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Part 8


The third party service providers make up about half of the workforce on an offshore rig. With so many hi-tech and specialized operations being performed at all stages of the drilling operations it’s imperative that experts in their field perform these tasks. The first group of people we’ll look at are the “mudloggers” who’s job it is to monitor the drilling operations from the time they “spud” the well to the time they secure the well after drilling and testing has been completed.




“Mudlogger” is the generic term used to describe the field specialists who monitor the well and also collect samples for the geologist. The career progression for a “mudlogger” is to generally start as a sample catcher while they learn about the drilling operations, then progress to a mudlogger and with further experience, become a data engineer.


Sample Catchers

Dedicated sample catchers aren’t always part of the team but they often get “thrown in” as a complimentary part of the mudlogging services. They don’t need to have any prior experience in working offshore or as a mudlogger, so it’s a very good entry level job and is generally the starting position for graduate geologists who wish to work offshore. Although you don’t need to be a geologist to be a sample catcher, most of them will be and will go on to get trained as a mudlogger.


Sample catching is without a doubt the least glamorous and lowest paid of all jobs on the rig…but you have to start somewhere! The role of a sample catcher is to provide the most basic geological data acquisition on the rig and to assist with all general activities when possible. The main duties of the sample catcher are:

  •  Ensure that representative geologic samples are caught throughout the drilling or reaming phases of the well program. This is done by collecting cuttings (drilled rock) samples, from the proper “lagged” (explained below) depths and at the proper intervals as required for evaluation. These samples are collected off the shale shakers, screened and washed, divided into correct portions, and packed into sets for the Client, partners and government agencies. They may also have to assist in core recovery and packaging as required.
  •  Prepare a clean “cuttings” sample on a sample tray for the wellsite geologist and mudlogger, who will then examine it under the microscope and describe the lithology of the drilled formation.
  •  Assist mudloggers and data engineers to perform regular and frequent calibration checks of instruments, perform normal routine maintenance of sensors and other equipment and also assist logging crew with rig-up/rig-down procedures.


shale shaker


The sample catcher reports directly to the mudlogging crew who will ensure his duties are performed correctly. This may include on-the-job training as required. They work out of the mudlogging unit, which is always close to the shale shakers and these are generally one or two levels below the drillfloor. The shale shakers are vibrating screens that separate the drilling fluid from the drilled rock cuttings. The “shaker house” is a very noisy place and double hearing protection must always be worn. There will be multiple shakers to accommodate the large volume of cuttings that can be produced when the drilling rate of penetration is high (i.e. they are drilling fast!). It’s a very “dirty” job and multiple layers of personal protective equipment need to be worn to prevent skin contact with the drilling mud, which can cause serious skin inflammation.


Mudloggers and Data Engineers (DE)

Mudloggers and data engineers are responsible for gathering, processing and monitoring information pertaining to drilling operations. They don’t only collect data using specialist data acquisition techniques – they also collect oil samples and detect gases using state-of-the-art equipment.

The information amassed by these guys is analyzed, logged and then communicated to the team that is responsible for the physical drilling of the well. Without the help of the mudlogger, the drilling operations would be less efficient, less cost-effective and much more dangerous. The mudlogger is vital for preventing hazardous situations, such as well blowouts. They also provide vital assistance to wellsite geologists and write detailed reports based on the data that is collected. Being an entry-level position, employees will be given a mixture of ‘on-the-job’ training and expert in-house training courses, which cover different aspects of drilling operations. A major part of the training will focus on the use of specialist computer software.


Typically, you will need a degree in geology to start a career as a mudlogger. However, candidates with degrees in physics, geochemistry, chemistry, environmental geoscience, maths or engineering may also be accepted.


Along with the sample catchers and data engineers, the mudloggers work out of the muddlogging unit, which is a pressurized sea container-type of office, which is positioned close to the drillfloor and shaker house. The unit will have an air-lock compartment when you first enter it so as to maintain the positive pressure within the unit whenever somebody leaves or enters the unit. This is the main control room for monitoring the drilling operations and is full of sophisticated and delicate equipment and computer systems. Positive pressure needs to be maintained to ensure the air pressure inside the container is higher than that of the outside area to prevent contamination of sensitive monitoring equipment – and also to ensure the safety of the crew working inside the unit should the outside air become contaminated through uncontrolled releases of hydrocarbons from the well.


mudlogging unit


One of the most important tasks of the mudlogger is to oversee the collection of not only geological samples but also mud and gas samples from the well during drilling operations. To be able to do this accurately they have to know the exact “lag time” (or “bottoms-up time”) that it will take for the drilled cuttings or mud and gas to arrive at the surface after being drilled and circulated up the outside of the drillhole (annulus) while suspended in the drilling mud. The lag time may be a few minutes in a shallow hole or as much as several hours in deep wells with low mud flow rates. To be able to work this time out accurately there are many factors that have to be taken into consideration. The lag time depends on:

  • the annular volume fluid
  • flow rate, which in turn require knowledge of:
  • dimensions (internal diameter (ID) and outside diameter (OD)) of surface equipment, drill string tubulars and casing and riser.
  • mud pump output per stroke, pumping rate and efficiency.


While the computer’s software will work this out automatically, the calculated value may be incorrect however, if the operator has entered erroneous or incomplete values for the pipe or hole dimensions, or if the hole is badly washed out. This has to be monitored very carefully to avoid catching mud, gas and cuttings samples at incorrect depths.



The mudloggers and DE’s monitor the drilling operations via a series of sensors that are placed at various locations around the drillfloor, pit room and shaker house. The main drilling and mud parameters that are recorded are: hook movement, weight on hook, standpipe pressure, wellhead pressure, rotary torque, pump strokes, RPM, mud pit levels, mud density, mud temperature, mud resistivity and mud flow. These parameters are monitored in real time and any deviances from the expected normal values must be immediately reported to the driller. The DE will view and monitor all the drilling parameters on a screen as shown below.


mud logger drilling screen


The five most important monitoring tasks that the mudlogger and DE must watch out for are:

  • Rate of penetration increase, which could indicate they have drilled into a reservoir formation
  • Mud pit volume gain or loss, which could indicate the well is taking a kick, or losing fluid into the formation
  • Mud flow rate change
  • Mud density variation
  • Indication of oil or gas.


The mudlogging unit is a very confined workplace and there may be up to several people working in there at any one time, especially if it’s a “combo” unit, which houses the mudloggers, MWD engineers and possibly also the directional driller. Generally the same service provider company performs all of these roles so it is quite common for data engineers to progress into a role as an LWD/MWD engineer. Other common career progressions for mudloggers/data engineers are as a wellsite geologist or drilling fluids engineer (mud engineer).


crew change in ML unit


The complete list of responsibilities of the mudloggers is too exhaustive to detail in this article but the above-mentioned roles are the main ones. Like most jobs on the rig, daily reports are a big part of the data engineer’s responsibilities. The mudloggers report directly to the wellsite geologist, who is generally working in the mudlogging unit alongside them. Because the mudloggers are required to monitor the drilling operations from the commencement of drilling they will always be employed on a permanent rotating roster, which is generally 4-weeks on, 4-weeks off.



MWD / LWD Engineers and Directional Drillers


The terms Measurement While Drilling (MWD), and Logging While Drilling (LWD) are not used consistently throughout the industry. Although, these terms are related, the term MWD refers to directional-drilling measurements, while LWD refers to measurements concerning the geological formation made while drilling (also referred to as Formation Evaluation While Drilling (FEWD)).


Measurement While Drilling (MWD)

MWD typically concerns measurement taken of the wellbore inclination from vertical, and also magnetic direction from north. Using basic trigonometry, a three-dimensional plot of the path of the well can be produced. Essentially, an MWD engineer measures the trajectory of the hole as it is drilled (for example, data updates arrive and are processed every few seconds or faster). This information is then used to drill in a pre-planned direction into the formation, which contains the oil, gas, water or condensate.


An MWD downhole tool is also "high-sided" with the bottom hole drilling assembly, enabling the wellbore to be steered in a chosen direction in 3D space known as directional drilling. Directional drillers rely on receiving accurate, quality tested data from the MWD engineer to allow them to keep the well safely on the planned trajectory. MWD tools are generally capable of taking directional surveys in real time. The tool uses accelerometers and magnetometers to measure the inclination and azimuth of the wellbore at that location, and they then transmit that information to the surface. With a series of surveys, measurements of inclination, azimuth, and tool face, at appropriate intervals (commonly every 30ft or 10m), the location of the wellbore can be calculated.


MWD tools can also provide information about the conditions at the drill bit. This may include:

  • Rotational speed of the drillstring
  • Smoothness of that rotation
  • Type and severity of any vibration downhole
  • Downhole temperature
  • Torque and weight on bit, measured near the drill bit
  • Mud flow volume


Use of this information can allow the operator to drill the well more efficiently, and to ensure that the MWD tool and any other downhole tools, such as a mud motor, rotary steerable systems, and LWD tools, are operated within their technical specifications to prevent tool failure. This information is also valuable to geologists responsible for the well information about the formation that is being drilled.


Logging While Drilling (LWD) tools and Formation Evaluation

The measurement of formation properties during the drilling of the hole through the use of tools integrated into the “bottom hole assembly” (BHA) can be expensive but has the advantage of measuring properties of a formation before drilling fluids invade deeply. Further, many wellbores prove to be difficult or even impossible to measure with conventional wireline tools, especially highly deviated wells. In these situations, the LWD measurement ensures that some measurement of the subsurface is captured in the event that wireline operations are not possible. Below is an example of an LWD/MWD bottom hole assembly:




LWD tools take measurements of formation properties. At the surface, these measurements are assembled into a pictorial data log for fast and instant interpretation of the formation. LWD tools are able to measure a suite of geological characteristics including density, porosity, resistivity, acoustic-caliper, inclination at the drill bit (NBI), magnetic resonance and formation pressure. The MWD tool allows these measurements to be taken and evaluated while the well is being drilled. This makes it possible to perform geosteering or directional drilling based on measured formation properties, rather than simply drilling into a preset target. Image logs are also possible, and there is an increase in demand for formation pressure tests and collection of fluid samples that can be obtained by increasingly sophisticated LWD tools. Until recent years, pressure and fluid sampling could only be done when drilling was completed and wireline logs were run, but with the advances in LWD technology it is now becoming more routine to perform these tests while drilling the well so important drilling decisions can be made on the fly.


There are many different LWD tools available and every logging company has their own proprietary hardware and software. Tool mnemonics (acronyms used to explain the type of tool) feature heavily in formation evaluation programs as most logging tools, individual logging sensor measurements and log curves are known by their individual signature acronyms.


The three must-have curves you need for a basic well log analysis are: gamma ray, porosity and resistivity. These three curves give an excellent quick-look log analysis of reservoir formations and can give the wellsite geologist and shore-based petrophysicists an almost real-time preliminary interpretation of the zones of interest. This LWD tool data takes only seconds to get to surface and decoded into the data that is shown on the screens. The time it takes from when the rock is drilled to when the data arrives at surface is dependent on how far behind the bit the individual LWD tools are positioned. For “Near Bit” tools, such as Gamma Ray and Resistivity, this can be less than a metre so the information is received very soon after drilling. Compare this data with how long it takes to get the actual “cuttings” to surface – which can be anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours – and you can appreciate the benefits of having LWD tools in the BHA. In an operation where time equals money, you want your important decision-making data as soon as possible.


WL reservoir logs


Data Acquisition

Downhole MWD hardware consists of sensors built into a drill collar positioned near the bit. Electrical energy for the system is provided by a battery pack or generated by a small turbine. In a battery pack MWD system, information is recorded and stored downhole in the microprocessor. The data are retrieved when the MWD collar is brought to the surface and are transferred to the computer in the logging unit for additional processing.


In a typical turbine-powered “real time” MWD system, data are sent directly to the surface by mud telemetry, which utilizes the column of fluid inside the drill pipe as a transmission line for digital acoustic signals. Downhole measurements recorded by the sensors are transmitted through the mud as positive or negative pressure pulses or as a continuous, fixed-frequency pressure wave.

The mud telemetry signals are detected with pressure transducers in the standpipe at surface. A computer then records the digital signals. Data are converted to engineering units and processed to generate depth- or time-based output.


As you can see, it is almost essential for LWD engineers to have a degree in electrical, mechanical, chemical, petroleum or civil engineering although many also progress into it from mudlogging/data engineering positions within the same service provider company. Because of the sometimes extreme physical environment the tools are subjected to downhole (extremes of temperatures and pressures), tool wear and breakdowns are an all-too-common occurrence in LWD operations which places extreme pressure on the LWD operators to perform their job. You have to be able to work under pressure and be thick skinned to be able to handle not only the troubleshooting operations but also the barrage of verbal abuse the LWD engineers are likely to face when their tools fail and “non productive time” is logged on the daily reports. If you think that character of the grumpy company man that John Malcovich portrayed in the “Deepwater Horizon” movie was exaggerated, think again…there really are people like that working on offshore rigs!



Wireline Logging - Formation Evaluation after Drilling


Wireline logs are recorded when the drilling tools are no longer in the hole and are made using highly specialized equipment entirely separate from that used while drilling. To run wireline logs, the hole is cleaned and stabilized and the drilling equipment pulled out of the hole. There is usually several wireline “runs” with different tools being used for different types of petrophysical data collection and formation sampling in each run.


After the well has been prepared for logging operations, the first logging tool is attached to the logging cable (wireline) and lowered into the hole to its maximum drilled depth. Most logs are run while pulling the tool up from the bottom of the hole, although just to be sure of having a record, measurements are recorded on the way down as well. The cable attached to the tool is both a support for the tool and a canal for data transmission and is wound around a motorized drum during the logging.


There is an instantaneous display as a log is acquired both on the rig and, if requested, by satellite link at the client’s or operators shore-based office. Data is also stored electronically for future processing and editing.


Because rig time is expensive and holes must be logged immediately, modern logging tools are multi-function and multi-modular. Despite the use of combined tools, the recording of a full set of wireline logs still requires several different tool descents. While a quick shallow logging job may only take 3 – 4 hours, a deep-hole, full set may take 2 – 3 days or longer. Formation pressure testing and sampling runs can take up to 12 hours to perform each run.


