the first Norwegians to be given a permanent job by Phillips. He began on Gulftide, but says he kept asking the operator when it was going to start hiring Norwegians:

I knew some Norwegians had secured a job on land. In the meantime, the supervisors were constantly giving me books I had to read. I didn’t understand the significance of that then. There were old books on wooden pipelines, a great deal of history and a lot of technical literature from the API.

It turned out later that this was actually the technical literature you had to know something about, so I jumped the gun there. That proved very useful when Phillips eventually began to take people on.

Most of the newcomers were hired on 12 February, but I was appointed two days earlier and got a day’s seniority for each year I’d worked on Gulftide. This business with seniority was significant because I got first choice of holiday time.

When Phillips stated to employ more Norwegians, I became an instructor together with Phil Case, one of the company’s supervisors. More instructors were appointed later. We were based in the centre of Stavanger, in a building now called Ovenpaa but which was then known as Torgheim Cafe.

After a week of training at Torgheim, we took the ‘gang’ out to Gulftide. We appointed 12 people at a time in those days, sometimes 20. We then had both theoretical and practical training on the rig.

The practical part involved showing recruits how production was carried on. This concerned checking pressure, temperature and pumps, and not least the gas content in the oil before it could be loaded into the tankers. In those days, of course, the gas was simply flared off directly. Large quantities were burnt.

However, back to the training on land. As early as 1973, the drillers had established themselves on the ground floor and taught people about the blowout preventer (BOP). Dave Sharp, an older supervisor, led the programme. A little more basic training was provided on the first floor. When we took ‘students’ out to Gulftide, many of them were astonished that they had to fly so far out to sea by helicopter.

 

Gas sale contract securedStorting approves landfalls
Published 24. May 2019   •   Updated 24. May 2019
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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