Erica Marlaine: What’s an Oiler? And Where Does All That Water Come From? July 14, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Erica Marlaine

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 22 – July 15, 2019


Mission: Pollock Acoustic-Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 14, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 56º 58.03 N
Longitude: 151º 26.26W
Wind Speed: 17 knots
Wind Direction: 120º
Air Temperature:  13º Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1010.5 mb
Depth of water column 565 m
Surface Sea Temperature: 12.9º Celsius


Science & Technology Log

Ever heard of oilers?  I hadn’t until I got to know Daniel Ruble, a member of the engineering crew on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.

Oiler Daniel Ruble
Oiler Daniel Ruble

Daniel is originally from Chicago but now calls Virginia home.  After serving our country for 20 years in the Marine Corps, a friend mentioned that it was always good to have a Mariner’s Document (a license from the Coast Guard) “just in case.”  Years later, he finally decided to put it to use, and got a job with NOAA in 2014.  He started doing deck work, but his interest and experience in mechanical engineering eventually led him to the NOAA engineering crew.  He is what they call an “oiler.” Oilers maintain, clean, and oil the ship’s engine, including the motors, gears, and compressors. Daniel has worked on every class of NOAA vessel (Oceanographic and Atmospheric Research, Charting and Hydrographic, and Fisheries Research) and all but one of the NOAA ships. 

Daniel and the other engineers onboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson are easy to spot as they often have bulky, protective ear coverings either on or nearby. That is because the engine room is VERY LOUD.  When I was given a tour, I was first given ear coverings, and much of the explanation about what I was seeing had to come later as it was too difficult to hear each other.  I was told that seeing the engine room is like looking under the hood of your car. Just imagine your car’s engine magnified 1000 times.

Control panel in the Engine Room
Control panel in the Engine Room
Engine Room
Engine Room

The engineering crew is responsible for all of the internal systems of the ship.  Without them, the ship wouldn’t run, and there would be no power or water. The engineering room actually makes all of the water we use onboard by distilling saltwater into potable (drinkable) water.  Here’s how it works.

Saltwater is boiled using energy from the ship itself. Hot engine steam is passed through an evaporation unit, causing the saltwater to boil. The saltwater steam rises and then travel through a water separator which prevents any droplets of saltwater from passing through. After the steam becomes pure water, it is then carried away by a distillate pump. It is then safe for drinking and showering.

Each of the two evaporators on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson can distill between 600-900 gallons of water per day, depending upon how fast the ship is moving.   On an average day, the ship uses 800-1000 gallons!

One of the two evaporators
One of the two evaporators

DJ Kast, Engine Room Tour with the Chief Engineer, June 2, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
May 19 – June 3, 2015

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical area of cruise: East Coast
Date: June 2, 2015

Chief Engineer Tour of Engine Room!

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Selfie with the Chief Engineer! Photo by DJ Kast

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John Hohmann, Chief Engineer on NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. Photo by DJ Kast

SCHEMATICS- Drawn by John

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The upper level of the engine room. Drawn out by John Hohmann and photographed by DJ Kast

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The lower level of the engine room. Drawn out by John Hohmann and photographed by DJ Kast

Chief Engineer John Hohmann took me on a tour of  the Engine room here on NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. It was fascinating to learn all of the components that make this type of research vessel work. The electrical components, the seawater distillation apparatus, biological sewage treatment, etc. It was an amazing tour. The Bigelow has a diesel-electric drive system using four diesel generators to power to two electric motors. The motors turn one shaft which rotates the propeller. Overall rated horsepower for main propulsion is 3017hp.

The biological system utilises bacteria to completely break down the sewage into an acceptable substance for discharge into any waters. The extended aeration process provides a climate in which oxygen-loving bacteria multiply and digest the sewage, converting it into a sludge. These oxygen-loving bacteria are known as aerobic. The treatment plant uses a tank which is divided into three watertight compartments: an aeration compartment, settling compartment and a chlorine contact compartment . The sewage enters the aeration compartment where it is digested by aerobic bacteria and micro-organisms, whose existence is aided by atmospheric oxygen which is pumped in. The sewage then flows into the settling compartment where the activated sludge is settled out. The clear liquid flows to the chlorinator and after treatment to kill any remaining bacteria it is discharged. Tablets are placed in the chlorinator and require replacement as they are used up. The activated sludge in the settling tank is continuously recycled and builds up, so that every two to three months it must be partially removed. This sludge must be discharged only in a decontrolled area. Photo and Caption info by Machinary Spaces.com
The biological system utilizes bacteria to completely break down the sewage into an acceptable substance for discharge into any waters. The extended aeration process provides a climate in which oxygen-loving bacteria multiply and digest the sewage, converting it into a sludge. These oxygen-loving bacteria are known as aerobic. The treatment plant uses a tank which is divided into three watertight compartments: an aeration compartment, settling compartment and a chlorine contact compartment .
The sewage enters the aeration compartment where it is digested by aerobic bacteria and micro-organisms, whose existence is aided by atmospheric oxygen which is pumped in. The sewage then flows into the settling compartment where the activated sludge is settled out. The clear liquid flows to the chlorinator and after treatment to kill any remaining bacteria it is discharged. Tablets are placed in the chlorinator and require replacement as they are used up. The activated sludge in the settling tank is continuously recycled and builds up, so that every two to three months it must be partially removed. This sludge must be discharged only in a decontrolled area. Photo and Caption info by Machinary Spaces.com

The most fascinating part for me was the Evaporator.