The wireline operations are performed from the wireline unit, which is placed within close proximity to the drillfloor. The tools are lowered down the hole via a series of pulleys (sheaves) that direct the wireline cable from the drum at the unit to the open hole on the drillfloor. The wireline technicians will assist the wireline engineers with the pre-run tool checks, rigging up and rigging down of the tools and general maintenance of equipment while the engineers sit in the unit and monitor the data acquisition and processing during and after the run.



The wireline unit is extremely small and during wireline operations there will be at least three people working in the unit: the wireline engineer, the wireline technician operating the cable drum and the wellsite geologist. The running of the logs is a very intense operation and constant monitoring by the wellsite geologist and wireline engineer is essential. It is quite often the case that with many of the logs (e.g. formation pressure testing and side wall core operations) both the wellsite geologist and wireline engineer don’t get to leave the unit for their entire 12-hour shift – except for emergency bathroom breaks! Other crew members bring meals into them so they can eat while they continue to work.


inside WL unit


Wireline engineers are sourced from the same educational backgrounds as MWD/LWD engineers. Electrical engineering is the most ideal base to be starting from but not the only route to get there. The wireline technicians don’t necessarily need any formal qualifications as all their training is done on the job.


With technological advances in LWD tools and practices, wireline logging is slowly losing dominance as the main source of formation evaluation data. More and more services are being provided by LWD tools that mean many wireline contingent runs are no longer required. Despite this, wireline logging is, and will remain to be, a critical and necessary part of the offshore drilling operations.


When it comes to offshore mudlogging, MWD/LWD and wireline operations, the three major logging companies that service the industry are: Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes. These three companies all have their own divisions of the individual services and some of them still operate under a name of a previous company that has been bought out by one of the big three mentioned (e.g. Geoservices mudlogging services). These three companies all have extensive shore-based support teams that work alongside the client petrophysicists and drilling team to provide timely and reliable data.


Part 9 of Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE will continue to explore the many different roles that are performed by third-party service providers on the rig.





Don’t forget to supply any feedback or questions you may have about anything in this article or the previous ones. I’m attempting to give you a general overview in these articles of the typical offshore rig environment. I hope it helps give you a better understanding of what it’s like to work offshore.



If you have only just tuned into “Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE” then you can find the rest of the series of articles here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7.




Amanda Barlow is a wellsite geologist in the offshore oil and gas industry with a field-based geology career spanning over three decades. As well as being a recreational marathoner who has run over 40 marathons in 16 different countries she is also a published author of two books: “Call of the Jungle – How a Camping-Hating City-Slicker Mum Survived an Ultra Endurance Marathon through the Amazon Jungle” and also “An Inconvenient Life – My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist”. You can connect with her through the Pink Petro community, LinkedIn: or through her Facebook page:

1. President Donald Trump revives construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.


 It’s not a complete green light yet.  President Trump demanded a renegotiation of the construction projects with an emphasis on the use of American-made products.  Trump stated, “If we’re going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipes should be made in the United States.”


This decision, signed into effect on Trump’s fourth full day in office, is a major departure from the Obama administration, which rejected the Keystone proposal in 2015 and has continued to block the Dakota Access since.  Environmentalists and local Native-American tribes are concerned about climate change and damage to water and land.  For the oil industry, this looks to be a positive sign from this administration that they plan to help expand infrastructure and ease transportation bottlenecks.


It is important to note that White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the renegotiation of the Dakota Access project would include key stakeholders, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which is concerned about Native-American cultural sites and the safety of its water supply.


2. Oil continues its decline on rising U.S. output.


Oil prices extended declines today, pulled down by signs of growing output in the United States that looks to at least partly offset output cuts by OPEC and Russia.  London Brent crude for March delivery is down to $55.24 a barrel today (Monday), continuing its drop of 72 cents on Friday.  NYMEX crude for March delivery was down 27 cents at $52.90 a barrel.  Baker Hughes showed that U.S. drillers added 15 oil rigs last week, bringing the total count to 566, the most since November 2015.


3. India inks deal with UAE to fill crude storage facility.


Last week India signed a deal with the United Arab Emirates allowing the Gulf OPEC country to fill half of India’s underground crude oil storage facility at Mangalore.  India announced a series of pacts with the UAE after its Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with UAE’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.  The deals range from defense and trade, to maritime cooperation and energy.


UAE's Abu Dhabi National Oil Co will store about 6 million barrels of oil at Mangalore, taking up about half of the site's capacity.  India is building emergency storage in underground caverns, and stated, “This will ... help to ensure India's energy security and enable us to meet the nation's growing demand for energy,"

A snide comment muttered under a colleague’s breath. Something crass your boss said during a meeting. A rude remark an acquaintance assured you was a joke.


Insulting or ignorant statements crop up somewhat frequently in today’s professional environment—whether you’re male or female. But, they seem to become particularly prevalent as a female working in a male-dominated industry.


In fact, our own members have experienced this time and time again—whether it’s a quick comment said in passing or being blatantly asked if they’re actually the secretary.


So, needless to say, today’s “Dear Kat” question is one that hits close to home for all of us:


Dear Kat, As a female in a male-dominated industry, I’m often on the receiving end of some comments that are somewhat rude—and could even be perceived as sexist. Up until now, I’ve just done my best to ignore them. But, I’m curious if you have some better tips on how to handle these sorts of remarks.


As a professional, this can be a tricky issue to address. And, a great deal of how you handle it will depend on your specific circumstances, as well as your relationship with the person who said it. How you confront a colleague who repeatedly makes impolite remarks will likely be quite different from how you handle a superior who said something just once as a supposed joke, for example.


But, with that in mind, here are a few different approaches you can try when you’re faced with a rude or sexist remark (don’t worry, guys, you can apply this advice as well!):


1. Say Nothing

You’re probably familiar with this one already, as it can be the easiest strategy to lean on when you don’t quite feel courageous enough to stick up for yourself.


Most of the time, I’m an advocate for letting people know when they’ve made you uneasy or uncomfortable. But, staying mum can be your best bet in those instances when you believe someone didn’t mean to be offensive.


If that person didn’t intend to be derogatory or rude, addressing the issue with a direct conversation can often make things even more uncomfortable and result in a strained relationship—which, needless to say, isn’t your goal.


2. Speak to Others

Alright, let’s be clear here: Speaking to others does not equate to running around the office and whispering, “Can you believe what so and so said to me?!” to anybody who will listen. The purpose of this approach is not to spread unnecessary office gossip like wildfire, but is instead to get a handle on whether this is a repeated issue that others have experienced—or if it was just a one-time slipup.


For example, if a male said something obviously inappropriate that made you uncomfortable, you might want to check to see if other female employees have felt uneasy around him as well.


When doing this, it’s important that you speak with only a couple of people that you trust. Remember, you’re not trying to throw another person under the bus and make a big dramatic show of the encounter. You’re just attempting to diagnose whether this comment is a sign of a larger problem.


3. Speak Up

In an unfortunate case when someone has said something so blatantly offensive (whether repeatedly or not) that you can’t simply zip your lips or wait until later to address it, it’s best to speak up and let that person know that you don’t appreciate his or her comments.


The secret here is to keep your cool and speak your mind in a way that’s professional and respectful. The last thing you want is to end up in a heated, finger-pointing, “he said, she said” match. Instead keep it simple, polished, and matter of fact by stating something like:


“That comment is incredibly inappropriate, [Name]. Whether you meant it to be offensive or not, I’d appreciate if you kept those sorts of remarks to yourself.”


This is important for you to remember: You don’t need to apologize for anything. So, don’t start your confrontation off with any sort of qualifier like, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to stir the pot here” or “I’m sorry if I misunderstood you.” Someone said something that made you uneasy—and that’s nothing that you need to feel remorseful for.


4. Approach a Superior

In particularly severe circumstances, it might become necessary for you to loop in a superior on the issues you’re experiencing so that someone with higher authority can take the reins and address the problem.


I won’t deny that this can be uncomfortable. But, more likely than not, your manager will be understanding and supportive. So, simply take a deep breath and explain what’s been happening. If you have any concrete proof (such as an email where something was said), you’ll want to bring that along as well.


What if it’s your superior who’s making these crass remarks? Your best bet is to approach another leader within the organization or the human resources department in order to make your concerns known. It can feel counterintuitive and scary to make negative accusations about your own boss. But, remember, you’re entitled to a work environment where you feel safe and comfortable.


5. Move On

Once the situation has been handled appropriately, it’s important that you let it go and avoid continuing to obsess and gossip about it. If you proceed to talk about what was said, you’ll only feed the flames.


So, once you think things have been addressed and taken care of, do your best to move on. You and everybody else will be better off for it.


In an ideal world, none of us would have to deal with rude or sexist remarks—whether it’s in the workplace or outside of it. But, unfortunately, these uncomfortable comments can crop up now and then.

As with anything, it’s not always about what happened—it’s about how you react to it. So, keep these five strategies in mind, and you’ll be able to handle the situation with poise and professionalism.

Fulfilling his campaign pledge to bring the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines back to the table, President Donald Trump signed executive orders Tuesday reversing the position forged by former President Barack Obama.

The orders don’t fast-track either pipeline, but “advance” them for renegotiation. Trump has long said he could obtain a “better deal” for the United States – perhaps even a cut of the profits – on TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone line.

"We are going to renegotiate some of the terms, and if they like, we’ll see if we can get that pipeline built," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "If we’re going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipes should be made in the United States.”

TransCanada’s request for a presidential permit to cross the border from Canada into the United States lingered in the Obama White House for years before it was finally rejected in November 2015.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a $3.8 billion project that came to a halt in November after months of fierce protest by Native Americans and environmentalists, is also up for renegotiation.

Reaction to the move was swift on both sides of the aisle.

House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said the infrastructure from these projects would create more jobs and advance affordable energy.

“This action is a path forward on critical infrastructure projects that should have already moved forward,” Bishop said in a statement. “We have a new era before us of investment, jobs and energy security that I look forward to coordinating with the Trump administration.”

Special interests with a “radical, anti-energy agenda” had used these pipeline projects to derail fossil fuels, said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. A domestic economic boost and “thousands of good-paying jobs” lay in the balance.

These major infrastructure projects that will yield benefits for U.S. workers and consumers, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL).

"We thank President Trump for giving the American people the benefits of jobs and plentiful, affordable energy that pipelines will bring," said Andrew Black, AOPL's president and CEO, in a written statement.

Citing figures from the U.S. State Department, AOPL contends that building Keystone XL (KXL) alone would generate more than 42,000 U.S. jobs and $2.1 billion in U.S. worker payroll. The project would also support 31,500 jobs in construction, manufacturing, trade, finance and insurance, food and accommodations, health services and other services, according to AOPL.

Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has already spurred the creation of approximately 12,000 construction jobs and contributed more than $3.54 billion to the U.S. economy, added AOPL.

The Bakken could also emerge as a big winner as a result of the executive orders, noted Afolabi Ogunnaike, senior research analyst with Wood Mackenzie.

“(B)oth pipelines would increase takeaway capacity from the oil play which has long been the epicenter of US crude-by-rail,” Ogunnaike said.

But those who fought the pipelines with environmental concerns say renewable energy resources should be at the forefront of the U.S. energy future. And, they vow to resist in the struggle ahead.

“Millions of people came together all over this country to stop the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and say we must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” said former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. “Today, President Trump ignored the voices of millions and put the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry ahead of the future of our planet.”

And Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica said Trump’s move proves that those who demonstrated against the pipelines aren’t welcome in his America.

“Trump has emphatically pledged his allegiance to the oil companies and Wall Street banks that stand to profit from the destruction of public health and the environment,” Pica said in a statement. “The movement to defend Indigenous rights and keep fossil fuels in the ground is stronger than oil companies’ bottom line. Friends of the Earth and our allies will not give up the fight to stop Trump’s agenda and these destructive pipelines.

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The drilling contractor not only operates, and is in charge of, the drilling operations in offshore drilling operations but they are also the owners and operators of the vessel that is being used to drill the wells. Particularly in the case of drillships, they need to employ a full compliment of marine crew who run the vessel while the drilling is taking place. Like all sea-going vessels there are a number of ranks, which are recognized positions on most offshore oil and gas drilling rigs. Due to the nature of jack-up rigs being non-floating rigs, they will have minimal marine crew as they get towed from one location to the next. The more autonomous a drilling unit becomes (i.e. the less dependent it is on external forces for propulsion and stability), the greater the need for a full compliment of marine crew.


The marine crew can generally be divided into four main categories: the bridge, the deck, the engineering department and the steward's department. Depending on the type of rig, you may find all or only some of the following personnel working on a rig. Given that their duties are solely to do with the running of the vessel and not the drilling of the well, they nearly always will come from a marine industry background rather than a drilling industry background.



The “captain” or “master” is the vessels highest responsible officer, acting on behalf of the rig’s owner. The captain is legally responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the rig as they are in command. It is their responsibility to ensure that all the departments under them perform legally to the requirements of the ship's owner.


The captain/master will have his own cabin on the rig that contains his bedroom and office. He’ll generally work out of here with his job involving mainly administrative duties, which keeps him tied to a computer for much of the day. Like all senior roles on a rig, he gets heavily bogged down with daily reports, on-site meetings, phone calls, conference calls and emails.


Chief Engineer

They are responsible for keeping the ship and the machinery running. Today’s mobile offshore drilling units are complex vessels that combine a lot of technology within a small space. This includes not only the engine and the propulsion system, but also, for example, the electrical power supply, devices for loading and discharging, garbage incineration and fresh water generators. The chief engineer is responsible for all operations and maintenance that have to do with all machinery and equipment throughout the vessel.


Dynamic Positioning Operator (DPO)

The bridge on any rig is filled with sophisticated navigational equipment, with 7th generation drillships having the most advanced systems in the offshore industry. To maintain their position, drillships and semi-submersible rigs may utilize their anchors or use the ship’s computer-controlled system on board to run off their dynamic positioning. DPO’s are the people who are in charge of controlling the Dynamic Positioning System. The purpose of this system is to automatically maintain a vessel’s position and heading by using its own propellers and thrusters. This is a very complex task because DP systems need to combine position reference sensors, wind sensors and motion sensors to calculate the impact of environmental forces that affect the vessels position.


DPO console


DP systems are vital for safely carrying out operations in water too deep for stabilization using anchors or jack-up legs. The system was created in the 1960’s to meet the demands of the oil & gas industry and allowed offshore drilling units to operate in deeper waters than was previously done. This paved the way for the discovery of new fields and gave birth to the deepwater and ultra-deepwater drilling industry. Dynamic positioning has many advantages, such as excellent maneuverability, no additional vessels required to work with anchors, able to operate at any water depth, quick set-up and not limited by an obstructed seabed.


