Project: Riverhead Terminal Offshore Oil Rig, United Riverhead Terminal, Inc.
Planning was of the essence for Alpine Painting & Sandblasting Contractors in Paterson, N.J., when it came to ensuring it met expected standards, and timelines, for recoating a deep-draft offshore oil platform. It was the first time the company had performed work a mile out at sea, a situation that presented unique constraints.
For example, how many painters can say they work on a rapid timeline set by the tide?
Coating Against the Tide
The painters opted to work with a range of Carboline products that had proven effective in a saltwater environment. For example, Carbomastic 615 was selected for use at the waterline and on all the piles because it cures very quickly and had a history of use underwater. That was critical as the crew raced the tide to clean and coat areas only visible during the lowest tides.
“We’d clean as the tide went out, and when we got all the way to the bottom we’d basically turn off the waterjet, quickly fire up the spray equipment, and paint going from the bottom back to the top with the tide chasing us up,” Scaturro shares.
The hot water from the waterjet, generally in the 180-degree range, would dry from the surface very quickly. Still, the coating would not have time to fully cure as the water rose, making it necessary to use a coating with a history of use in tidal zones.
Other products included Carboguard 690 on the top deck and Carboguard 690 GF under the underdeck, Carbothane 133LH on pipes and equipment.
Ridding the Rig of Corrosion
The deep-water platform sits a mile offshore of New York, but 64 feet into the East Coast’s deepest channel. The platform routinely receives supertankers carrying crude and oil, and transmits that material to an onshore facility via underwater pipelines.
The carbon steel platform dated to the 1950s, and heavy corrosion was a growing concern. Alpine was brought on to clean and remove much of the existing damaged coating and then recoat the main platform, measuring approximately 45 by 100 feet.
The client had requested the crew meet standard SSPC WJ-4/NACE WJ-4, which mandates the removal of only loose rust, mill scale or coatings. Achieving that required use of a 40,000-psi waterjet and a component not easily found in the ocean—fresh water.
“There’s saltwater all around and so of course there was salt all over this structure. If you paint on top of salt, you will have a failure in a very short period of time,” explains Sam Scaturro, president and civil engineer, Alpine.
The general contractor handling steel repair on the job provided a Pure Safe reverse osmosis water filtration system that could produce 10 gallons of potable water per minute, more than meeting the equipment’s needs. The incredible power of the waterjet ultimately helped the team with little additional effort remove tightly adhering paint in many areas, meeting a WJ-3 standard.
Given the power behind the water, the crew was outfitted with protective equipment that could withstand a glance from the waterjet. The team also implemented a job rotation program to protect workers from the strain of holding a 40,000-psi lance overhead. Three painters took 10- to 15-minute shifts to reduce fatigue and muscle ache.
The team also tested the cleaned areas for salt residue daily using a CHLOR-TEST to ensure the surface was ready for coating.
Access was a challenge all around. Whether it was access to fuel and other materials, which had to be shipped in via a two-hour ride by barge, or reaching the structure’s underside, planning was essential.
There were also a number of serious safety concerns that the team addressed through hazard analysis meetings. The top deck was protected by a guardrail, as was the suspended platform from which the crew worked to clean and coat the underdeck. The biggest risk came when climbing over the top deck’s railing and down the steps to the guardrailed platform below. Painters were tied off by retractable lifelines during this risky transfer. As a precaution, a safety boat was available at all times.
Downtime also proved problematic. The platform remained fully operational throughout the three-month renovation, and while the painters aimed to work 10-hour days to speed along this sleepaway job, conditions didn’t always fully cooperate.
Weather proved particularly tricky. “The weather is much more difficult out on the open water than it is on land. If it was windy, the seas would be too high and they wouldn’t be able to get from the boat to the platform safely so they wouldn’t be able to work on those days,” Scaturro says.
Work also stopped whenever a ship came in or left so that the platform’s crew could focus on the work at hand. When offloading material, too, the painters were prohibited from using any engines or working with flammable materials to reduce the risk of sparks.
Ultimately, both the end-user’s and painting contractor’s chief concern was achieving a high level of quality to ensure this job would last for decades.
Alpine had a staff NACE Level 1 coating inspector on the job who took measurements with calibrated equipment and submitted regular quality reports to the general contractor and owner. The end-user also requested a one-year warranty with conditions that Alpine was able to set.
Riddled as this job was with unknowns, new dangers and long hours away from home, Scaturro calls this one a standout for the company. “I’d say it was one of the more difficult projects we’ve ever had to plan for,” he says.
But in exceeding the client’s expectations, it was ultimately another typical project for this painting contract.