As the Vice President of ‘Offshore Construction and Maintenance,’ Elster Dallmann is certainly the man in the know when it comes to operations in the Gulf of Mexico. His team of more than five hundred personnel, all permanently based offshore, are the frontline ‘fixers’ for the Oil and Gas platforms under their care.
“We basically maintain offshore facilities and we also conduct some installations of new platforms too. Our teams stay on the facility and ensure any upkeep or maintenance is taken care of immediately. There’s always something to do on these big platforms and it’s very important that small issues don’t become big ones. Our GIS teams have a full range of skills; there isn’t a lot they can’t do.”
Elster has spent his whole career within the Energy sector and is very aware of the importance of fast efficient repairs and maintenance, especially on large off-shore platforms. A number of tasks, due to size or safety factors, cannot be completed on-site and Elster’s team will arrange for removal and repair at one of GIS’ fabrication yards.
Highly Skilled & Teamwork
“Many of our tasks involved hot work, flame cutting, and it is absolutely not possible to conduct this type of work onboard a facility while it is producing highly volatile oil and gas. We rely on our Project Management teams and Engineering groups to plan outages and this shutdown of production allows us to tackle all the major and minor issues that need attention. Our teams are very skilled and very experienced, so we are adept at utilizing the outage time to finish our tasks and during a turnaround period, we can send extra staff to assist if necessary.”
Planning & Preparation
Planning, as Elster reiterates, is everything in his line of work. Bigger outages are often scheduled two years in advance, on occasions, tasks planned for that period are fast-tracked, when possible, but it is extremely important that installations, repairs, and maintenance are organized in advance to maximize the downtime and minimize the loss of production days.
Shutdowns can range in duration between thirty and 120 days. In those peak periods of activity, more than one hundred of Elster’s team can be deployed to that facility. But it is not just the off-shore project that Elster has to arrange, he enlists the support of GIS’ range of services.
“If a client has asked for something to be fabricated urgently, I know I have the full support from all of our fabrication yards who will do everything possible to help. GIS is uniquely versatile as it has four fabrication facilities, other organizations do not have that luxury. Two of our four yards have water-front access allowing larger projects to be fabricated. When a yard is land-locked, you have to truck in the parts or repair section and there is a weight and size restriction when you move by road. Logistics is a big consideration when planning these projects. In the past we have moved and worked on facility sections in excess of nine hundred tons where we have used a barge for transportation.”
Keeping track of all of his team’s project tasks is one of Elster’s most labor-intensive duties. When possible, GIS does employ digital software to ease the mammoth task of project coordination however not all clients are fully digital, and many use their own systems. The GIS team adapts their processes to integrate with each client’s particular system and ensures their tasks remain on time and on budget.
“At GIS we have Digital software partners, MODS, who help us in so many areas from material tracking to planning the shutdowns. Our clients use their own version of work packs, and we are familiar with all of their individual ways and systems. Today’s innovative technology is a complete game-changer and if I had this when I first started offshore, I could have done my job faster and more efficiently. We use 3D models that can show you where everything is and how parts have to fit, it’s amazing.
Savings & Safer Practices
A small number of our clients out in the Gulf of Mexico have platforms that were originally built fifty or sixty years ago. There are no original digital documents for them. We might be given drawings or isometric schematics, however, to do our job to a high standard we need to ensure everything is 100 percent accurate. We use laser scanning and dimensional control to ensure whatever we make will fit first time. If we have an accurate 3D model, yes, it’s easier, otherwise we go out and do the last final measurements to double check all is to plan. When a client sees what we can do with the scan information and a 3D model, they’re sold – it’s a financial outlay to produce but they reap the rewards with fewer site visits, safer practices, saving time and money overall.”
Elster, or ‘Big E’ as he is known amongst his peers, has been in the Oil and Gas industry for three decades and knows first-hand how the Energy sector has evolved over the years. As a long-serving employee for GIS, he has gained his professional experience the hard way when the basic tools comprised of pencils, paper, and a tape measure.
Efficient & Safe
“It surprises many of the younger team members to hear that when we wanted to make something we would just get out our tape measures and note down the dimensions. Looking back, it amazes me how we managed to get things to fit – but we did! If the technology we have now, existed back then, my job would have been not just easier but more efficient.
Safety is now precedent but when I first started, if there was something needing fixed, we fixed it, there and then. We marked up the drawings, sent them to shore and engineers would update the originals. When we adjusted joints, we didn’t have joint integrity information or tolerances, we torqued bolts until the joint didn’t leak anymore.
With a 3D scanner, you can access places that you couldn’t easily measure before, and of course the engineer who was previously exposed to the elements, is in a much safer position. 3D technology is so precise, you can’t beat it, and it’s helping make offshore facilities, a much safer environment for everyone.”
Adaptable & Dedicated
Advances in technology adopted by GIS may have reduced the numbers of personnel required to go offshore but there are tasks that will always require human intervention to complete the job. The enormous scale of offshore platforms requires Elster’s team to gain access to locations via scaffolding or abseiling ropes.
“There are a lot of areas on these towering facilities that can only be inspected and maintained if we send a craft person via a rope. When we can, we will use a scaffold and it takes at least two or three people to build one. However, if we know it’s safe to use rope access, it is faster, more efficient, and sometimes better all round to send one of our engineers, fully trained in rope work, to get to the area and check it out.
All the decks are accessible as you can walk around them, it’s the hard-to-reach places, like overhead, or below the walk decks where there's piping, for example, that if something happens to it, you must get in there to inspect it. Either you build a scaffold as a work platform, or you access the area by rope. Our GIS teams are very adaptable and their dedication to doing an excellent job is second to none.”
Company Of The Future
It is not just the staff who are versatile in their skill set, GIS as an organization has a diverse range of services at its disposal. With more than twenty differing departments, GIS offers support to its Energy Sector clients in construction and fabrication to blasting and painting, high-tech’ drone services and, of course, their dedicated and experienced team of specialist engineers. Elster believes it is this host of professional services, together with their family of skilled employees, which makes GIS a company of the future, setting it apart from any competitor in the market.