There can be very serious consequences resulting from the loss of position of the floating rig, the main ones being:

  1. The rig could disconnect from the subsea wellhead, BOP or marine riser, which could cause uncontrolled oil spills and possibly create serious environmental problems.
  2. If there are crane operations taking place with a supply boat alongside the rig then the possibility of a collision with the two vessels is very high and could result in serious damage to either vessel as well as the risk of injuries or even deaths of personnel working on them.
  3. If there are divers working beneath the rig they are completely dependent on the vessel while working underwater so if the rig was to lose position it could have fatal consequences for the personnel working under it.


The computer program contains a mathematical model of the vessel that includes information pertaining to the wind and current drag of the vessel and location of the thrusters. This knowledge, combined with the sensor information, allows the computer to calculate the required steering angle and thruster output for each thruster. Dynamic positioning may either be absolute in that the position is locked to a fixed point over the bottom, or relative to a moving object like another ship or an underwater vehicle. One may also position the ship at a favorable angle towards wind, waves and current, called “weathervaning”.


Dynamic Positioned vessels are described as being Class 1, Class 2 or Class 3.

Equipment Class 1 (DPS-1) has no redundancy - Loss of position may occur in the event of a single fault.

Equipment Class 2 (DPS-2) has redundancy so that no single fault in an active system will cause the system to fail. Loss of position should not occur from a single fault of an active component or system such as generators, thruster, switchboards, remote controlled valves etc., but may occur after failure of a static component such as cables, pipes, manual valves etc.

Equipment Class 3 (DPS-3) also has to withstand fire or flood in any one compartment without the system failing. Loss of position should not occur from any single failure including a completely burnt fire sub division or flooded watertight compartment.


Unlike the rest of the workplaces on the rig, the bridge is a spacious, quiet, clean office with the best views in the “building”. It looks more like the flight deck on the Starship Enterprise than a bridge on a drilling rig. Everyone appears to talk in hushed tones and keeps to themself – well that’s what it seems like after working out on the deck where everyone is screaming at each other to be heard over the noise of the rig.




Because the loss of position may cause financial, environment, health and safety risks it is essential that only highly qualified personnel can control DP systems. There will generally be two DPO’s on-tour at any one time (one of which will be a senior DPO), so there is always someone “on watch” while the other has meal/bathroom breaks. The DPO has to be competent to use the DP systems in manual and automatic modes without supervision. There is a special training scheme for achieving safety standards for DPO’s in the offshore oil & gas industry. This scheme defines the basic stages of professional training for future DPO’s with three main blocks of instruction – practice on board a DP vessel, theoretical sessions and simulator training at special training centres. The DP “UNLIMITED” certificate will be issued after the successful completion of all phases of the training scheme. This certificate confirms the competence of an operator and allows him to work on DP systems without supervision. The DPO will generally also assist in the co-ordination of all deck, crane, gangway, and helicopter and supply boat operations, as well as safety operations that are carried out from the bridge, such as emergency shut-in procedures and safety drills.


Radio Operators

The radio operator generally works out of the bridge, alongside the DPOs, and they will generally be the first point of call in any emergency situation. Their main role is to provide reliable communications between the vessel and the shore, other vessels and helicopter traffic.


The radio operator works under the supervision of the Captain/Master, and reports directly to them. They establish and maintain the ‘flight watch’ during all helicopter operations, and record all details of landings and departures of aircraft. They also keep detailed records of all the persons on board (POB) and what cabin everyone is sleeping in. On fly-out day all departing crew have to report their bag and body weights to the radio operator so they can provide an accurate manifest for the outgoing chopper during crew change operations.


The maintenance of all radio equipment and emergency power sources, stock keeping of radio spares, etc. are all an integral part of the Radio Operators role. In addition, the Radio Operator assists the Master with general clerical work such as vessel documentation, daily reports, timesheets and meeting minutes, so they must be computer literate. The Radio Operator also takes on a support role in emergency situations, in both a communication role and as part of the vessels emergency command and control team.  This involves assisting with POB reconciliation, log keeping, emergency radio communications, etc.


Because of the prerequisite marine certifications that are required for radio operators, it is quite common for ex-navy personnel to be working in these positions. There is always a nightshift and dayshift radio operator on the rig and when they need to have a food or comfort break throughout their shift they will get the medic or someone else to cover for them so the phone is always manned for emergency calls.




With the radio operators job being so critical for communications to and from the rig it is no wonder satellite communications equipment is an integral part of offshore operations these days. Not only is this equipment necessary for the receipt of weather warnings, transmission of position reports, priority traffic, distress messages and just keeping in touch with family and friends, but also the dissemination of well data to and from the rig. Enormous amounts of drilling data is sent in real time to the head office onshore so the specialists and project managers working in the head offices of the energy companies can view the data via a live feed from the rig. All major decisions made on the rig are nearly always in consultation with project managers onshore, so a reliable communication network is essential for timely decisions to be made. Remember…time is money…BIG money!


With the improvements in offshore communication technologies comes an improved work-life balance for offshore workers. Now, offshore personnel are able to use wifi, talk to family and friends on the phone and watch television during their off-tour time. If the Internet goes down you’ll soon hear about it! And it quite often does go down; severe weather plays havoc with the satellite hardware and also the satellite TV reception…just like your Foxtel does during a severe storm when you’re at home.


Ballast Control Operators (BCO)

Semi-submersible rigs (and to a lesser degree Jack-ups) also need operators to control the buoyancy of the rig from the ballasted, watertight pontoons located below the ocean surface. With its hull structure submerged at a deep draft, the semi-submersible is less affected by wave loadings than a normal ship but with a small water-plane area, the semisub is sensitive to load changes, and therefore must be carefully trimmed to maintain stability. Semisubs are able to transform from a deep to a shallow draft by deballasting (removing ballast water from the hull), thereby becoming surface vessels. Usually they are moved from location to location in this configuration. Jack-up rigs also need a certain degree of ballast control as they have large ballast tanks built into the structure. When the rig is jacked down, its hull floats on the surface of the water like a ship. The ballast tanks can be flooded with water or pumped free of water to control its buoyancy.


The BCO is the designated person in charge to maintain stability of the rig and evaluate the possible effect of load combinations while on station and when undertow.  He has to maintain the rig at the required operating draft and keep it upright and on an even keel unless otherwise requested by the OIM / Barge Engineer/Master. Other responsibilities of the BCO include:


  1. Evaluate the possible effects of load combinations on the rig during unloading and back loading of supply vessels when the rig is under tow or on station
  2. Assist the Barge Engineer during anchor handling, shifting and moving operations.
  3. Supervises all major changes in deck load distribution, as well as shifting, loading and off-loading of fluids to and from the rigs tanks.
  4. Assist the Barge Engineer in maintaining rig drawings and other documents related to the structure and equipment of the rig.
  5. Trim the rig whenever required by ballasting or deballasting.
  6. Complete standard control room logbook, daily ballast report and official logbook.


Keeping the rig trimmed so the deck is perfectly horizontal is critical to drilling operations as the laser sensors on the mud pits will read incorrect volumes if the pits are not level. This effect could mask potential dangers of the well either “kicking” or “taking a drink”, in which the well either has too much mud coming back out of the hole or it loses mud into the formation – both of which can have severe consequences. It is critical that the BCO makes a general announcement over the rigs PA system to alert everyone on the rig if he is “trimming the rig”, so people know to account for the corrections should it affect the mud pit volumes or any drilling parameters.


An even more critical reason to maintain control of the ballast of the rig is to prevent any catastrophic “listing” events. Semisubs have been known to suffer from such severe listing from errors in ballast control they have literally sunk into the sea. No one ever wants to see this happening while they’re on the rig!


sinking rig


Mechanics and Electricians

All rigs have a chief mechanic and chief electrician who lead the electrical and mechanical teams onboard. With offshore rigs being heavily mechanized and automated, both teams are kept very busy. It’s not uncommon to find rig mechanics branching into other fields after they get experience on a rig and find career progressions with specialist third party contracting companies (which will be the topic of the next article).



There will nearly always be a dayshift and nightshift medic onboard and generally at least one of them will be a fully qualified medical doctor. It’s quite common for rig medics to have a military background as they are well trained in emergency medical care and used to working in harsh environments and away from home for long periods of time. While the drilling contracting company is responsible for employing them they will nearly always be sourced from a third-party agency and not directly employed through the drilling company.

The medics work out of the rig “hospital” which is equipped to handle comprehensive first aid care and emergency medical procedures when needed.


hospital offshore



Storeman is an entry-level position that requires no prior offshore experience, although working in a similar role at onshore operations would be an advantage. They are responsible for the storage and distribution of consumable items on the rig, ranging from mechanical and electrical equipment to personal protective equipment. They will also oversee the offloading and storage of chemicals that are needed for drilling operations, which get stored in either the store area or the sack room.






As you can imagine, there would be many other roles involved in offshore drilling operations that I wouldn’t have covered in this article but I have provided an overview of the main ones that all rigs generally have. In the next article we’ll start to look at the many third-party contractor roles that are performed on the rig.


Don’t forget to supply any feedback or questions you may have about anything in this article or the previous ones. I’m attempting to give you a general overview in these articles of the typical offshore rig environment. I hope it helps give you a better understanding of what it’s like to work offshore.



If you have only just tuned into “Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE” then you can find the rest of the series of articles here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.




Amanda Barlow is a wellsite geologist in the offshore oil and gas industry with a field-based geology career spanning over three decades. As well as being a recreational marathoner who has run over 40 marathons in 16 different countries she is also a published author of two books: “Call of the Jungle – How a Camping-Hating City-Slicker Mum Survived an Ultra Endurance Marathon through the Amazon Jungle” and also “An Inconvenient Life – My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist”. You can connect with her through the Pink Petro community, LinkedIn: or through her Facebook page:

You haven’t been hearing this as much the last few years because the price of oil has created huge losses compared to huge gains.  But with some of the appointments for the new administration, and some of the recent executive orders Donald Trump has signed, it’s starting to crop up again. 


In general, the people that advocate this myth are either 1) NOT an equity investor and just repeating something they heard on TV or read online. Or 2) they have something to gain by influencing the public against oil companies. 


The reality?  Oil companies have a profit margin roughly half of pharma and tech.  Around 6.5% of sales overall.  So why do they get all the bad headlines? 


The reason is, major oil companies are among the largest corporations on the entire planet.  This is how the myth promoters get all of the gaudy numbers to flash up on TV screens.  A small percent of a giant number looks pretty big on its own.  Especially when taken out of context. 

Conveniently, this claim fades into the background in rough times (like the last few years) when the numbers are equally huge, except this time, they have a minus sign in front of them. 


The truth is, the oil and energy industry have a much lower profit margin compared to other industries.  A quick Google search for the most profitable industries in 2016, and Oil doesn’t even make the list of the top 15!  Here’s a chart of the top 10 most profitable industries according to Factset. 

The lesson learned:  investing in Pharmaceuticals is probably a better bet than investing in the “obscenely profitable” oil companies.  (Disclaimer: That’s not investing advice.)

It’s nice to have a friend in the office, isn’t it? Somebody to eat lunch with, chat with while you’re both grabbing a cup of coffee in the break room, and vent to when everything at work seems to be falling apart.


You often spend more time with your colleagues than you do with anybody else. So, it’s really only natural that you’ll start to form close bonds with the people you see each and every weekday.


However, there’s no denying that office friendships can be somewhat tricky to navigate. It involves mixing your personal and your professional lives, which can result in quite a bit of gray area.


Today’s “Dear Kat” question seeks clarification on that relatable issue:


Dear Kat, I enjoy forming friendships with my co-workers—it’s nice to have an ally in the office! However, I often feel like I’m walking a fine line. Is this person my colleague first and my friend second, or the other way around? Do you have any tips for managing friendships with the people you work with?


First of  all, know that I definitely think it’s possible to have healthy, happy, and positive friendships with your co-workers. However—much like any other friendship, really—it’s going to involve some careful thought and consideration to help you avoid any sticky situations.


Here are five key tips that I think are helpful for successfully navigating office friendships.


1. Cut Out the Work Gossip

Whether you’re in the office or spending time together outside of normal working hours, you and your work friends need to make an effort to squash any and all work gossip you might be tempted to share.


Yes, you consider this person your friend. But, it’s important for you to remember that he or she is also your co-worker. And, as you already know, participating in snarky whisper sessions about the other people you work with never ends well for anybody.

2. Don’t Confuse Professional With Personal

No matter how strong your friendship, it’s important that you make your best effort not to cross too many lines between professional and personal.


While you can be friendly in the office, you still need to keep things strictly professional. That means no playing favorites or letting your friendship or regular chats cut into your working time and your responsibilities.


It’s great that you’ve formed such a great relationship with a co-worker. However, work is still work—not yet another social gathering for you and your close friend. So, stay productive and focused in the office, and save the other stuff for after normal working hours.

3. Be Inclusive

Your goal in forging an office friendship likely wasn’t to make your other colleagues feel left out. But, that can happen all too easily when you and another co-worker become close.



This is why it’s important that you make your best effort to be inclusive. Go ahead and ask a few other colleagues to join you both for lunch—rather than the two of you just leaving in a hurry. If you’re heading out for a few drinks after work, see if anybody else is interested in coming along.


Doing so will ensure that you avoid becoming the central topic of any office gossip. Plus, isn’t having great relationships with all of your co-workers better than having a friendship with just one of them?

4. Consider Hierarchy

Office friendships can always be a little difficult to navigate. But, they become even more challenging when you end up mixing ranks.


Think about it—being friends with an equal typically doesn’t raise any red flags. However, getting really close with your boss? That’s usually enough to set off some alarms with your other co-workers. You don’t want to be accused of gaining favor or special treatment, whether that’s a justifiable accusation or not.


So, make sure that you’re conscious of hierarchy when forming friendships in the office. That’s not to say that you simply can’t be friends with anybody that’s not on the same level as you—you’ll just need to be extra careful when doing so.

5. Be Conscious of Social Media

Social media has introduced a whole new complex element into all friendships—including the ones you form in the office. Needless to say, this is something you’ll want to be conscious of, whether you’re friends with your other colleagues on social media or not.


Consider this your golden rule: If you wouldn’t want your boss or your other co-workers to see what you’re posting, then it probably shouldn’t be shared on your social media accounts. The more caution you can exercise in that space, the better.