The inside Mechanics of the evaporator machine. Photo by: Machinery Spaces.com
The inside Mechanics of the evaporator machine. Photo by: Machinery Spaces.com

Distillation is the production of pure water from sea water by evaporation and re-condensing. Distilled water is produced as a result of evaporating sea water either by a boiling or a flash process. This evaporation enables the reduction of the 32 parts per thousand of dissolved solids in sea water down to the one or two present in distilled water. The machine used is called an ‘evaporator’, although the word ‘distiller’ is also used.

Boiling process:

The vacuum in the evaporation machine reduces the pressure to 30 inches of Hg or Mercury to boil water at 180F instead of 212 F

The vacuum in the evaporation machine uses 30 inches of Hg or Mercury to boil water at 180F instead of 212 F. Photo by DJ Kast.
The vacuum in the evaporation machine uses 30 inches of Hg or Mercury to boil water at 180F instead of 212 F. Photo by DJ Kast.

The sea water from the ship’s services is first circulated through the condenser and then part of the outlet is provided as feed to the evaporation chamber. Hot diesel engine jacket water or steam is passed through the heater nest and, because of the reduced pressure in the chamber, the sea water boils. The steam produced rises and passes through a water separator, or demister, which prevents water droplets passing through. In the condensing section the steam becomes pure water, which is drawn off by a distillate pump. The sea water feed is regulated by a flow controller and about half the feed is evaporated. The remainder constantly overflows a weir and carries away the extra salty water or brine. A combined brine and air ejector draws out the air and brine from the evaporator.

Evaporation machine connected to the Ship Service Diesel Generator. Photo by DJ Kast
Evaporation machine connected to the Ship Service Diesel Generator. Photo by DJ Kast

They need to make their own electricity on board ranging from 110 Volts for phones and computers to 750 Volts for some of the ship propulsion motors. Each of those require various circuit breakers seen below.

480 Volt Machines. Photo by DJ Kast
480 Volt Circuit Breaker. Photo by DJ Kast

600 Volt Machines. Photo by DJ Kast
600 Volt Circuit Breaker. Photo by DJ Kast

Its going 1000 amps. WOW. Photo by DJ Kast
Its conducting 1000 amps. WOW. Photo by DJ Kast

Air Compressors. Photo by DJ Kast
Air Compressors. Photo by DJ Kast

The air in the compressors is moist and hot so this cools it down and removes moisture. Photo by DJ Kast
The air in the compressors is moist and hot so this machine cools it down and removes moisture. Photo by DJ Kast

Air pressure holding tanks. Photo by DJ Kast
Air pressure holding tanks. Photo by DJ Kast

Drives. Photo by DJ Kast
Electric Motor Drives. Photo by DJ Kast

 

Engines and generators. Photo by DJ Kast
Engines and generators. Photo by DJ Kast

Evaporation controls. Photo by DJ Kast
Evaporator controls. Photo by DJ Kast

Freshwater Generator. Photo by DJ Kast
Freshwater Generator. Photo by DJ Kast

Generator! Photo by DJ Kast
Ship Service Diesel Generator (SSDG)! Photo by DJ Kast

Jacket Water Tanks on the SSDG
Jacket Water Tanks on the SSDG. This water is used to cool the generators. Photo by DJ Kast

Machine operates the cranes. Photo by DJ Kast.
Hydraulic pump that operates the cranes. Photo by DJ Kast.

Maintenance Service Board. Photo by DJ Kast.
Maintenance Service Board. Photo by DJ Kast.

 

Motor Controls. Photo by DJ Kast.
Motor Controls. Photo by DJ Kast.

Power supply 1, 2D. Photo by Dj Kast.
Power supply 1, 2D. Photo by Dj Kast.

Teal pump that separates oil. Photo by DJ Kast
Oily water separator reduces the water mixed with oil to 115 ppm for overboard discharge. The oil is retained on board. Photo by DJ Kast

Smoke Stacks! Photo by DJ Kast.
Smoke Stacks! Photo by DJ Kast.

Trawling Winch line. Photo by DJ Kast.
Trawling Winch line. Photo by DJ Kast.

Two blue boxes that are motors connected to the propeller. Photo by DJ Kast.
Two blue boxes are electric motors connected to the propeller. Photo by DJ Kast.

Third Engineer John fixing a pipe with a large wrench. Photo by DJ Kast
Third Engineer John is all smiles while he works. Photo by DJ Kast