On-Site Weather Forecasting for the Oil & Gas Industry

oil rig at night with lightning

DTN Weather,
November 29, 2018

When it comes to the offshore oil and gas industry, weather can play a significant role both economically and logistically. Therefore, forecasts prepared by marine meteorologists can help with such planning.

While general weather forecasts (winds, waves, visibilities, precipitation, and temperatures) can be prepared in marine operations and sent to the customer, the advantages of having an on-site meteorologist are critical. An on-site forecaster can observe and interpret any subtle change in the weather and update the forecast immediately. Offshore work is unpredictable, so the on-site meteorologist must be flexible.

Offshore oil rig out at sea

On-site meteorologists can be advantageous with various projects. One such project is a float over operation. With this type of operation, a barge containing a drilling platform is floated over to the project site and then ballasted. This gradually submerges the platform, lowering it onto the support structure. Another project which on-site meteorologists are used is a heavy lift operation. With this type of operation, a massive crane ship is used to lift the drilling platform off the barge before being lowered onto the support structure. The heaviest and largest platforms typically use the float over method since even the largest cranes cannot support the weight. Each specific operation has its own particular weather criteria levels. An on-site meteorologist has the ability to monitor conditions in real time and report any subtle changes to the offshore installation manager.

Two oil rigs out at sea

The on-site meteorologist delivers briefings once or twice daily. These briefings are so paramount that they only come second to the daily safety briefing. The weather briefing determines the work schedule for the next few days. Common instruments an on-site meteorologist references are anemometers, barometers, and weather buoys. These assist the forecaster in determining which weather models are most accurately assessing the current and future weather conditions at the worksite.

A meteorologist has to take certain steps in preparation for an on-site meteorologist assignment. The first is to obtain certifications in offshore water survival, helicopter underwater egress training (HUET), and personnel basket transfer from ship to ship or ship to platform. Once completed, the next step is to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE). This typically includes a hardhat, coveralls, goggles, gloves, and boots.

Projects requiring an on-site meteorologist can be completed in a week or take up to several months. Due to this, the forecaster must prepared to be offshore longer than expected. Despite the uncertainties involved and flexibility required, offshore assignments are rewarding for a meteorologist and provide essential insight to customers in real time.