Forming friendships with the people you work with can undoubtedly make your time in the office that much more enjoyable. However, when mixing your professional and personal lives, you’ll want to tread carefully.


Remember these five key tips, and you’re sure to build office friendships that are productive and beneficial—rather than the focus of all of that pesky office gossip.

Far above the Arctic Circle, one of the longest-running controversies in U.S. oil drilling is about to reignite.

Bouyed by Donald Trump’s election, Republicans are pushing to allow oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the frigid wilderness in northern Alaska that’s been a political battleground for drillers and conservationists for decades. The prospects for industry look better than they have in years, with Republicans in control of Congress and Trump vowing to boost U.S. energy production.

There’s just one catch. No one really knows how much oil actually lies beneath the refuge, or how much producers like Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips care about it in a world awash in cheap oil, from Texas shale to offshore Africa. While the government estimates the area could hold 12 billion barrels of crude, making it one of the biggest untapped reserves in the U.S., no one’s sunk a well there since the 1980s.

“Its value is hard to gauge because it’s always been a bit theoretical,” said Andrew Slaughter, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions in Houston. “No administration has really wanted to take on the challenge of going for ANWR.”

That may be about to change. The aging Trans Alaska Pipeline, once the symbol of energy independence for an oil-strapped nation, is now on the verge of obsolescence. The 800-mile system links northern Alaska to the rest of the world, but its output has been falling as fields outside the refuge fade out and supplies from shale oil in the lower states grow.

While it may take a decade for ANWR to start producing oil, the new supply would go a long way toward ensuring the survival of the pipeline and the jobs that go with it, according to U.S. senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. The two Alaska Republicans introduced legislation this month to allow development of as many as 2,000 acres in the refuge.

Migratory Birds

“For nearly 40 years, Alaskans have proven that we can responsibly develop our natural resources while protecting the environment,” Murkowski said in a Jan. 5 statement. State residents, moreover, “overwhelmingly support responsible development” of the refuge.

Created by Congress in 1980, the refuge provides a critical habitat and breeding ground for polar bears, wolves, migratory birds and caribou, among other species. It covers 19 million acres in northeastern Alaska, stretching from the mountains of the Brooks Range and boreal forests to a vast, snowy coastal plain that slides into the Arctic Ocean. Yet from the moment it was created, ANWR has been coveted for its untapped oil. The refuge was set aside even as the U.S. ramped up production in the North Slope, in response to the shock of oil embargoes in the 1970s.

Just how rich the prize is remains to be seen. A 2005 review by the U.S. Geological Survey, based on decades-old data, said ANWR may hold as many as 11.8 billion barrels of crude. If that were proven true, it would rival the mammoth Prudhoe Bay field that sparked the Alaskan oil rush 40 years ago, the kind of elephant-sized find that would generate income for decades. That could appeal to companies looking to balance the short lifespans of shale fields and the risks of operating in more politically fraught parts of the globe.

But only one well has been sunk in the refuge, an exploratory project by BP PLC and Chevron Corp. in 1985. The results, deemed proprietary, were never made public. BP, when reached for comment, referred questions to Chevron, which did not respond.

Given the extreme conditions in Alaska, oil would have to sell at about $70 a barrel to make most of it economical to recover. Today, prices hover around $55. The subzero weather and remote distances mean drilling in Alaska typically costs three times as much as in the Lower 48, according to industry researcher IHS Markit Inc.

Exxon Mobil referred questions to the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s Washington lobbying group. The institute said in a statement that it believes the refuge can be developed in a “safe and responsible” way. ConocoPhillips, Alaska’s biggest oil producer, agrees, spokeswoman Natalie Low said in an e-mail.

“If ANWR were to be opened, we’d consider it within our opportunities,”she said. The area “would have to compete with other regions for our exploration dollars.”

Even if oil prices rise significantly, myriad questions remain. Are the ANWR reserves concentrated or spread out? Mixed with natural gas? At today’s prices, though, such questions are moot, said Imran Khan, a senior research manager in Houston at Wood MacKenzie Ltd., an industry consultant.

“There are a lot of other, cheaper areas that are currently open to exploration that big companies can attack,” he said. If not for the change of power in Washington, “I don’t think anybody would be talking about it right now, because I don’t think it can work."

Source: Rigzone

Offshore oil and gas people part 6



Following on from the previous article on the drilling crew, in this article we’ll explore the crew that works with all the equipment and operations that are performed between the drillfloor and the seabed. The “SUBSEA” crew is employed by the drilling contractor and is an integral part of the offshore operations.


Subsea Operations


The subsea crew is responsible for implementing and maintaining the structures, tools and equipment used in the underwater components of offshore oil and gas drilling and production operations. The underwater environment presents unique challenges to subsea engineers, particularly deepwater operations where temperature, pressure and corrosion test the durability of submerged equipment and tools. Most subsea engineering operations depend on automation and remote procedures to construct, maintain and repair components beneath the surface of the water. 


To understand what tasks the subsea team are required to undertake we first need to explore the key structures between the seabed and the drillfloor that connect the drilling unit to the well bore. Up until now we’ve only been looking at the elements of offshore drilling that lie above the water line but there’s also a lot of technology hiding beneath the surface of the water. Starting from the seabed and working our way up to the drillfloor we’ll look at the subsea components that help us bring drill cuttings and potentially trapped hydrocarbons safely to surface. With the deepest-water offshore well ever to be drilled lying in 3,400 m (11,155 ft) of water, it’s easy to see why a team of specialists needs to be employed to oversee the operations that happen beneath the waves.



The subsea wellhead system is a pressure-containing vessel that provides a means to hang off and seal off casing used in drilling the well. The wellhead also provides a profile to latch the subsea blowout preventer (BOP) stack and drilling riser back to the floating drilling rig. In this way, access to the wellbore is secure in a pressure-controlled environment. The subsea wellhead system is located on the ocean floor, and must be installed remotely with running tools and drillpipe.


wellhead housing system


The subsea wellhead inside diameter (ID) is designed with a landing shoulder located in the bottom section of the wellhead body. Subsequent casing hangers land on the previous casing hanger installed. Casing is suspended from each casing-hanger top, and accumulates on the primary landing shoulder located in the ID of the subsea wellhead. Each casing hanger is sealed off against the ID of the wellhead housing and the outside diameter (OD) of the hanger itself with a seal assembly that incorporates a true metal-to-metal seal. This seal assembly provides a pressure barrier between casing strings, which are suspended in the 18¾-in. wellhead.


A standard subsea wellhead system will typically consist of the following:

  • Drilling guide base.
  • Low-pressure housing.
  • High-pressure wellhead housing (typically 18¾ in.).
  • Casing hangers (various sizes, depending on casing program).
  • Metal-to-metal annulus sealing assembly.
  • Bore protectors and wear bushings.
  • Running and test tools.


The drilling guide base provides a means for guiding and aligning the BOP onto the wellhead. Guide wires from the rig are attached to the guideposts of the base, and the wires are run subsea with the base to provide guidance from the rig down to the wellhead system.


Blowout Preventer (BOP)

There are two means to prevent an escape of high-pressure fluids or gases from the well when drilling for oil and gas. The primary means is hydrostatic pressure with weighted up drilling mud and the secondary means is the blowout preventer. The BOP is literally the last line of defence in preventing a catastrophic event on the rig. The BOP is an arrangement of valves, rams preventers, annular preventers, connectors and control system that can be controlled from the surface to “shut-in” the well in the event of an impending blowout. In addition to controlling the downhole pressure and the flow of oil and gas, blowout preventers are intended to prevent tubing, tools and drilling fluid from being blown out of the wellbore when a blowout threatens. Blowout preventers are critical to the safety of crew, rig and environment, and to the monitoring and maintenance of well integrity.


BOP on seabed


With the wellhead just above the mudline on the sea floor, there are four primary ways by which a BOP can be controlled. The possible means are:

  • Electrical Control Signal: sent from the surface through a control cable.
  • Acoustical Control Signal: sent from the surface based on a modulated/encoded pulse of sound transmitted by an underwater transducer.
  • ROV Intervention: remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) mechanically control valves and provide hydraulic pressure to the stack (via “hot stab” panels).
  • Deadman Switch / Auto Shear: fail-safe activation of selected BOPs during an emergency, and if the control, power and hydraulic lines have been severed.


These will be described in further detail later on in this article.


Two control pods are provided on the BOP for redundancy. Electrical signal control of the pods is primary. Acoustical, ROV intervention and dead-man controls are secondary. An emergency disconnect system, or EDS, disconnects the rig from the well in case of an emergency. The EDS is also intended to automatically trigger the deadman switch, which closes the BOP, kill and choke valves. The EDS may be a subsystem of the BOP stack’s control pods or separate.

Pumps on the rig normally deliver pressure to the blowout preventer stack through hydraulic lines. Hydraulic accumulators on the BOP stack enable closure of blowout preventers even if the BOP stack is disconnected from the rig. It is also possible to trigger the closing of BOPs automatically based on too high pressure or excessive flow.


The subsea team is responsible for all maintenance and testing of the BOP and it’s ancillary equipment. Function tests are carried out frequently throughout the drilling program, especially prior to running “the stack” from surface, and also prior to drilling through expected reservoir formations. The drilling crew and subsea team run coordinated tests from both the drillfloor and the backup system’s control panel within the accommodation unit. Every rig must have a BOP control panel at the driller’s station as well as one in a safe location away from the drill floor.


BOP control panel


The members of a subsea team are generally recruited with an electrical or mechanical trade base or engineering degree and they then go through extensive training programs to familiarize themselves with the subsea operations. Because of the skills required to be able to competently do their job these crew members don’t start working offshore as an unskilled laborer like many of the drilling crew members generally do. Subsea operations are a highly specialized field and as such, highly specialized teams are required to perform the tasks involved. It is also one of the most highly regulated areas in the offshore drilling industry due to the fact that failures in the system can result in catastrophic events, such as the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Being the last line of defense in the event of a blowout, it is critical that all the subsea equipment can be reliably called upon to shut the well in during a well control emergency situation.


Because the BOP is such a critical part of the process safety systems offshore, since the Macondo blowout there have been strict regulatory requirements imposed on the industry to ensure the operators have clear programs in place to identify potential hazards when they drill, clear protocol for addressing those hazards, and strong procedures and risk-reduction strategies for all phases of activity, from well design and construction to operation, maintenance, and decommissioning. Adhering to these regulations requires certification of all subsea equipment from an independent third party regarding the condition, operability, and suitability of the BOP equipment for the intended use and the operator must have all well casing designs and cementing program/procedures certified by a professional engineer, verifying the casing design is appropriate for the purpose for which it is intended under expected wellbore conditions. Third-party verification and inspection organizations (such as Subsea Solutions work with subsea equipment, specifically BOP and regulatory compliance audits, well-control and drilling equipment inspections, to ensure the highest levels of integrity within the subsea well control system prior to it being deployed.


Adjoining the top of the BOP and connecting with the bottom of the marine riser is the lower marine riser package.


Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP)

The LMRP is the upper section of a two-section subsea BOP stack consisting of the hydraulic connector, annular BOP, ball/flex joint, riser adapter, jumper hoses for the choke, kill and auxiliary lines and subsea control modules. The LMRP interfaces with the BOP stack.


LMRP module


Blowout preventers must have completely redundant control systems on the BOP. These control systems are called pods and are designated Blue Pod and Yellow Pod in all systems, no matter which manufacturer. They can be found on the lower marine riser package and are extensively function tested prior to the deployment of the BOP.

There can be as many as six emergency systems in a BOP to operate critical functions in the case of the loss of the primary control system.

Emergency Disconnect Sequence (EDS) – In a case where a dynamically positioned rig has lost station-keeping ability, the EDS is a one button system that allows the wellbore to be secured by closing the shear rams. The hydraulic functions to the lower BOP are then vented and the LMRP is separated from the lower BOP by unlatching the connector. An over‐pull is preset on the riser tensioners and the LMRP lifts from the lower BOP. A riser recoil system prevents a sling shot effect. After the EDS button is activated, the sequence takes about 55 seconds maximum.

Acoustic systems – A limited number of emergency functions (typically shear rams and LMRP connector) can be operated from the rig using a hydrophone transmitting to transducers on the BOP. It is uncertain if these systems will work in a well control situation where considerable noise is generated from flow in the wellbore.

Remote operated vehicles (ROVs) have pumps which can operate functions through a ‘hot stab’ plugged into a dedicated receptacle in panel. The limitation of an ROV is the time to deploy from the rig to the seabed and the limited flow rate of their pumps.

Dead man systems will close the shear rams in the event all hydraulic and electric control is lost on the BOP. This would typically only happen if the riser string parted. In deepwater if the riser is lost, then the hydrostatic pressure of the drilling mud, which is needed to contain wellbore pressure, would be reduced as it is replaced by seawater. Closing the shear rams secures the well.

Automatic Disconnect System (ADS) closes the shear rams when the lower flex joint reaches a preset angle.

Autoshear closes the shear rams in the event the LMRP is unintentionally disconnected.


The BOP and LMRP are run subsea using the “marine drilling riser” after the surface well has been drilled and a wellhead has been landed and cemented in the seabed.


Marine Drilling Riser and Marine Riser Tensioner

A marine drilling riser is a conduit that provides a temporary extension of the subsea oil well to the drilling rig. The “riser” has a large diameter, low pressure main tube with external auxiliary lines that include high pressure choke and kill lines for circulating fluids to the subsea blowout preventer (BOP), and usually power and control lines for the BOP.


marine riser RIH


When used in water depths greater than about 20 meters, the marine drilling riser has to be tensioned to maintain stability. A marine riser tensioner located on the drilling platform provides a near constant tension force adequate to maintain the stability of the riser in the offshore environment. The level of tension required is related to the weight of the riser equipment, the buoyancy of the riser, the forces from waves and currents, the weight of the internal fluids, and an adequate allowance for equipment failures.

