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Climbing the stripper.

Every living human being exhales carbon dioxide (CO2). A written equation for aerobics might read - we do car-dio to burn ca-lories essentially liberating carbon from carbo-hydrates as car-bon-dioxide.

CO2 is also the result of many industrial processes. Dolphins in Venice’s canals not-withstanding, our retreat has caused a less than staggering reduction of CO2 pollution - funny how anything in excess or in the wrong place becomes something we don’t want. In Trinidad and Tobago more starkly than many other places, if we were to measure the drop in CO2 levels (if we measured) we might be surprised that there’s not that much change since we haven’t been crawling along on the daily in bumper to bumper traffic.


Our CO2 footprint is industrial-sized.


When we get rid of waste carbon in large scale chemical plants the easiest way is to release it to the atmosphere as CO2. The CO2 removal process in a chemical plant requires pumps and columns and vast amounts of fluid. The column that removes CO2 from a fluid stream is called a scrubber or a stripper.


Scrubbing CO2 from a process stream is not the unconscious, beautifully balanced and regulated process that breathing is - few things are.


One of the first times I went onto site at KBR’s 6196 facility, the stripper was still on its side in the laydown yard. Its concrete skirt was poured. Inset, threaded hold down screws and the sets of double bolts to connect the stripper’s skirt to the concrete foundation.

The bolts were massive. I remember thinking that I would need both hands to lift one and what the hell was I thinking and this was probably not a good idea and I should probably get into the Escort and get out of there now now now….

Weeks before in Sando Tec they (whoever was in charge of the experimental class of trainees assembled and doing a compressed plant process operations course) had sent an operator to talk to us. Dos - T bounced into the room, grinning, eyes twinkling. Me to myself “who is this short man they send here today? And then as he gave stories


“What twenty years in industry?”


The men I sat with in that class have now been in the industry for twenty-one years. Mostly not now climbing strippers, reminding trainees to take a wrench. Climbing up there, all nine vertical ladders is one thing. Getting there and not having the wrench you need to open an inch and a half valve a hundred plus feet up is something else…. You could be up a stripper standing by while E&I worked on a valve and who would be cool to be up there swaying in the breeze, prepared for Jah knows what? Dos.

Dos - T would lead a charge and back you up. Short man had guts and a grin and an attitude that made it hard to get vexed with him or stay vexed with him for long. Two pats on the pocket of Du Maurier and a palm passed over his mostly bald head and “I’m outa here” when he was headed for a smoke or off a shift.


Style, Dos T. Style.


Thank You for helping make a space in the most unlikely of places to give a naive hundred and nine-pound schoolchild every chance to thrive. Thank you for trying your best to teach me about TD1’s and taxes and for making sure most of us joined what you persisted in calling Grastalf Credit Union. I still don’t get the joy at doing taxes and as for investments, I’d have a long reproachful “Alllyy” to collect.

Time and tide wait for no one…we’re all moving through seas of atmosphere, making it up as we go. Inhale, exhale, breaths and moments moving us. Every living human being exhales. It's mostly carbon dioxide.



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