(MOTOR RUNNING) MAN: Fuel panel ready for start.
Your clock and your first bleed.
Starting number one now.
(WHINNYING) SLADEN: (SIGHS) I don't know whether to feel frightened or excited.
Strapped into the belly of this great, shaking, noisy, mechanical bird.
Hey, just look down there.
Nothing but grey, heaving, cold ocean.
Swimming wouldn't be much use if we fell in that.
No, I'm really rather excited about our journey, though.
There aren't many people who've been to our destination.
It's a funny thing about the place we're going to.
Without it, and other places like it, there wouldn't be any helicopters working anywhere in the world.
In fact, there'd be no journeys by any kind of machine, helicopter, bicycle or whatever.
The fact is all machines need fuel to drive them.
Or oil to make them run smoothly.
And we certainly wouldn't be making our trip across the sea in this machine without oil and fuel.
We're on our way to see one of the places that oil and fuel come from.
MAN: (ON RADIO) Lima Bravo, this is Dundee Kingsnorth.
QFE 1028, QNE minus 450.
Lima Bravo, you're clear to land.
Well, we've arrived.
Reached our destination.
We've come 160km from the nearest land to find out how our country is getting the fuel and oil that it needs to keep machines like helicopters and cars and trains and factories working.
We're on what the oil men call a drilling rig.
This one's even got a name, like a ship.
It's called the Dundee Kingsnorth.
And it's working right out here, in the middle of the North Sea.
That's the stretch of cold and dangerous water that separates the British isles from Europe and the Scandinavian countries.
So what are we doing here, so far away from the nearest land?
Well, in a way, we're fishing.
Fishing for fuel, that is.
- Here, love, put this hat on.
- Oh, thanks.
SLADEN: On a drilling rig, you don't take risks.
Danger lurks everywhere.
Below the sea, freezing cold and hundreds of metres deep.
Above, men and machines that could drop heavy metal parts on your head at any time.
I've been doing some reading about oil before I came out here to find out about it.
And, apparently, there are lots and lots of different kinds of oil.
But they all have one thing in common.
They all come from the same place.
It's the same place that gives us another important fuel, coal.
Well, you can guess where that is, then, can't you?
Well, like coal, oil comes from under the ground.
It's what was left when rotting plants and d*ad animals got squashed between layers of rocks and then they were crushed and squeezed for millions of years.
Now, from up here on top, it's very difficult to tell where the oil is.
You see, oil isn't found just anywhere under the ground.
It's only found where the rocks have been bent in such a way that the oil will collect.
And, well, I suppose you could say we've been a bit unlucky in Britain.
Because the only oil we've found so far is in a very awkward spot.
Not only is the oil under the ground, the ground is under the sea as well.
Oil under the ground, under the sea.
And it's a nasty, cold, deep sea into the bargain.
The North Sea.
So getting at our oil is a big problem because no one knows where it is, only that it's down there somewhere.
So all they can do is poke around until they find it.
And that's exactly what the Dundee Kingsnorth is doing, poking around on the bed of the North Sea to find oil.
So let's go and talk to someone about it.
- Good morning.
Now then, this is John Pickles and he's chief man on this oil rig.
But I see on your hat your label says you're a Barge Master.
Why is that?
Well, that basically means that I'm Captain.
Captain of the ship.
Captain of the ship when it is a ship, when it's working as a ship.
At the moment, it's working as a drilling rig.
Basically, we have an idea that there is oil down below where we're drilling.
And we just go ahead and we drill a hole.
I can remember looking back when I was a young lad starting at sea.
I thought, "I'll be captain of a ship.
" This is a ship, you see.
SLADEN: John went on to explain how he turns the ship into a drilling rig.
A transparent model helps the story.
When it gets to its destination, John's first job is to anchor it firmly in position.
Then he fills the lower part of the ship with sea water, slowly making it heavier and heavier.
Eventually the weight of all that extra water begins to make the ship sink.
But because of its shape, it doesn't go right to the bottom.
That was a real shock to me.
Well, I realise from the noise that we're drilling but I didn't actually realise that we were floating.
PICKLES: Oh, yes, yes, we're floating.
But we're floating very, very deep.
SLADEN: But I mean, look at the sea.
Why aren't we just bobbing around like a cork?
PICKLES: Because there's 70 feet of the rig under the water.
We do this because the bottom of the rig is in still water where it is not affected by the weather, and therefore the rig doesn't roll around.
SLADEN: So half-sinking the rig steadies it for the work of drilling.
John explained that was its real task, to lower a huge drill bit, a cutting tool, to the bottom of the sea, ready to bite into the rocks down there.
A special undersea television set shows the amazing moment when the drill reaches the sea floor, down among the fishes.
The drill turns, but it's no ordinary job it has to do.
Just think how silly it seems to be trying to make a hole in solid rock.
Anyone could tell him what would happen.