The marine riser is kept in tension with large pistons operated with an air/oil system at pressures up to 3,000 psi. The riser may be connected via a tensioning ring to wire rope, which is reeved over sheaves on the pistons, or the pistons may be connected directly to the riser tensioner ring.


riser tensioners



Once the BOP stack has been successfully run to the seabed with the marine riser and latched onto the wellhead, it will undergo another series of function tests to determine its operability under water depth conditions. The density of water can cause problems that can increase dramatically with depth. The hydrostatic pressure at surface is 14.6 psi (pounds per square inch) but this increases by this amount for every 10 metres of water depth. For a deepwater well that has the wellhead on the seabed in 2,000 m of water you would expect to find the hydrostatic pressure acting on the BOP to be around 3,000 psi. When you also consider the water temperature to be close to 0° Celsius then you can imagine the type of hostile environment these safety-critical components have to function under. Making equipment that can operate under these conditions is the job of the manufacturers subsea engineers – making sure they work and keeping them well maintained is the responsibility of the subsea engineers onboard the rig. Troubleshooting BOP issues is generally a collaboration between specialist subsea engineers onshore and the subsea maintenance crew involved in the offshore operations. If subsea function tests fail then the entire BOP stack and riser string has to be pulled up to surface so physical examination of the unit can take place. This is a very time-consuming and costly exercise so making sure everything is functioning 100% before running it down to the seabed is imperative. As anyone who has ever worked offshore knows, it’s all-too-common for BOP’s to fail function tests and this is why such strict regulatory conditions have been placed on the subsea components used for the drilling of offshore wells, especially in deepwater and ultra-deepwater wells.


Once the BOP has been successfully tested it’s time to drill ahead!




In following articles I’ll explain all the remaining roles that the drilling contractor undertakes, such as that of the marine crew and electrical and mechanical tradespeople, before moving onto roles undertaken by the oil and gas company operators of the drilling campaign and also third party contractors. It takes an extremely well coordinated specialist workforce to keep the drilling operations running smoothly and safely 24-hours a day for 365 days of the year. There’s still plenty of interesting articles to come so stay tuned!


Don’t forget to supply any feedback or questions you may have about anything in this article or the previous ones. With so many countries and nationalities involved in drilling of an offshore well it’s impossible to cover all the details and specific job titles because they differ from region to region. I’m attempting to give you a general overview in these articles of the typical offshore rig environment. I hope it helps give you a better understanding of what it’s like to work offshore.


If you have only just tuned into “Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE” then you can find the rest of the series of articles here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.



Amanda Barlow is a wellsite geologist in the offshore oil and gas industry with a field-based geology career spanning over three decades. As well as being a recreational marathoner who has run over 40 marathons in 16 different countries she is also a published author of two books: “Call of the Jungle – How a Camping-Hating City-Slicker Mum Survived an Ultra Endurance Marathon through the Amazon Jungle” and also “An Inconvenient Life – My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist”. You can connect with her through the Pink Petro community, LinkedIn: or through her Facebook page:

Oil For All, From All

One of the foremost environmental tech trends this past year has been the exploration of alternative oil extraction sources. Any carbon-based waste, from turkey guts to used tires, can now, by adding sufficient heat and pressure, be turned into oil through a process called thermo-depolymerization. This is very similar to how nature produces oil, but with this technology, the process is expedited by millions of years to achieve the same byproduct.

Shake Out The Salt


According to the United Nations, water supply shortages will affect billions of people by the middle of this century. Desalination, basically removing the salt and minerals out of seawater, is one way to provide potable water in parts of the world where supplies are limited. Working on improving the efficiency of this process can provide people with the opportunity of manufacturing clean water from natural sources.

Hydrogen The Hulk

Hydrogen fuel cell usage has been touted as a pollution-free alternative to using fossil fuels. They make water by combining hydrogen and oxygen. In the process, they generate electricity. The problem with fuel cells is obtaining the hydrogen. Most recently, scientists have come up with ways to power laptops and small devices with fuel cells, and some car companies are promising that soon we'll be seeing cars that emit nothing but clean water. The promise of a "hydrogen economy," however, is not one that all experts agree will ever be realized. If it is, though, it might just turn out to be the superhero that saves our world.

Sunny Side Up

The sun's energy, which hits Earth in the form of photons, can be converted into electricity or heat. Researchers are pushing the limits to more efficiently convert this energy by concentrating solar power by using mirrors and parabolic dishes, apart from the regular solar collectors. Present investment in this technology might lead to a sunnier future for all of us.

An Ocean of Opportunities

The biggest solar collector on Earth is our ocean mass. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the oceans absorb enough heat from the sun to equal the thermal energy contained in 250 billion barrels of oil each day. Ocean Thermal Energy Converter technologies convert the thermal energy contained in the oceans and turn it into electricity by using the temperature difference between the water's surface, which is heated, and the cold of the ocean's bottom. This difference in temperature can operate turbines that can drive generators.

Harness Waves and Tides

The oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth's surface. Waves contain an abundance of energy that could be directed to turbines, which can then turn this mechanical power into electrical. The obstacle to using this energy source has been the difficulty in harnessing it. Sometimes the waves are too small to generate sufficient power. The trick is to be able to store the energy when enough mechanical power is generated. New York City's East River is now in the process of becoming the test bed for six tide-powered turbines, and Portugal's reliance on waves in a new project is expected to produce enough power for more than 1,500 homes. Here the Wavebob, a buoy system capable of capturing the ocean's power in the form of offshore swells is pictured.

Plant Your Roof

It's a wonder that this concept attributed to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of Seven Wonders of the World, didn't catch on sooner in the modern world. Roof gardens help absorb heat, reduce the carbon dioxide impact by taking up CO2 and giving off oxygen, absorb storm water, and reduce summer air conditioning usage. Ultimately, the technique could lessen the "heat island" effect that occurs in urban centers.

Humans’ Little Helpers

Bio-remediation uses microbes and plants to clean up contamination. Examples include the clean-up of nitrates from contaminated water with the help of microbes, and using plants to uptake arsenic from contaminated soil  in a process known as phytoremediation.


Bury The Hatchet


Carbon dioxide is the most prominent greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. According to the Energy Information Administration, by the year 2030 we will be emitting close to 8,000 million metric tons of CO2. One suggested method of disposal of this gas is to inject it into the ground before it gets a chance to reach the atmosphere. After the CO2 is separated from other emission gases, it can be buried in abandoned oil wells, saline reservoirs, and rocks.

Paper Pioneering

Imagine curling up on the couch with the morning paper and then using the same sheet of paper to read the latest novel by your favorite author. That's one possibility of electronic paper, a flexible display that looks very much like real paper but can be reused over and over. The display contains many tiny micro-capsules filled with particles that carry electric charges bonded to a steel foil. Each micro-capsule has white and black particles that are associated with either a positive or negative charge. Depending on which charge is applied; the black or white particles surface displaying different patterns.



Oil and gas discoveries around the world dropped last year to their lowest since the 1940s after companies sharply cut back in their search for new resources amid falling oil prices.The decline in discoveries means companies such as Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell will struggle to offset the natural depletion of existing fields, reinforcing forecasts of a supply shortage by the end of the decade. Total oil and gas resources found in 2016 reached just more than 6 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe), said Sona Mlada, senior analyst at Oslo-based consultancy Rystad Energy.

The numbers do not include North American shale resources which have been a key driver in supply growth in recent years. Offshore liquid discoveries, where most major new fields have been found in recent decades, reached 2.3 billion boe last year, 90 percent below 2010 levels. As a result, companies were able on average to replace only 10 percent of their oil and liquid gas reserves last year, compared with a reserve replacement ratio of 30 percent in 2013. "The lack of discovered volumes in 2016 will not have an immediate impact on the global oil supply in the short-term, given the lead time it takes from the discovery to start-up of a field's production," Mlada said. "However, these 'missing' discovered volumes in the current years could have an impact on the global supply some 10 years down the line – depending on the investment decisions of the exploration companies." Several significant discoveries were announced in recent weeks including Exxon's find of 100-150 million boe offshore Guyana and Statoil's 80 million boe discovery off Norway.

Global exploration spending dropped in 2016 to $40 billion and could drop further this year, consultancy WoodMackenzie said last month. As a result, the number of exploration wells drilled dropped last year by 40 percent from levels seen in 2014 when oil prices began the sharp decline, according to Mlada. Around 60 percent of resources discoveries made last year were gas, she added.

SOURCE: Reuters

The fluid used during fracking is 99.5 percent water and sand. Fracking uses hundreds of chemicals during its process, but most are biodegradable and can be found in anyone’s home. Sodium chloride and Guar gum are both used in fracking; sodium chloride is also commonly known as table salt and Guar gum is found in ice cream. Opponents of the fracking process like to blow up the internet claiming harsh chemicals are used and leak into the ground causing environmental harm. They also believe the industry tries to hide what chemicals are used from the public because they have ulterior motives. In reality, there is a national fracking chemical disclosure registry online called FracFocus which is available to the public. This website allows people to easily see the chemicals used in the process and explains in detail why each one is used.  It also offers the option of searching for wells near you to see a list of the chemicals used at that site. According to the website; FracFocus is continually updating information and adding more participating companies and reported wells from across the country.


Fracking companies aren’t hiding anything from the public. On the websites home page, they recently announced the release of disclosure data to the public in a machine readable (SQL format). This means all you have to do is click a button to download a file that contains the entire disclosure database. Recently the website updated to FracFocus 3.0; a system designed to expand search records, improve accuracy and update educational information on chemical use, oil and gas production and potential environmental impacts. This new system dramatically enhances the sites functionality for the public and state regulatory agencies. The fracking industry isn’t hiding anything; the FracFocus website alone is making sure their information is easy to read and accessible to everyone.

Record levels of oil and gas properties changed hands last year with the industry's bad times seemingly behind it and oil prices on the upswing. All that deal activity - mostly between private and public companies - may lead to some mid-sized publicly traded companies being in play in 2017 as larger companies look to boost their development prospects and free cash flows.

Gabriele Sorbara, who follows the oil and gas exploration and production industry at Williams Capital Group LP, thinks the most likely targets are the ones situated in the core areas of the Permian, Anadarko and Appalachian Basins -- and to a lesser extent in the Eagle Ford, Bakken and Niobrara plays. In his coverage area, he names five companies as the best takeout targets given their running room across key resource areas -- and their cheap stock prices.

The first is Energen Corp. (NYSE:EGN), which operates in the heart of West Texas' and New Mexico's Permian Basin. The company is expected to expand its production by 20% per year over the next three years but inexplicably trades below its peers. It also has $1.5 billion in liquidity with which to execute, which could be boosted if it sheds its Central Basin assets for what Sorbara thinks could fetch $600 million.

His second pick is Laredo Petroleum Inc. (NYSE:LPI), which also has oil and gas properties in the Permian. There's a bit of an overhang on its stock as it also owns infrastructure assets, including 49% of the Medallion Pipeline in the Midland Basin, which could be spun off into a master limited partnership or sold. Private equity firm Warburg Pincus also holds about a third of its shares.

The third possibility is Newfield Exploration NFX +1.69% Co., which owns properties in the Anadarko and Arkoma basins of Oklahoma as well as the Williston Basin of North Dakota, the Uinta Basin of Utah and off the coast of China. The company has ample liquidity of $2.3 billion, which could be supplemented with the sale of noncore assets (it sold all of its Texas assets this past summer for $390 million). But the stock trades at a 6Permian Basin players given its stacked-pay resource potential in the Anadarko Basin.

The analyst's fourth pick is PDC Energy Inc. (NASDAQ:PDCE), which operates mainly in the Permian's Delaware Basin, where it recently expanded via the acquisition of two oil companies from Kimmeridge Energy Management Co. for $1.5 billion. It also has strong assets in the Wattenberg Niobrara and the Utica Shale, which could be sold to generate funds to plug in elsewhere. Sorbara thinks the stock should trade higher than its Niobrara peers given its Delaware properties. Newfield Exploration NFX +1.69%

A fifth prospect is SM Energy Inc. (NYSE:SM), which has properties in the high growth, high-margin Midland Basin, where it has expanded over the last year with $2.58 billion worth of purchases from Riverstone Holdings LLC-backed Rock Oil Holdings LLC and EnCap Investments LP-backed QStar LLC. Sorbara says the company deserves a higher valuation, especially now that it's agreed to jettison its Eagle Ford assets to KKR & Co. LP (NYSE:KKR)-backed Venado Oil & Gas LLC for $800 million. It sold its Williston Basin assets last month to Oasis Petroleum Inc. (NYSE:OAS) for $765.8 million.



drill crew banner


Now we’re getting to the group of workers who are regarded as the “face” of the offshore drilling industry – the drilling crew. They are legendary not only because of the extremely physically demanding job that they do on the rig but also because of the shenanigans they are known to get up to when they aren’t on the rig. If there’s a drill crew stuck in town during a cyclone/hurricane evacuation then you can bet there’s going to be a lot of alcohol drunk and crazy antics performed while they sit the storm out. These guys are not only known for their hard work but also their hard drinking. While times are definitely changing, especially with the introduction of “zero tolerance” policies regarding alcohol and unsafe behavior, the drill crew still take pride in living up to their reputation of being tough both on the job and off it. They really are the lifeblood of the rig and the larger-than-life personalities of many of the people who work on the drillfloor make for interesting dynamics in the workplace. Most of the senior drill crew members have worked offshore all their working life and have known nothing else but working and playing hard. If you’re a quiet and sensitive kind of guy…then you don’t belong in a drilling crew!


Despite this, there has been a subtle shift over recent years with the hardest workers also being the more health conscious on the rig and spending their off-tour time working out in the gym. With such a macho reputation to live up to it’s important to also look the part! Physical fitness is a very important aspect of a roughneck’s job and staying in shape while on the rig is made more convenient now with all new rigbuilds seeing the importance of providing first class fitness facilities on the rigs. It’s also a common sight to see buckets of protein powders on the shelves in the galley as rig workers who are serious about their “gains” bring their muscle-building supplements to work with them. It’s like a sub-culture within a culture that already demands a high level of physical fitness and resilience.


So what are the roles performed by the drilling crew? Lets take a look at them now, starting with the least experienced workers in the crew, the roughnecks.






Roughnecks generally get their job through one of two channels:

  1. Being promoted from a roustabout position after starting on the rig with no, or minimum, experience in the drilling industry.
  2. Being employed with some experience in the drilling industry after working on land rigs. There is a lot more to offshore drilling than what there is on land rigs so even if a person has a lot of experience onshore they will still generally have to start at the beginning again when they go offshore.


Depending on the amount of previous relevant experience you had before joining the offshore drilling crew you could progress up the ranks quite quickly after getting a start as a roughneck. However, with each promotion up the ladder comes much higher responsibilities and many people prefer not to take on these more mentally demanding roles and are happy to stay a roughneck.


