Watermaker memories

person by the Norwegian Petroleum Museum
One of the things many people recall from the early days on Ekofisk was the watermakers, which were supposed to produce fresh water. But these were designed to handle brackish rather than salt water. They had been used around and about in Florida and other places. Since seawater was extremely corrosive, their metal parts regularly rusted away.
— Watermaker i hot oil rom på B 11. Foto: Liv Åshild Ervik/Norsk Oljemuseum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Two mechanics were deployed full-time on trying to keep the watermakers functioning. The first version which operated with salt water was the same type used on tankers in Louisiana.

“I remember when I first heard about this as offshore manager, when I spent a lot of time travelling around and asking people what the problems were,” recalls Lars Takla.

“Finally, I decided that new machines had to be purchased. We were spending roughly three times as much per year on maintenance as it cost to buy replacements. Nobody gave any thought to the fact that offshore hours were very expensive.

“I think many of the people who worked on Ekofisk remember the original watermakers. Several studies were carried out on them, but the decision to replace them was postponed because that would be a big investment. But we ultimately did it.”

Teddy Broadhurst also recalls the watermakers as an unusual story. “Nothing more than evaporators which made seawater potable, they were notorious out there for many years.

“The machines were some cheap rubbish called Aquacam bought from Scotland. We were told they were meant to treat brackish water from Scottish marshes, which was already drinkable.

“They weren’t intended to make salt water potable, so we had big problems with this. Fantastic resources in terms of attention, time and money were devoted to keeping them going. That was the most important consideration. Some of the American bosses were incredibly concerned about this.

“The alternative was to bring water out by supply ship, and nobody could say what that might cost. While the ships arrived anyway, they carried other things. We never got comparative costs for this. But these watermakers had to operate regardless.

“As operators, this was the first equipment we had to learn to use, particularly before the wells came on stream. Air, power and water were naturally the most important requirements – power to keep warm and run the machinery, while air and water were the top priorities for us operators.

“So we eventually knew everything there was to know about the watermakers, even if they weren’t the most complicated devices. Not everyone could operate them after they’d run for a few weeks on salt water – you needed all your knowledge and not least experience.

“I remember an American who said that from now on you must report how much the various watermakers have produced on each platform in the same way as for daily oil and gas output.

“We arrived in the morning and were to report this. That was what mattered. Then other people came in who didn’t devote attention to this area and didn’t even ask.

“I was perhaps the first platform superintendent on Cod to get how much time, money and resources were being used on this watermaker documented in the system. We wanted to shut it down.

“Then I secured approval for that, and we devoted the following day to dismantling and removing the device in case the bosses changed their minds.”

Related by Lars Takla and Teddy Broadhurst in 2002





Fortalt av Lars Takla og Teddy Broadhurst i 2002.

Published 4. July 2019   •   Updated 4. July 2019
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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