I had an opportunity to visit North Field Bravo (NFB) Platform Complex on Sunday 5 July 2009. Two risk assessments were requested to be facilitated on the same day, one regarding techlok clamps removal and the other one is about lifeboat coxswain training. NFB is located in the Persian Gulf, about 80 km north east Ras Laffan. North Field is home to world’s third largest non-associated gas reserves of 910 TCF (trillion cubic feet) covering area of 6,000 sq.km. With Qatargas operating NFB, there are also NFA and RasGas operated platforms.
Helicopter is used as a main transportation moda for passenger, in addition to boat used for transporting goods and materials. Heliport base for all offshore gas platforms is situated in Doha Airport area, managed by Gulf Helicopters. If you are coming from city center, heliport can be accessed by taking Al Corniche Road all the way to Ras Abu Aboud, wandering along diversions within heavy construction to prepare interconnection road for New Doha International Airport. You need to take U-turn at clock roundabout and turn right just before traffic light. This is followed by turning right after few hundreds meter and driving the only road leading to heliport.
Parking space is premium here. With many offshore-based employee left their cars in parking area for couple days or up to their 28 day-on schedule, the remaining vacant space is minimum. You might want to come early in the morning to claim a precious spot for even 6.30 am flight. Otherwise you’re forced to park in open areas prone to accident or in area just quite far from heliport area.
Besides Qatargas counter, there is QP, Oxy, RasGas and Maersk. Heliport departure/arrival area is small yet complete enough to resemble mini airport. There is check in counters, mini shop, security gate and X-ray check, and boarding area for flight safety induction. What makes it different with what I had previously in Indonesia when going to offshore platform are prohibited items that include camera, and mobile phones! It seems that it is merely for security reasons.
For Qatargas employee or contractors, one needs to have an approved offshore request and Qatargas Offshore Pass as prerequisites for flying. Helicopter AW-139 (AgustaWestland) and Bell-412 are used in my trip heading to and back from NFB respectively. The former is way better than the latter. The latter is more like military helicopter with no fancy things, noisy and quite vibrating. AW-139 to Bell 412 is like Airbus A319 to Cassa 212 (at least the ones I am flying with, exaggerating though….:) ).
Trip this time was not scenery-filled experience. Doha is engulfed by sand storms with low visibility such that the flight is delayed up to 45 minutes. Nevertheless to say, it’s always enjoyable to see things from above. New airports being constructed, interconnecting roads, Qatar Airways planes ready to take off, monotonic brown buildings, and a maze of red-white road barriers.