The main role of a roughneck is to assist in all areas of the drilling operations with the majority of their time being spent on the drillfloor. Everything on the drillfloor is very heavy and/or under very high pressures, making it one of the most dangerous places on the rig. There is always something being run in the hole or being pulled out of the hole and the roughnecks are responsible for the physical work that is needed to get this done. The driller operates the movement of the suspended drillstring but it’s up to the roughnecks to maneuver the tubulars while connecting and disconnecting additional stands of drillpipe/casing/riser etc. Through all stages of the operation the roughnecks are involved in the manual handling of all drilling and specialist equipment.


Safety equipment is always evolving to minimize the dangers to drillfloor personnel through automation of many of the most hazardous tasks involved in the drilling process but stringent safety guidelines still have to be adhered to. While machines like “iron roughnecks” are now commonly used to assist in pipe connections it’s still paramount to always be aware of your surroundings. No amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves and hard hat, are going to save you from being crushed to death if you’re standing in the wrong place when something “lets go” on the drillfloor. Unpredictable occurrences like equipment malfunctions and downhole instability can happen at any time and have been the cause of many deaths in the industry over the years.


drill floor


Many of the later generation rigs will have wireless communications between the driller and the roughnecks while performing operations on the drillfloor. Clear communication is essential to getting the job done quickly and safely and wireless headsets are becoming the norm now in many offshore operations. With the driller operating from a room off to the side of the drillfloor it’s necessary to communicate with the workers on the drillfloor via loudspeaker, with key personnel commonly also having wireless headsets so they are able to communicate directly with the driller.


Being the workhorses of the drilling crew means the roughnecks don’t generally make any of the decisions - they just have to follow the orders. Having a high degree of commonsense and being able to communicate clearly are key qualities that a roughneck must have. Like roustabouts, the roughnecks are generally sourced from a relatively local workforce in the city closest to where the rig is operating. The more experienced they become, the more likely they are to get promoted to the next position in rank, which is generally the position of “derrickman”.




derrick man


The term “derrickman” was originally coined because one of their main tasks was to work up in the derrick of the rig and help maneuver the drill pipe in and out of the hole. This job was done from a platform high up in the derrick known as the “monkey board”. This is still carried out today on many of the older rigs but the later generation rigs now have sophisticated pipe handling machines that automate a lot of these practices.


The derrickman’s position is where the “brain” starts taking over from the “brawn”. While still performing very physically demanding tasks, the derrickman now has a lot more responsibility than that of a roughneck and roustabout. As well as helping run and retrieve drillstring sections from the well bore either from aloft in the derrick or on the drillfloor, he is also responsible for monitoring and maintaining all the drilling fluid systems and equipment associated with the drilling of the well.


One of the most critical factors in the drilling of any offshore oil and gas well is the drilling fluid that is used to facilitate well bore stability and also to lift the drilled rock cuttings to the surface for analysis. The drilling fluid is commonly referred to as “mud” and it is a delicately balanced blend of chemicals and liquids with properties designed to optimize the drilling process. This mud is contained within a closed circuit throughout the drilling process and monitoring it is critical to the successful drilling of the well. Not only do the properties of the mud have to be maintained but the volumes of the mud going in and coming out of the well have to be meticulously monitored to make sure the well isn’t taking, or giving, any extra fluids. Catastrophic events can follow either of those two situations if they aren’t caught quickly enough. The Deepwater Horizon catastrophe occurred after an undetected increase in flow of the drilling fluid came out of the well. This was in direct response to hydrocarbons escaping uncontrollably from the bottom of the well, which eventually caused the devastating “blowout” that resulted in the deaths of 12 rig workers, the sinking of the rig, and the historical environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.


The start location for the drilling mud is in the pit room, which is housed in a level below the drillfloor. While most onshore drilling rigs may only have 1 to 3 pits for mud, an offshore rig can have dozens of separate pits for storing mud for all contingencies, with each pit containing mud of differing properties. These pits contain sensors for recording the volumes in each pit and these volumes are monitored by the derrickman. If he sees any discrepancies in the readings then he has to notify the driller immediately. (Many other people on the rig also monitor the pit levels, as you will see later in this series).




From the pit room, the mud is pumped via the mud pumps into the well, down the drillpipe, and then circulated back out to the surface. Once it reaches the surface it exits the flowline over a set of vibrating shaker screens that sieve the rock cuttings from the drilling fluid so the mud can then be re-used back down the hole. The rock cuttings are centrifuged to recover as much of the mud as possible for reuse. The derrickman is responsible for the monitoring of this entire circuit of the drilling fluid. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of the drilling mud is an important part of the derrickman’s duties, as is the safe and efficient running of all the equipment involved in the process. Neglecting to see the warning signs of disequilibrium in the mud system can lead to catastrophic consequences…and very quickly. You can start to understand now why some roughnecks just prefer to stay roughnecks! In reality though, it’s not just the responsibility of the derrickman to keep an eye on the mud status but also that of many other people further up the line of command, as we will see in future articles. And the next person further along that line of command is the Assistant Driller.


Assistant Driller


The assistant driller (AD) has worked his way up from either the roughneck or roustabout position and competently performed the role of a derrickman before getting promoted to officially start training as a driller. He will work from the doghouse (the room the driller works from on the drillfloor) and will generally answer all phone and radio calls so the driller isn’t disturbed from the serious business of drilling the well. The drillfloor is usually a very busy place and the AD acts as an intermediary between the driller and more senior supervisors, and the derrickman and roughnecks. He will get trained in all aspects of well control but will not have the powers to act on any well control issues without being instructed to do so by the driller or more senior personnel. Like the derrickman, the AD has to closely monitor the mud pits and alert the driller if there are any signs of gains or losses in the mud system.

All personnel from the assistant driller level and up have to have a current well control certification. The well control course is held over five days and the ticket is valid for 2 years. The entire 5-day course has to be repeated every time you need to be recertified.


Given the amount of experience needed to attain an assistant driller position, it is quite common for the AD’s to be kept on for future drilling campaigns should the rig transit to a different country. The drilling company has had to invest a lot of time and money into training these members of the drill crew so they tend to hold onto them for as long as they can. Once they are deemed capable and competent, they can be promoted to the driller’s chair at the next opportunity.






The driller probably has one of the least physically demanding jobs on the rig but one of the most mentally demanding jobs. While the drillers of days gone past would stand on their feet all day controlling “the brake” in a ramshackle corrugated tin shack, the operators on modern rigs are now “cyber” drillers and control the whole drilling operations from a huge comfortable chair with joystick controls, in an air-conditioned room complete with coffee making facilities. Generally the only time they get out of the chair during their 12-hour shift is when they go for meal breaks.


The driller has the authority to take evasive action should he detect a serious well control issue that requires the well to be “shut in”. The reaction time to detection and taking action may only be a matter of seconds so he has to have the knowledge and competency to be able to do whatever is needed to control the well. For this reason, it’s essential that the driller isn’t distracted with tasks that the assistant driller can otherwise take care of.


Along with the added responsibility comes the paperwork. The driller is responsible for filling in a mandatory IADC (International Association of Drilling Contractors) report every day which is a record of all matters pertaining to the drilling of the well for the two 12-hour shifts each day. The assistant driller and toolpusher will generally contribute to this requirement and between the three of them they will make sure all necessary activities are recorded after their shift has ended. These reports are submitted to a governing body and kept as a permanent record of the activities performed on the rig, regardless of the operations.


All drillers have worked their way up through the ranks so will generally have a minimum of several years of offshore experience. Because of the level of experience, and the cost in time and money it has taken to get them to this position, they will nearly always be permanent employees of the drilling contractor company. Once they have gained sufficient experience as a driller the next position up the chain of command is the drillfloor supervisor, or “toolpusher”.




The toolpusher is the supervisor that all the drilling crew reports to. He oversees all aspects of the drilling operations and is the intermediary between the drilling crew and the rig manager (OIM) and the Company Man. There will generally be a dayshift and nightshift toolpusher, and sometimes an additional senior toolpusher in large operations. The toolpusher will spend most of his time in the doghouse assisting the driller during critical times of the drilling operations and when things are quiet on the drillfloor you’ll find him in an office in the accommodation quarters filling in paperwork and replying to emails. As with any job, the higher up the food chain you get, the less physical work you have to do but get overloaded with additional responsibilities and administrative tasks.


The computer age has well and truly hit the offshore drilling industry, with computer systems controlling all aspects of the drilling operations on modern offshore rigs. There are dozens of sensors placed all over the rig, monitoring all aspects of the drilling operations. Voluminous amounts of data are collected from sensors that record drilling parameters (such as torque on pipe, overpull, hook height, rate of penetration, drillpipe revs, weight on bit, etc.), circulating mud properties (pump rate, mud temperature in and out of the hole, mud weight, circulating density, static density, gas content, etc.) and also sensors that detect gas and other contaminants in the air that have been circulated out of the well. Computer systems all over the rig monitor the outputs of these sensors and alarms will warn of changes in parameters or outputs that can be signals of unfavorable conditions. Daily reports have to be produced by all departments and the data collected all over the rig is used to monitor the progress of the drilling operations. The toolpusher has to make sure all of these monitoring capabilities are operative and manage the ongoing maintenance and operation of all rig data collection equipment.


Most of the computerized systems only record data and warn of any possible dangers, with human intervention needed to take evasive action. However, there are also automated systems that initiate evasive action should dangerous situations be detected. One of these is the Deadman Auto Shear (DMAS) that can activate the closing of the  shear rams on the blowout preventer (BOPs) automatically, based on too high pressure or excessive flow. While the toolpusher has to make sure all these systems are operative, the responsibility of maintaining and operating these systems falls under the workscope of the Subsea department, which will get explained in the next part of this series of articles.


There’s only one more person on the rig that holds a higher position than the toolpusher within the drilling crew and that is the OIM.


Offshore Installation Manager (OIM)


The OIM is responsible for all the personnel on the rig and for the safe drilling of the well. The buck stops with him in regards to any drilling, machinery or personnel issues on the rig that fall under the drilling contractors responsibilities. He is the big daddy of report writing and will spend most of his day working in his office fulfilling mandatory reporting requirements, answering phone calls, replying to emails and attending meetings. Together with the Company Man, the OIM must be consulted before any procedural changes can be made on the rig.


The OIM will generally have worked his way up the ranks from a roustabout or roughneck position and will have decades of experience in the offshore drilling industry. In emergency situations the fate of the rig, and all people working on it, will ultimately be his responsibility. There is only ever one OIM on board – one of the few positions on a rig that doesn’t have a dayshift and nightshift representative.




In the following articles I’ll explain all the remaining roles that the drilling contractor undertakes, such as that of the marine crew and electrical and mechanical tradespeople. It takes an extremely well coordinated specialist workforce to keep the drilling operations running smoothly and safely 24 hours a day for 365 days of the year. Stay tuned!


Don’t forget to supply any feedback or questions you may have about anything in this article or the previous ones. With so many countries and nationalities involved in drilling of an offshore well it’s impossible to cover all the details and specific job titles because they differ from region to region. I’m attempting to give you a general overview in these articles of the typical offshore rig environment. I hope it helps give you a better understanding of what it’s like to work offshore.



If you have only just tuned in to Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE then you can find Part 1 of this series of articles here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.




Amanda Barlow is a wellsite geologist in the offshore oil and gas industry with a field-based geology career spanning over three decades. As well as being a recreational marathoner who has run over 40 marathons in 16 different countries she is also a published author of two books: “Call of the Jungle – How a Camping-Hating City-Slicker Mum Survived an Ultra Endurance Marathon through the Amazon Jungle” and also “An Inconvenient Life – My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist”. You can connect with her through the Pink Petro community, LinkedIn: or through her Facebook page:

Exxon Mobil Corporation announced Wednesday a new natural gas discovery in the Papua New Guinea North Highlands, 13 miles northwest of the Hides Gas Field.

The Muruk-1 well encountered similar high-quality sandstone reservoirs as the Hides field and was in line with pre-drill expectations, according to an Exxon statement. The well was safely drilled to 10,630 feet, with evaluations currently underway to determine the size of the discovery.

“We are excited by the results of the Muruk-1 exploration well, which confirms the presence of hydrocarbons in the same high-quality sandstone reservoirs as the Hides field that underpins the PNG LNG project,” said Steve Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company.

“Over the coming months we will work with our co-venturers to better determine the full resource potential,” he added.

“ExxonMobil has been involved in exploration in Papua New Guinea since the 1930s. The Muruk exploration success demonstrates the strength of ExxonMobil’s long-term investment approach and reaffirms its commitment to Papua New Guinea,” Greenlee concluded.

Drilling operations at the Muruk-1 well began on Nov. 2. The well is located in petroleum prospecting license 402, which covers 126,000 acres.

Interest owners in the well are ExxonMobil (42.5 percent), Oil Search Limited (37.5 percent) and Barracuda Limited, a subsidiary of Santos Limited (20 percent, subject to regulatory approval), with Oil Search as operator.

Source : Rigzone


Community members


This week's meeting in Davos is an important one.  


Stay tuned to our picks each day for topics relevant to women, energy, digital and the future of work on Pink Petro TV   The full set of meetings and blogs can be found here: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 | World Economic Forum 


Of course we hope to see you all at the HERWorld Energy Forum on March 8. 

It’s no secret that the energy industry is currently in a downturn, which means plenty of qualified, capable, and skilled employees are now unemployed and actively searching for new opportunities.


Of course, there are things you know you need to do when you’re job hunting—like polishing your resume and preparing yourself for any upcoming interviews, for example. But, many eager candidates want to go beyond that bare minimum and do whatever they can to continue improving their competitive standing and keep their skills sharp.


Needless to say, this makes today’s “Dear Kat” question an important one:


Dear Kat, Thanks to the downturn, I’ve been out of work for several months. I’m doing what I can to find work, but I still worry that this period of unemployment will cause me to look unengaged in my career—like I’m content to coast until I find my next opportunity. Do you have any suggestions for how I can continue to stay professionally active and involved, even when I’m riding the wave of this downturn?


This is a great question! And, I’ll offer tons of kudos and plenty of virtual high-fives to anybody who’s interested in staying on top of their game—even when they don’t necessarily have to.


Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to keep yourself sharp (and continue building an impressive resume), even when you’re unemployed. Let’s cover just a few of them.