Even with a proper drill, there are difficulties.
And remember, some rocks are much harder than a brick wall.
What's the problem this time?
(SIZZLING) The drill needs to be kept cool if he's going to make that hole any deeper.
A wet and slippery mixture will save it from burning up or wearing out.
No heat now.
The drill turns, the hole gets deeper.
But there is a price.
And that's the price the oil men must pay.
Their drill needs wet, slippery mud to keep it turning coolly.
The mud makes their lives a misery.
It's pumped down to the drill.
Gallons of it spill.
Its only the lucky few who escape the mess.
And even with the mud to protect them, the cutting teeth don't last long.
This drilling tool must be changed.
It's being unscrewed from the end of the drill pipe.
It's heavy, back-breaking work.
One slip on the drill deck can mean a serious accident.
In the cold and wet, handling that heavy steel can easily mean a squashed finger.
The new cutting bit goes into place.
Soon it will be turning in the rock, almost 4,000 metres below the sea bed, searching out oil that might be there.
For the moment, the men of the Dundee Kingsnorth can clean up a bit and relax.
But it won't be long before they must attend to their drill again.
It's hard to believe what's really going on here, isn't it?
I mean, here we are on an enormous drilling platform in the middle of the sea, drilling a tiny, narrow hole deep down into the ocean bed, just to see if the scientists are correct when they say there might be oil down there.
But there's more to the Dundee Kingsnorth than just the drilling platform.
Of course, that's the most important part but so that it works smoothly, there has to be a whole factory built around it.
It's a pretty rare kind of factory, too, because there are no roads or railways out here to bring it supplies.
Like a space station, it must fend for itself.
So, it must have everything it needs for the work built in.
Men live and work for weeks at a time on this strange, artificial island, cut off like astronauts from the outside world.
And all these men and machines are searching for one thing.
A sign, a tiny trace of oil in the bits of rock that their drill cuts from the layers deep beneath the sea bed.
For now, there's nothing.
But the work goes on and so does life on the Dundee Kingsnorth.
Do you know what all this lot is costing?
No, not my lunch.
I mean, do you know how much it's costing to drill a tiny hole in the sea bed?
Well, every day that the Dundee Kingsnorth is working out here it's costing £40,000.
£40,000 a day.
Now, you'd think that if a company wanted to spend that much money they'd need some guarantee to be certain of returns, wouldn't you?
Well, that's the one thing about oil.
There is no guarantee.
We don't even know if there's any there at all.
So all this could be a waste of time.
Now just think, 60 days to drill a tiny hole at £40,000 a day.
Can you work that out?
Over two million pounds to drill a tiny hole in the sea bed.
And when it's done, there might be nothing there at all.
SLADEN: Not far away, the painstaking search has been successful.
This ship is a t*nk, sailing off to a place where oil has been found.
A place where it can pick up the precious liquid fuel that has been fished up from deep beneath the sea bed.
That's where we're going, too.
(HELICOPTER WHIRRING) It's another manmade island.
Almost everyone who comes does so like us, by helicopter.
And even by helicopter, it's an hour away from the nearest land.
Well, here we are on another of these strange, giant machines that the oil business has put out here in the North Sea.
And it's not a floating drilling rig, this one, but a permanent platform.
Which means that it's securely fixed to the sea bed.
Drawings make it look easy.
The real job is almost impossible.
A monstrous tower built of steel is floated out to where the oil is.
The tower is as tall as a skyscraper and it weighs as much as a huge ship.
They tip it over until it stands up firmly on the bed of the sea.
And then they fix it, for it must withstand all the battering the sea can give.
And in weather conditions like today, that's not a bad thing because it prevents it and us from floating away like a ship.
Anyway, the man who knows what's going on here is called Dick O'Dell.
Dick, can you explain to us what happens on a permanent platform?
Well, the idea of a platform such as this gives us the opportunity to drill several wells from one location.
Dick, do you think you could show us some oil?
We've been poking around for ages.
We still haven't seen any.
Well, just in case you might have been interested, I did draw up a small sample.
SLADEN: Isn't it thin?
I thought it would've been much thicker than this.
O'DELL: Yes, that's the stuff in its natural, unrefined state.
SLADEN: What kinds of things are made from the oil, then?
Lubricating oils, fuels.
And by-products, such as plastics.
Things like this, that I'm wearing?
- That's right.
O'DELL: The carpet on your floor at home, the drapes and several other things.
SLADEN: Well, it's time to leave this amazing business that's all at sea.
I don't think I'll ever forget my fuel-fishing trip, though.
Or the men who brave this cold, grey, unfriendly sea to find it and get it out for us.
I must say, though, the next time I ride my bike, I shan't get quite so cross when I get oil on my socks.
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13x06 - Merry-Go-Round.
Episode transcripts for the TV show, "Doctor Who Documentary".
1 post • Page 1 of 1
1 post • Page 1 of 1