An oil company is in business to extract oil and sell it on the world market. Most of the time, this means drilling. The largest oil companies, commonly referred to as “Big Oil,” usually do not own the drilling rigs used to find and extract oil. They lease the rigs from companies that do nothing but move from location to location and drill wells for the companies that hire them. Most of the jobs available in the oil field are with the these drilling companies.
Drill Crew (Labor)
Operational jobs on a rig are directly related to drilling the well. Once a new hire is trained in rig operations and safety, he can become a roughneck. The roughneck works to connect new sections of drill pipe to the section already in the hole. This process is repeated as the drill bit, or tool, is pushed further into the well. The roughneck also performs preventative maintenance on rig equipment and mixes the chemicals for the drilling fluid that lubricates the bit as it is pushed through the well.
Roughnecks can be promoted to other positions on the drill crew, such as motorman or derrickman. The motorman, as the name implies, is responsible for the motor that drives the drill. On an oil rig, time is money, so any delay or malfunction can quickly cost the company tens of thousands or dollars or more. Therefore, the motorman’s job in keeping the motor in top shape is crucial to the rig’s operations.
The derrickman is responsible for everything in the truss work, or derrick, seen on most drilling rigs. The derrickman climbs to the top of the derrick and helps guide new sections of pipe into position so the roughnecks on the rig floor can connect them. Fear of heights is not an attribute for a derrickman to have. The derrickman is also responsible for preventative maintenance on all the equipment in the derrick.
Drill Crew (Supervisory)
The assistant driller is the first-level supervisory job. He supervises all the roughnecks and works directly with the driller to ensure smooth operation of the well.
The upper supervisory positions are the driller and the rig supervisor. The driller operates the drill motor and acts as the primary on-scene decision-maker on the rig floor. He directs the actions of the assistant driller, motorman, derrickman and roughnecks to ensure smooth rig operations. He also determines the speed and pressure of the drill bit, which determines how fast the the tool gets pushed into the hole.
The rig supervisor, once known as the “toolpusher,” is the top of the heap in rig operations. He is responsible for all rig service, maintenance and operations.
If ExxonMobil leases a rig from TransOcean, ExxonMobil would naturally want to have its own man on the rig. This individual is called the company man. He works directly with the rig supervisor to ensure the well meets the company’s expectations. The company man is therefore the final authority on rig site except on some off-shore rigs where an installation manager, who acts as captain of the ship, can overrule the company man on issues of safety.
Rig Service (Deck Crew)
Operational jobs are very similar, whether the rig is land-based or offshore. Rig service jobs have similarities between land-based and offshore rigs, but there are some noticeable differences. The first major differences is that “rig service” is called “deck crew” on an offshore rig.
A roustabout is an unskilled laborer who is responsible for just about everything not related to drill operations. Jobs such as painting stairs and unloading trucks fall under the responsibility of a roustabout. On offshore rigs, the roustabout’s main duty is to guide the crane operators as they move heavy equipment, pipe and cargo containers.
An operator supervises a team of roustabouts. He is also trained in the operation of hoisting equipment such as cranes and wenches. On an offshore rig, the crane operators are vital to the rig. They operate heavy-lift cranes to transfer cargo, and sometimes personnel, back and forth between the rig and its supply ships.
Drilling rigs have several specialists. Some work on a full-time basis, while others are only present when their services are needed.
The mud engineer ensures the drilling fluid meets the specifications called for by the rig supervisor and the company man. The chemical makeup and density of the drilling fluid is varied depending on well conditions.
Various forms of cement are used at different times in the well. Like the mud engineer, the cementer is responsible for ensuring the cement meets the specifications called for by the rig supervisor and the company man.
A geologist is on hand to examine all the available data from the well to help drillers know what to expect. They also examine data to determine the progress of the potential for reaching oil.
Many offshore rigs also have a division called subsea, which operates a small unmanned submarine to inspect all the underwater portions of the rig, especially where the drill pipe enters the seafloor.
A crew has to eat. Catering services are sometimes a part of the service crew for an oil rig, but sometimes catering services are contracted out.
Depending on the size of the rig site, roustabouts might be responsible for keeping things clean. On offshore rigs, housecleaning services are required for the living quarters as a deck crew or drill crew can be living on the rig for a month or more at a time.
Safety is the responsibility of everyone from the roustabout to the rig supervisor, but each rig has a dedicated safety officer. The safety officer runs the rig’s safety programs, conducts safety meetings and safety reviews, and routinely inspects the rig for safety issues.