1. Join Professional Associations

Whether you’re currently employed or not, networking remains important. And, one of the best ways to stay connected when you’re out of work is to join various professional associations.


Maybe there’s a local chapter for professionals in your area. Or, perhaps you want to join a national industry group (ahem, much like Pink Petro!) to connect with other like-minded people who are familiar with the type of work you do (and, thus, might have more beneficial connections and advice to offer).


Do some research to identify some associations that you’d be interested in joining. Not only will it give you the chance to expand your network and shake hands with some new people, but it’ll also be a solid addition to your resume.


2. Volunteer Your Time

Volunteering is another effective way to meet new connections, beef up your resume, and maybe even learn some new skills.


When you think of volunteering, things like helping out at places like homeless shelters might be the first things to pop into mind. And, true, those are great and generous uses of your time!


But, you can also offer your time for volunteer opportunities that are more career relevant. For example, perhaps you can offer to speak to a college class. Or, maybe you can join a nonprofit board that would benefit from your expertise.



Chances are, you have some additional spare time on your hands right now. So, donate it to worthy (and maybe even career-boosting!) causes, and you’ll be in impressive shape for any future interviews.


3. Polish Your LinkedIn Profile

You know you need to keep your resume polished up and ready to go when you’re job searching. But, think about it: The only people who really see that are the potential employers you send it to.


Your LinkedIn profile, on the other hand? That’s out there for pretty much anyone to take a look at. Think of it as your digital first impression. Plus, LinkedIn is a great way to network with people who aren’t in your immediate geographical area.


So, don’t neglect to keep your profile updated. Ensure you have a professional photo that clearly shows your face, optimize your headline to make it clear you’re searching for your next opportunity, and craft an impressive summary. Trust me, when a possible employer or a new networking connection looks at your profile, you’ll be glad you took the time!


4. Learn New Skills

Using your free time to pick up a few new skills is also a great way to boost your reputation when you’re actively seeking a new role.


Whether you want to read a book that’s been on your list for ages, sign up for a class, or even participate in an online course or webinar, there are plenty of ways that you can add to your skillset—even when you aren’t working.


It’ll keep you feeling sharp and qualified, while also giving you that much more value you can bring to the table for prospective employers. It’s a win-win.



There’s no doubt that keeping your chin up during a downturn can be challenging. But, if you’re smart, you’ll find some ways to continuously improve your professional reputation, whether you’re currently working or not.


Put these four tips into play, and you’re to keep your skills sharp—allowing you to approach your job hunt with that much more confidence.

Born in Nigeria, Yetunde Okediji is no stranger to the energy industry. While she spent her late elementary to early high school years in Nigeria, she views the Fort Worth, TX area home—it’s where she’s lived the majority of her life.


Having obtained a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering and a Master of Science in Natural Gas Engineering and Management—both from the University of Oklahoma—she’s managed to create a career that we can only describe in one word: Impressive.


We chatted with Yetunde to find out more about her background, how she’s coping in the downturn, and what exactly she’s setting her sights on next.

Forging Her Path

Yetunde says her career really started with her first internship with Schlumberger as a Field Engineer Intern in Graham, TX. “It confirmed to me that I had chosen the right field of study and would enjoy working in the oil and gas industry,” she explains.

From there, she added numerous other internships to her resume, including positions with Phillips Petroleum, ConocoPhillips, and Devon Energy.


But, it was with ConocoPhillips where her career got its full-time start. She joined the team in 2007 and spent her first year rotating through four different technology teams: Reservoir Engineering, LNG, Production Engineering, and Drilling Engineering.


With that varied experience under her belt, she set her sights on a career as a Production Engineer. “I chose to work as a Production Engineer because it allowed me to work on projects that had an immediate problem,” she shares, “I could research solutions, implement the best one, and generally see results in a ‘short’ timeframe. I could start and finish a project and have the satisfaction of knowing its impact.”


During her time there, one particular accomplishment sticks out in Yetunde’s mind. “The accomplishment that I am most proud of from ConocoPhillips is increasing the production from one of my routes by 10%,” she explains, “It was an area that the reservoir engineer thought we should abandon or sell. But, by working closely with the operations team, we were able to turn things around through workovers and artificial lift optimization.”


After working with ConocoPhillips  in the South Texas Asset, supporting operations for onshore tight gas fields, Yetunde moved on to a position with Chevron in 2012 to work in their South Texas Field Management Team as a Senior Production Engineer. “Although the fields were very close in proximity to the ConocoPhillips South Texas assets, they were managed very differently and I grew a lot in the transition,” she adds.


Due to her skills, positive attitude, and strong work ethic, Yetunde was quickly promoted to Lead Production Engineer in early 2014, which expanded her role to include more strategic and cross-functional team responsibilities.


From there, Yetunde held a few other positions with Chevron, including her final role as a Van Team Lead. “I worked in a supervisory position where I managed a group of petroleum engineers and expanded by business planning role,” she says.


While at Chevron, she was also familiarized with the concept of Lean Six Sigma and became a Green Belt Facilitator and Champion, contributing $750,000 in accrued financial benefit during her last two years.

Making the Most of the Downturn

Needless to say, Yetunde’s experience and history in the energy industry is vast and impressive. However, that didn’t mean that she was immune to the effects of the downturn. She’s currently in transition and seeking a new petroleum engineering position.


While the downturn is undoubtedly disheartening, Yetunde is doing her best to make the most of it—and she advises that others do the same as well.


“I was laid off from Chevron in April 2016. Since then, I have actively participated in various job search networks and training. Use the time in transition to grow—assess your strengths and development areas and pick an area to enhance during this time,” she advises.


In Yetunde’s case, she began volunteering with the Society of Petroleum Engineers Gulf Coast Section and began working on the Member-in-Transition committee as a secretary and a Job Search Work Team coordinator.


She’s also using this time to beef up her professional skills. She took the Petroleum Engineering PE exam in October, and is looking forward to getting her results in December. She’s also working on taking a Project Management Professional (PMP) prep course and hopes to receive that certification in the first quarter of 2017. “I believe that receiving my PE license and PMP certification will support my experience and show my level of expertise, giving me a competitive advantage during my job search,” she shares.


Regardless of what professional ambitions you choose to pursue, Yetunde thinks it’s important to view the downturn as an opportunity, rather than a roadblock. “Keep your head up and strategically get out of the house!” she says, “Almost all the people that I have met who have found jobs got those jobs through their immediate or extended network. The best advice I received after my layoff was to order some business cards and start attending networking events.”


She recommends becoming an active participant in groups such as the Pay-It-Forward Network and, of course, Pink Petro, to continue growing your web of professional contacts.


“The biggest question so many ask is whether they should ‘wait it out’,” Yetunde explains, “Ultimately, it’s a personal choice. But, staying connected with organizations that understand the importance of your talent and find ways to support and grow you will benefit us all during our ‘sabbatical’ from the industry.”

Finding Pink Petro

It was that desire to stay connected with supportive organizations that led Yetunde to Pink Petro. “After re-establishing my LinkedIn account, I read a post about the OTC Women’s Forum hosted by Pink Petro,” she shares, “I attended much of that forum and then attended the HERWorld Connect Forum to draft a response to the World Economic Forum call to action on ending the gender gap later that week. They were both very powerful events where I learned a lot and gained some insight into myself as well.”


With such a moving introduction to Pink Petro, Yetunde has continued to be excited about what the organization provides. “Through Pink Petro, I’ve met people who have helped me during my job search and opened my eyes to alternative career paths—one connected me to a job for which I interviewed, another worked with me as a career coach, and others have shared their career journeys and given an encouraging word,” she says. She also thinks the events calendar is a great feature to help you with that oh-so-important process of staying connected in the industry.


She adds, “Pink Petro is an organization that I believe women in transition should join.”

Coming Down the Pipeline

Moving forward, Yetunde plans to continue taking steps in the right direction in order to land a new position. “My highest near-term goal is to return to the workforce soon,” she says, “I’m looking forward to leading in a company that has an internal call to action in bridging the gender gap in all levels of their organization, especially upper management.”


Needless to say, with her awesome history, her positive attitude, and her ceaseless drive to continuously improve herself, we’re more than confident that Yetunde will ride the waves of this downturn and come out even better than before.


We’re looking forward to watching you continue to change the industry and the world for the better, Yetunde!

We're All In 'Deepwater's

Posted by latikasharma Jan 14, 2017

Last night I finally took the time out to watch Deepwater Horizon, Peter Berg's "kinda cool" 2016 movie on the eponymous disaster that no one in the oil industry can ever forget. Some people have complained that the movie used too much jargon to be cinema comfortable, but in my opinion, it was all necessary to show how the real impact was not due to the blowout itself, but the destruction of the entire rig resulting from a failure in operation, activation and working of several integral safety and defense systems. Even that "techie talk", as it has been called on some platforms, could not fully explain the complete scenario, and with my techie antenna tingling, I decided to do some online research on the incident.


One of the prominent questions in my mind was why the 54 feet blowout preventer, installed for the express purpose of staving off the sudden, uncontrolled release of oil and gas from a well, failed to do its job. The New York Times article appearing immediately after the tragedy and telling the entire horrifying story with astounding detail shows us that there were mistakes (that, in lack of a disaster, would probably have been minor enough to go unnoticed) at every step of the way: from ignoring ominous negative pressure test results to well trained crew members failing to respond accurately and immediately due to no previous example of anything other than minor and major kicks from the well before, and hesitation in fear of overreaction. We also cannot forget that Macondo was known as the "well from hell" before it blew up, so the tricky geological puzzles of the region also made for one unprecedented situation.


They say if you asked 50 experts why the Deepwater oil rig blew up, you will get 50 different answers. Clearly, it was a confluence of events, and not one single thing; but the one area pretty much everyone agrees on was the issue with the cement pour at the bottom of the well, which often leads people to reprimand BP for cutting corners. But even when at least one crew member testified to pushing the emergency shut down button, why did the blind shear ram fail to close the well and prevent a large scale disaster? Was it instrumental damage? Was it lack of surveying with regards to proper maintenance? Was it human error? Or was it, by that time, simply too late?


Perhaps we shall never know who or what is truly at fault, but let the assignment of blame be the objective of courtrooms and settlement meetings. Even after extensive regeneration efforts, strategies and plans, experts predict that in several ecological and natural ways, the Gulf will never be the same again. The tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill serves as a reminder of their responsibility to all working and aspiring professionals of the oil and gas industry, and as an example of the enormous domino-like impact even slight mistakes can have in our chosen vocation. It is on our shoulders that the weight of this incident rests in the end, because it is upto each and every one of us to understand the paramount importance of safety and prudence "on the job" and ensure that such history is never repeated.

Part 4 Banner


Now that we’ve covered the comfy aspects of working offshore…like the free food and gym…it’s time to get serious about what people actually do on an oil rig. The reason the “off-tour” facilities are so good is because when you are “on-tour” you work bloody hard! When you are working 12+ hours every day for up to 28 days straight then you don’t have much spare time to be doing cooking, cleaning and washing.


When people hear the term “oil rig workers” the mental picture that immediately comes to mind is that of roughnecks throwing tongs and slips around the drill pipe on the drill floor. Without a doubt, this would be the most dangerous and physically demanding job on an offshore oil rig, and the one the public most commonly associates with the drilling industry. While the drilling crews are the “face” of the industry they are just a small part of the total workforce that contributes to the successful drilling of each and every well drilled offshore.


In this article I’ll start breaking down the workforce and explaining all the different roles that are performed offshore. Starting with the drilling contracting company that owns the rig I’ll list, and explain, all the job titles and what they involve. Because many of the senior personnel on any rig have normally worked their way up through the ranks of the company, it makes sense to start at the entry-level positions and work our way up to the top roles. The role titles may change from rig to rig but the following list is a guide of the more common ones. This article will cover the deck crew and what they do.





The roustabouts are generally the least experienced and least skilled workers on the rig. It is the entry-level position for most people who start working on a rig who don’t have any formal profession or trade. Generally a rigging background is an advantage because their main job is helping to move equipment around the decks.


Roustabouts have the most exposure to the weather than any other workers on the rig as they generally spend their entire 12-hour shift working on the open deck areas. With the extreme remoteness of drilling locations also come extremes of climate. It’s all too common to be working in conditions of extreme heat, extreme cold, extreme winds and/or extremely rough seas so you definitely need to have a tough skin and be physically fit. According to Wikipedia: “An early 2010 survey by of the best and worst jobs — based on five criteria: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress — rated 'roustabout' as the worst job. Nonetheless, the anecdotal and subjective experience of an actual roustabout reveals the excitement of a challenging, adventurous job.” If this is where you are starting off your career in the oil and gas industry then I guess it can only get better!


Given the limited amount of deck space on an offshore rig, only equipment that’s needed for immediate operations are stored on the deck while other equipment is stored on nearby supply boats. There’s always a transfer of equipment going on between the supply boats and the rig and overhead heavy crane lifts are one of the most dangerous hazards that everyone has to watch out for while working offshore. Many deaths have occurred over the years from people mindlessly putting themselves at risk by being underneath a suspended load. It is essential at all times that everyone walking around the decks watches out for overhead loads and stays outside the perimeter of where the load could fall should the suspension cables fail.




Because roustabouts don’t require any previous skills they are generally sourced from the closest mainland base to where the rig is drilling offshore. With most countries these days requiring by law that international oil companies utilize a “Local Content” policy, the drilling company will usually source their unskilled laborers from the local national workforce. Because of this, roustabouts are one of the most transient work groups on an offshore rig. With most exploration wells, the roustabouts only stay on the rig for the duration of the drilling campaign (which could be just a few months up to a few years) and if the rig then goes to another country for the next contract then the roustabouts will be laid off and new ones sourced at the next location. Because of this fact, many roustabouts are employed through labor hire companies. In places where the producing fields are well established and long-term drilling is always being undertaken (for example many appraisal and development/production wells), the work continuity for roustabouts would be much more stable. Places like the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea are two examples of this.


Like everyone who works outside the accommodation quarters, roustabouts have to adhere to the strict personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements. Basic mandatory requirements for PPE for workers on the deck include: hard hat, safety glasses, ear plugs, long sleeve shirt, long pants, (or coveralls), steel-capped work boots and impact gloves. This can vary from rig to rig but most rigs these days will have these as minimum mandatory PPE. For rigs drilling in equatorial and sub-equatorial regions there is an added personal safety risk of people succumbing to heat illnesses because of these PPE requirements. Heat stroke can have fatal consequences and it’s sometimes very hard to detect in workers as they will not want to be seen to be slacking off in their duties so will work through the signs of heat exhaustion until it escalates to heat stroke, by which time it can already have irreversible effects on the body. There are many ways of managing this and supervisors need to be very aware of how the climatic conditions can be affecting the workers and use mitigating strategies to avoid the serious consequences of heat illnesses.


