Oil Rig Construction

Thought I’d share this here.

Its what I made my living at really, retired and disabled now of course, but was once uber fit, oh yeah :slight_smile: Construction was always my thing, scale model kits now, but this is how it panned out for me, cant imagine any construction bigger than this?

Started at the Ardersier Scotland fabrication yard at age of 18, was there for pretty much all of it until yard closure in 2001, American owned company to start with McDermotts … crazy days, big money, like triple to quadruple wages what the other lads were making as joiners/bricklayers etc and that was before overtime rates kicked in … and the overtime OMG, any hours you wanted, used to often do 12hr shift sessions to buy a brand new Motorcycle there, if you wanted the hours, they were there and they paid extremely well, there were even what we call “ghoster shifts” work for as long as you can, would not be allowed that now in modern Health n Safety rules but many did it.

Ardersier fabrication yard was close to Inverness and Inverness is close to Loch Ness of course, home of the infamous Loch Ness Monster (great tourist attraction) we had this behemoth twin boomed crane at the yard, so naturally it was nick named “Nessie” was on site one evening and watching it do early lifting exercises when it sort of fell over on itself … one of the most chronic disasters I’ve ever seen, the earth really shook underneath me, ran to scene to see what I could do, guys were already pulling the crane guy out of the control cab, he was a gibbering wreck, never seen anything quite like that in my whole life … Nobody was killed on that incident, a few death accidents did happen at our yard I’m sorry to say and we were very safety concious, but shifting thousands of tons of steel around per day, working with gases ETC, ■■■■ happens sometimes.

Everything was big at the yard though, even the fork lift trucks.

That was our big crane down, but again as is with the oil industry, money was no object, so they threw even more cranes at us to get the jobs done.

Up to 5000 guys were employed there at the peak times, guys from Glasgow, Ireland, North England with the right skills (mostly welders) flocked up here for a bit of the big money, good craic, good comradeship really, a few arguments a few fist fights at bars in the evening, but generally quite good :slight_smile:

We built some outstanding rigs there, many firsts for the UK North Sea sector (<-- why our yard location was chosen I suppose?) We built original Piper Alpha rig there, then after its horrific demise built its replacement the Piper Bravo, many other firsts, inc TLP platforms and jack up rigs too.

Here are some memory pics of my time there I’d like to share and in no particular order.


More!!! Please @B12 tell us more this is incredible stuff

Thanks for sharing mate. I love reading interesting stuff like this. What a fantastic profession

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Very, very cool! :grin:

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Awesome! Massive construction projects are always incomprehensible to me. I’m in awe of the people that tackle the design, construction, and maintenance of such massive structures. Me, I’ll let an Ikea box sit for a month because I can’t stand the thought of starting assembly… :rofl:


Ah man, not gonna lie, while I love the new job I’m in and the career shift I made, I definitely miss the camaraderie and sense of wonder and accomplishment that came from working on construction sites - especially something of (almost) as massive of a scale as what you did. Looking forward to hearing more stories!


Cool stories @B12. :sunglasses:


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Fantastic! Thank you. The last picture is a beauty, even I can see that!

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In Winter 1994 I was fresh out of college and took a job as a C developer (contract position) because the money was good. The best hourly rate I could find, without having to go up to London every day and do fintech, was with a small marine engineering firm that did real-time databases (not really real-time, it was Unix) that help commission and monitor oil platforms. After working there for about 6 weeks and happily coding away they asked if I wanted to earn some extra money. Oh, to be young and greedy again…

I got sent on a bunch of very enjoyable safety courses (BOSIET/Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training, MIST etc) that involved mock up up-side-down helicopters in swimming pools, fire fighting and driving lifeboats around in circles. Great fun.

Next up, was a commercial flight up to Aberdeen, then donning the dry suit and a long ride out on a helicopter low above the rather frigid and grey looking North Sea. It was my first time in a helicopter seat that didn’t submerge in the dark and turn upside down, so enjoyed the trip. The Platform I got sent to help commission was called Chevron Alba (North). Here she is, 130 miles off-shore, really nearer to Norway than the UK (which I always thought was really nice of the Norwegians to allow that :wink:):


Most people got to live/sleep on the ‘flotel’ that was used to staff people, but I had arrived before that was properly operational, so was on the main small platform. The Safe Caledonia served as a support vessel, as well as the Alba Floating Storage Unit (FSU) which was basically an oil transfer tanker. I transferred over to that by helicopter a couple of times, and the pilots hated doing it, just from the new swear words invented each time I did the trip. While rooted at the nose to the sea-bottom, the swell was awful.


The work was exceptionally boring. It involved debugging systems in a windowless control room for 12 hours, followed by time off playing the most bizarre pool table I had ever seen. As the platform swayed in the storms, the balls all moved in sync, you just played tactically with the wind sway. There was lots of food, and perhaps the most startling pornography on internal TV channels I had ever seen at that point in my quiet life. The mainly Scottish crew were fantastic fun.

In the white t-shirt below, here’s my colleague who I took over for, for 3 weeks. I’ve never seen anyone so happy to get on a helicopter that day, so that was a hint the work wasn’t exactly fun. He left a lot of really bad code, as I think he went a bit crazy towards the end (I blame the pool table).


It was shift work with just me alone from the company, but night-times nearly always got interrupted by some sort of alarm and the occasional escape drill. As the platform wasn’t in production and still under some construction, it was not really something to go wandering around on, but I did occasionally walk around like I knew what I was doing. Storms were epic.

