Thursday, February 14, 2013

Alumni Giving

It has started again. Last night I got a phone call and today I got an email requesting donations. I am tired of people who don't know how to economize asking for more money. Therefore, I sent the following response back to the email:

I was excited to receive your offer to donate to XYZ University. I was excited because it gave me a chance to offer something of value back to the university, something that XYZ gave me when they educated me – my experience. I have spent almost 40 years in industry. Twenty of those years was in a major oil company. The main thing that we did during those 20 years was cut costs and reorganize in response to weak oil prices. I survived reorganizations, downsizings and budget cuts that occurred on an almost annual basis. I know how to economize in lean times. Therefore, I am offering the following:

I would be willing to consult to XYZ University and perform a detailed budget review with the goal of cutting operating and capital expenses by at least 10%. I would be willing to do this for a small hourly consulting fee which I am sure the university will find reasonable given the potential savings I could produce. When these cost savings are in place, the universities need for donations should decrease. Allow me to bring the real world of industry to the halls of academia and help you to get lean and mean.

I look forward to your prompt response.

I wonder what I will get back???

Roses for Valentines Day and Engineering Geekery

The other day, my wife looked over at me and said, "Honey, don't order flowers from the florist this year."
"Okay", says I, "But why? I thought you liked her work?"
"Oh, you are ordering me flowers, but they will be roses of the bare root variety."

Looks like I have a post Valentines Day appointment with a shovel.

In other Valentines Day trivia (for engineering nerds), it's George Ferris' birthday, which you will know if you use Google. Ferris built the very first Ferris Wheel. He won a competition put on by by the 1893 Chicago Exposition to design something to surpass the Eiffel Tower. His wheel stood about 265 feet high and could carry 2160 people. While it did out shine the Eiffel Tower for a short time, it didn't have Eiffel's longevity. It was moved twice after the exposition but could not find a long term home and was finally blown up in 1903 for scrap. However, its construction did mark a few engineering firsts, one of which was the largest single hollow forging (the axle - 71 tons, 45.5 feet long). You have to be a metal monger geek to appreciate that.

If you want to learn more about how the Chicago Exposition promoted technology, and enjoy a good murder mystery, go read "Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review - Suspect

The latest book by Robert Crais. He introduces two new characters in this police novel. One is a policeman who survived a shooting where his partner was killed and the other is a police dog whose handler was killed in Afghanistan. Both are gimpy and heavily affected with PTSD but carry on in spite of their problems. The cop, Scott James, rather than take a medical retirement joins the K9 unit where he meets Maggie, who is on the cusp of being cut from the training program.

Crais does a wonderful job of developing both characters. Some of the most interesting chapters are when he puts the reader in the mind of Maggie and you get a little feeling of what it must be like to see things through a dogs eyes. If you are a dog person, you will find these chapters interesting.

The plot takes you from the bonding between Scott and Maggie and then how Scott, with Maggies great nose, tracks down an obscure lead related to his shooting. This book clamps on you and won't let go, sorta like the bite of a German Shepherd.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


This is a picture of the arrival of a new TLP (Tension Leg Platform) Hull at Corpus Christi where it will be mated with its deck and production equipment. It will be installed in 3,000 feet of water and will produce 100,000 barrels of oil per day starting in 2014. We have BIG toys in the oil business. (click to embiggen so you can appreciate the whole thing)

Keystone, Railroad?

I lead a HAZOP recently on a facility that would offload oil from rail cars and pump it to barges for transport. It seems that there is a glut of oil out there and not enough pipeline capacity to move it to refineries. Therefore, this operator is planning to ship crude oil in tank cars.

As they say, what's old is new again. The industry has not used rail cars to ship crude oil since before 1900 and the days of John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. In fact, John D pioneered shipping in pipelines as a way to avoid rail tariffs. Pipelines have since become the most economical and safest way to transport oil and oil products.

Environmentalists have blocked construction of new pipelines, so the industry has had to find alternatives. This facility is designed to offload more than 120 rail cars simultaneously and pump the oil to a barge on the river or to a storage tank. Each tank car connection has to made, by hand, by a man who has to crawl under the rail car. Every one of those connections is a potential leak point. And think about the condition of the nations rail system. A train of over 100 tank cars travelling from, say, North Dakota through the small towns of America to south Louisiana. How often do you hear about derailments? I know, we already transport dangerous chemicals by rail, but I don't think we have over 100 cars of the stuff at one time!

I hope that my HAZOP served to make the operation a little safer. But I think the environmental lobby is stupid for blocking construction of new pipelines and thereby increasing the risk of an accident and oil spill.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Offshore Platform FAIL

This is a recent video of an Iranian platform sinking into the Persian Gulf. It appears that the structure had just been set and it looks to me as if the sea floor collapsed on one side and over she went!

Flinging Manure, Shovelling Shyte

It's Spring in south Louisiana and time to get the rose beds prepped for the season. It's been several years since my wife and I have worked the beds and it was time to improve the soil. Our zoo sells a product that the animals provide for free. It's a composted mix of elephant, zebra and ostrich dung with some plant clippings and coffee grounds thrown in. It's called Zoo Doo Gold. We mix 1 bag of that with 2 bags of commercial topsoil mix and add a couple handfulls of cotton seed meal for a nitrogen kicker. I mixed and spread over 1 ton of that stuff last weekend.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Head Count

Saudi Arabia executed 9 people in January. They were a mix of drug users and murderers. One was a woman. Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan housemaid, was executed for the "murder" of a 4 month old baby left in her care. The prosecution claimed she killed the child after an argument with the childs mother. She claimed the child choked during feeding and the death was an accident. An autopsy to determine cause of death was not performed. Her case captured international attention and requests for amnesty. Unfortunately, cooler heads did not prevail and she was beheaded on Jan 9.

In related news, there is an obscure news story that Saudi Arabia commuted the sentences of 1200 death row inmates if they would fight against the Assad regime in Syria. I guess the Saudis saw "The Dirty Dozen" too many times.