Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Preserving Oilfield History

Last week I gave a lecture to a small audience of post-graduate students at Heriot-Watt’s Institute of Petroleum Engineering.  The topic was on an obscure branch of geophysics (known as borehole seismic) and the life of a oilfield service hand.  It is not my intent to write upon the topic here, you will be glad to learn.

While researching what is effectively personal history, I really found the limits of both my own records and that of the Internet.  The workhorse of Western Atlas for borehole seismic work was a tool system called an MRL - Multi-Level Receivers.  It simply does not exist online.  At least Google cannot find it.  As employees and contractors, we were never encouraged to photograph our work places.  Partly a safety issue - unrated electrical items can potentially cause a spark of radio transmissions trigger an explosive, but in the main oil companies simply do to encourage photography of their installations and business practices.  It is only when I was trawling through my old files and albums do I realise how diligent I have been in obeying such corporate edicts.

Since then, I have put out an appeal to colleagues to share their old pictures, especially those of older technology.  It is not that I have any strong sentiment attached to these tools: most are heavy and inferior to today’s offerings and I spent far too much of my life dragging the damn things around in tropical heat, North Sea gales and winter ice.  As a record of industrial history though, the records are already starting to fade.  They are already hardly known and will be lost completely if people like me do not organising and compiling their files.

Some of my friends have already been in contact and are willing to share their records, which is great.  I hope more of you get in contact.  This blog post has a wider appeal though.  If you work with specialised equipment, if might be worth while having a think now about the memory of the tools and the work practices are preserved for posterity.


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Photo credit: Alex Rennie.

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