Anyway, got back and used the money to buy our first house and a new car, ending up leaving that contract to other things. I haven’t thought about that winter for many years, so thanks @B12 - great memories…


A few more pics of our North Scotland oil rig fabrication yard, loved to watch the really heavy lifts, even off shift, thats how enthusiastic we were?

True Story, as our North Scotland yard started to close down in and around 2001, lots of us including me with good welding coding skill ETC sought new work, agency’s were hiring, and one contract was in Ireland Belfast, and at the very same Harlem and Wolf yard the Titanic was built … looks good on my CV I suppose :slight_smile: Now don’t get me wrong, Ireland was a sweat shop, it was all about production/production and blood out of a stone … I could do that in bursts, but my health was declining and was wanting home to Scotland, the defining factor for me was going back to our digs that night and one of my friends found a bullet on his pillow, the message was clear, some of the Paddys thought us Scots were stealing their overtime, caught the next ferry home, my other pals sicked it for another week or so.

Its a shame, because when our yard was busy, we welcomed everyone.


You got used to heights I suppose?

And if anyone wondered what an oil rig jacket build on land,looks like offshore, here is a good Vid to demonstrate it.


You drank Norway’s milkshake!


Sounds like a sci-fi compound. Were there face huggers?

I don’t know which would hurt my mind more…



That is one of the funniest sentences ever in Mudspike! It paints a nice word picture. :laughing:


Awesome stuff Fearless:)

Never went offshore myself, had plenty of opportunity I suppose, but living so close to the fabrication yard was a no brainer, about the same level of money for same skills and home every night or day … depending on shift :slight_smile:

Yeah the helicopter dipping, they still do that at nearby Aberdeen I think, Aberdeen is still considered the Oil capitol of Europe , back in the day and when it was first discovered how much oil was in our sector… Aberdeen became the Hub of all UK for oil related stuff, it was not unusual sometimes to see American Texans with the hats in bars and suchlike in Aberdeen.

Live quite close to Aberdeen too, am actually about halfway between Aberdeen and Inverness.

Here is a wee vid of the helicopter dipping at Aberdeen training, did this but never did go offshore, lots of my mates work offshore though, the oil industry is still a major bonus to our local economy.


The craziest guys I ever met in the sector were the offshore divers. Absolute madmen, with underwater wielding and repair offshore. They got paid a ton for the work, but their shelf life was short. Drank like fish as well. :slight_smile:


Yup, the Divers Fearless OMG those guys earn the big bucks, cant even imagine doing their job, not for me, much respect for what they do though.


That weld bead is a work of art!


Dive welding actually isn’t too bad IF:

You have a good crew
You have a good tender
You work for a solid outfit that doesn’t cut corners
And you have good luck

Anyone of those 4 is out/off you can have a very short life.


Kinda miss the oil industry fabrication stuff in our area … Aberdeen is still thriving of course, but we are at past or at peak oil production now for UK North Sea apparently.

There were three really big rig fabrication yards in Scotland, ours at NE Scotland McDermotts Ardersier yard … and across the water and almost in sight of each other there was Highland Fabricators yard at Nigg bay that was also American owned and financed … at least originally, down in Fife there was the French owned yard at Methill … does anyone remember the Scots brothers band called the Proclaimers? they had a song called “Letter From America” some of the lyrics in that song go … “Methill No More” and of course that’s where they came from and that was their big rig fabrication yard, they got lucky and got rich through Music … wish I could have :slight_smile:

It was a shame to see our major Fab yards shut down one by one, there is still demand for what we did, but we knew a lot of contracts were due to lurky deals and so on and so forth that I wont go into here politically wise :slight_smile:

The Ardersier yard (where I worked) and Nigg Bay fab yard just across the water did in the end come together as one company that was named BARMAC and it was highly successful for quite a few years, but this came under the Haliburton umbrella I think and they were ruthless, when work came slack they stopped any bidding like we used to do in same periods and just closed the yards down ASAP as soon as they could, we all got good redundancy payments of course, but still a big loss, not just in monetary value, but comradeship too … still follow our old yards FB page and we often have reunions and stay in touch that way.

Cant complain myself, got the best years of the yard and my health out of it all (really landed on my feet there) and feathered my nest, its more the younger generation around here who wont have that opportunity I feel sorry for.

Way of the world though, profit rules I suppose.

Apart from the Scottish steel fab yards I’ve described its worth mentioning we had a Concrete structure (mainly concrete) yard at Kishorn on west coast, it produced the massive Ninian Central platform and employed about 3000 lads there around 1978 … was invited to work there, slightly more money, but our Ardersier yard was so close to home and declined

There is a song about that yard called the Kishorn Commando’s, love it :slight_smile:

Give it a listen, its fun :slight_smile:


One last post about it all, don’t want to keep banging on, LOL

Has anyone seen the Movie called Local Hero? its a great film, Burt Lancaster ETC, its a good “feel good” film of a NE Scotland village near Aberdeen about to be transformed (or not) by the seduction of massive oil company offer of money towards a much more simple coastal village life style, love the film … it was filmed in a few locations, but the famous village scene with telephone box and hotel ETC is not that far up the road from here in NE Scotland in a village called Pennan, even the same hotel is still open for business.

The Jaguar Jets that fly over must have been from local RAF Lossiemouth when they were filming … well worth the watch if you aint seen it :slight_smile: Some good astronomy moments too.


Please KEEP banging on about it mate. This is really interesting stuff! And it might keep me from moaning about lorries on here while I’m reading your stuff lol.

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