The roustabouts also oversee the helicopter operations. Whenever a chopper is due on deck they will be called into action to assist in ensuring the safety of incoming passengers disembarking, outgoing passengers boarding the aircraft, and the safe loading and unloading of bags and freight. They can also be required to refuel the chopper while it is on the deck, if necessary. The engines and rotors are rarely shut down and all operations are completed “on the fly”. Accordingly, all tasks are undertaken with urgency and precision and follow a very strictly orchestrated routine.


While many roustabouts never aspire to be anything but a general laborer on the rig, many others use this start as a springboard to further their career in the industry and work their way up the ranks to a more senior drilling crew position.


Crane Operators


cranes collage


After the all-imposing derrick, the massive cranes are the most identifying features on any offshore drilling rig. All rigs have at least two large cranes but many will have three or even four. Every piece of equipment offshore is heavy. Even the drill bits need to be lifted to the drill floor by cranes. Fifty tonne pedestal cranes are a heavy piece of equipment and deserve to be treated with respect. Being the workhorses of the rig means they are in constant use and therefore one of the highest areas for potential safety hazards. Regularly scheduled preventative maintenance is critical, as is having highly experienced people operating them.


Offshore crane operators have to be highly experienced to be able to handle the unusual work conditions. Unlike land-based crane operators who have a stationary worksite they are operating on, offshore operators have to deal with the motion of the vessel they are setting down and picking up from. There are six types of motion that a ship, or floating vessel, can experience and they are broken down into two categories, linear and rotational, and these each have three components to them.


Linear Motion

HEAVE – the linear vertical (up/down) motion.

SWAY – the linear lateral (side-to-side) motion, which is generated directly, either by the water and wind currents exerting forces against the hull, or by the vessels own propulsion.

SURGE – the linear longitudinal (front/back or bow/stern) motion imparted by the sea conditions.


Rotational Motion

PITCH – the up/down rotation of the vessel about its lateral axis (side-to-side). An offset or deviation from normal on this axis is referred to as “out of trim” and dynamically positioned rigs are constantly conducting trimming activities to keep the decks of the rig horizontally level.

ROLL – the tilting rotation of a vessel about its longitudinal (front-back) axis. An offset or deviation from normal on this axis is referred to as a list or heel. Heel refers to an offset that is intentional or expected, as caused by wind pressure caused by crew actions. List normally refers to an unintentional or unexpected offset, as caused by flooding, shifting cargo, etc. With the ongoing loading and offloading of equipment and fluids from/to the supply boats this is always a motion that has to be compensated for. The rolling motion towards a steady state (or list) angle due to the ships own weight distribution is referred to as heel.

YAW – the turning rotation of a vessel about its vertical axis. An offset or deviation from normal on this axis is referred to as deviation or set.


It takes a very skillful operator to safely and successfully lay down sometimes very heavy and/or very large pieces of equipment in tight positions on a continually moving deck. Unpredictable wind and wave movements can make the task incredibly more difficult than the same load being handled on a land-based job.


crane cabincrane boom


Although the crane operators cabin is high off the deck they are still quite often working blind due to structures that obstruct their view of the deck where they are loading equipment. In these circumstances they rely totally on the verbal instructions over a radio or visual hand signals from a dogman on the deck that is in line-of-site of both the load and the crane operator. All lifts are a team effort with precise and clear communication. Crane lifts in very strong winds – which are quite common offshore – can be very dangerous and really test the crane driver’s and dogman’s skills to the limit.


Although not legislated, it is generally expected that an offshore crane operator holds a Tower Crane (CT) High Risk License and has completed a certification course in operating an offshore crane. Prior experience as a dogman would almost always be the first step towards a job as a crane operator. Having experience working offshore doing other deck duties, such as a roustabout and dogman, would be essential prerequisites. With efficient use of time being critical in all offshore operations it’s essential that crane operators are highly skilled and able to maneuver loads quickly and precisely. There’s little room for error and no time for repeated attempts. All lifts are a well-coordinated collaboration between the crane operator, deck crew, third-party contractors who need their equipment moved and the DLC (drilling logistics coordinator). This “offline” process is ongoing 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, to support the high-cost “online” process of drilling the well. Much of the cost involved in drilling a well is related to the drilling operations and if these are delayed in any way by unprepared lifts of essential equipment then it starts costing the drilling company money. Being organized is key to all operations offshore. Time is money!


Deck Pusher


The typical term for a field supervisor or foreman in the oil and gas industry is a “pusher”. The person in charge of supervising all the activities that take place on the decks of the rig is commonly referred to as the “deck pusher”. The deck pusher will have several years of experience working offshore and understand the logistics of moving equipment around the decks to tie in with the hectic pace of the drilling operations. He will coordinate the crews and permits required to plan the lifts and ensure they are all done safely and in a timely manner.


The deck pusher needs to have a thorough understanding of the rig’s HS&E policies and also be very experienced in preparing and issuing work permits. Safety systems have to be very strictly adhered to while working offshore and the deck pusher must not only follow them himself but make sure all the deck workers he is supervising are following them too.


There will always be a day shift and night shift deck pusher on board the rig at all times as crane operations are ongoing 24 hours a day. The only boat-to-rig transfers that aren’t generally carried out at night are fluid transfers via hoses. Things such as fuel and drilling fluids can contaminate the environment if they were to leak during the transfer so it’s important to do these transfers during daylight hours so any leaks in the hoses or transfer system are detected immediately.


The deck pushers will meet daily with the drilling logistics coordinator (DLC) and the relevant third party personnel to plan each days lifts. Knowing where everything is placed on the decks at all times is of critical importance and the deck supervisor and DLC are in charge of managing this. Like all jobs on the rig, deck lifts rely on a detailed plan and team effort to get them done safely and in a timely manner.





This article has explained the general deck duties and the people responsible for getting them done. The next article, Part 5, will discuss the drilling crew and what jobs they are responsible for. The drilling of an offshore oil and gas well is a very complicated and highly technical undertaking and you’ll see in future articles how the drill crew works in with third party contractors to get the job done. We’re getting closer to the serious action now so stay tuned and keep reading!




Don’t forget to supply any feedback or questions you may have about anything in this article or the previous ones. With so many countries and nationalities involved in drilling of an offshore well it’s impossible to cover all the details and specific job titles because they differ from region to region. I’m attempting to give you a general overview in these articles of the typical offshore rig environment. I hope it helps give you a better understanding of what it’s like to work offshore.



If you have only just tuned in to Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE then you can find Part 1 of this series of articles here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.




Amanda Barlow is a wellsite geologist in the offshore oil and gas industry with a field-based geology career spanning over three decades. As well as being a recreational marathoner who has run over 40 marathons in 16 different countries she is also a published author of two books: “Call of the Jungle – How a Camping-Hating City-Slicker Mum Survived an Ultra Endurance Marathon through the Amazon Jungle” and also “An Inconvenient Life – My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist”. You can connect with her through the Pink Petro community, LinkedIn: or through her Facebook page:


The global agenda for women and the gender gap in business is a tremendous social movement.  It’s no different in our industry.


At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos last January, 22 CEOs signed a Call to Action to close the gender gap in Oil & Gas.  


We took action. In mid 2016, the Pink Petro community created a diverse forum where we developed a comprehensive response. Over 200 leaders in person and 300+ online from 53+ energy companies and associations joined us to develop this “crowdsourced” response.


Last month, our board, industry executives and committee members met with the World Economic Forum to present this work and craft a way forward. 


I am pleased to report that Pink Petro and the World Economic Forum have formed a formal collaboration to


      Drive increased visibility of this effort and the resources the Forum and Pink Petro offer to support these seven guiding principles

      Provide a sustainable platform on Pink Petro to accelerate the socialization of the guiding principles, knowledge sharing, and foster ongoing industry dialogue

      Encourage companies, associations and individuals to take meaningful personalized action.


Next week the Forum will be meeting with the industry’s executive leadership at Davos 2017, to provide feedback on the actions undertaken. We will socialize the outcomes from Davos at our HERWorld Energy Forum on March 8 and at key industry events across the globe this year, as well as keep the community informed through Pink Petro.


To stay connected, join the working group on Pink Petro.


Vincent VanGogh once said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."

Thank you for your leadership, voices, and for all you do to advance women and our industry.


You can tune into the sessions from Davos from January 17-20 with WEFLive to get the latest trends or follow on our site here.

With President-elect Donald Trump set to take the reins in a little over a week, we can expect significant changes to ripple through the oil and energy industry.  Mr. Trump has publicly stated he intends to hit the ground running on energy and environmental policy, and from day one you should expect a shake up to the way things have been done for the last eight years.  Good or bad, here’s what you can expect in 2017:


The Clean Power Plan will be no more.  


For those that supported the EPA’s Clean Power Plan in the November elections, it didn’t turn out so well.  Of the 14 Senate races with candidates that strongly supported the plan, 11 lost.  Many think that the Clean Power Plan was a major contributor to Hillary Clinton losing in Great Lakes battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  Yes, The American people want to care for our earth and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but a clear message was sent that the Clean Power Plan is not the solution they were looking for.  Expect Trump to swiftly eliminate the Clean Power Plan.  But I don’t expect him to be completely cold hearted when it comes to global warming proponents.  Don’t be surprised, if he extends the olive branch of alternative policies that address carbon dioxide emissions in a more affordable, fair, free-market manner.


Federal land should open up for increased energy production.


Over the last 8 years fracking and domestic production has increased.  The improved production; however, has occurred in spite of – rather than because of – Obama administration policies.   In 2017 don’t be surprised if the Trump administration opens up more federal lands to energy production, which will further increase US oil and natural gas production.  Expect this to lower energy prices, increase royalty payments to offset our national debt, and bolster the US economy.


The slow death of coal will be postponed.


Under the Obama administration, we saw restrictions on coal production and coal power like never before. With a new sheriff in town, we can expect many of the restrictions imposed by the Obama administration to be lifted.  Although this won’t completely revive coal power (which faces strong competition from inexpensive and cleaner natural gas) it will help it stay afloat for a while longer.


Wind and solar are no longer the “favorite child”.


As ironic as it may be… wind power (the environmentally friendly power source) has received a free pass on the 1.4 million birds and bats the industry kills each year - including endangered and protected species like the bald eagle!  Even recently the Obama administration dramatically increased the number of bald eagles wind power companies can kill without penalty.  Wind and solar have also received subsidies during the past eight years that dwarf all other energy sources.  I wouldn’t expect this special treatment to hold up in the years ahead.  President-elect Trump will most likely reverse this course and make the wind power industry accountable to the same environmental protections that apply to everyone else.  We’ll also see wind and solar advantages slowly erode, leaving them to play on a level field with other competing energy sources.


Ethanol will finally be exposed. 


In 2007 the Energy Independence and Security Act, enacted into law costly ethanol requirements on America’s gasoline consumers.  However, in the last ten years, the Energy Independence and Security Act research has since proven ethanol is in many ways worse for air pollution and the environment than gasoline. Consumer advocates, free-marketers, and environmental groups have united in opposition to ethanol.  Expect the Trump administration to take a good hard look at ethanol and consider rolling back federal ethanol mandates.


The future will be bright for nuclear power.


Let’s be honest, spent fuel issues are not the only reason nuclear power isn't competitive with coal and natural gas power.  Energy economics and excessive government regulations make traditional large nuclear power plants expensive and difficult to run.  However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to small, next-generation nuclear reactors utilizing new technologies.  Case in point, many scientists, economists, and environmentalists see tremendous potential for small molten salt reactors powered by thorium.  Although nuclear power government approvals and permits have been slow to be processed in the past, we should expect the new administration to prioritize removing government obstacles, clearing the way for new nuclear power designs that will provide more emissions-free power.


The future will be even brighter for hydroelectric power.


During the Obama administration we have seen the removal of multiple hydropower dams despite hydropower providing affordable, emissions-free electricity.  The U.S. Department of Energy stated the US currently has the capability of increasing hydropower production by 50% in the near future with minimal environmental impact.  Don’t be surprised to see a resurgence of hydropower in the coming years. 


Natural gas exports will increase.


Considered a transitional or gateway energy source, natural gas is in high demand globally.  Asia is working to rid themselves of extreme air pollution caused by Chinese coal.  Europe is overly dependent on Russian natural gas, making them vulnerable to aggressive Russian foreign policy.  And US natural gas exports have been hampered by the Obama administration’s block of natural gas export terminals that would allow American energy companies to deliver natural gas to countries in need.  Expect a complete 180 under the Trump administration when it comes to natural gas.  More natural gas exports will bring environmental improvement to Asia and political relief to European countries dependent on Russian exports – all while benefiting America’s economy and political relations.


So there you have it, all the changes you can expect to see in 2017 and beyond.  The new presidential administration looks to be a champion for more abundant energy, more affordable energy, and environmental policy that addresses true environmental concerns rather than serving as a shelter for politically favored energy sources.


All in all, it’s an exciting time to be in the oil and energy industry!

Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE Part 3


In this article I’ll explain what the facilities are like on offshore drilling rigs. The later generations of rigs have very comfortable modern living conditions, albeit somewhat compact compared to most onshore accommodation facilities. The accommodation block on all rigs is found under, or beside, the helideck. The helideck is the reference point for the locations on the rig with this being the “forward” end of the rig and the other three sides being the starboard, aft and port.


accommodation block


The accommodation block houses not only all the sleeping quarters but also the main offices for the supervisors on the rig. Atop the accommodation block and next to the helideck there is sophisticated satellite communications equipment, which provides phone and Internet connections to the outside world. The primary lifeboats are always found on the port and starboard sides of the accommodation block and secondary lifeboats at the aft end of the vessel. It is essential that all personnel familiarize themselves with the quickest route to their allocated primary and secondary lifeboats from both their sleeping quarters and also their workplace. Most rigs are a maze of levels and pathways and not knowing the quickest route to the lifeboats can cost you valuable time in an emergency situation. This is one of the reasons why fire and abandon rig drills are performed every week so it becomes second nature for everyone to access their emergency stations.


The top level of the accommodation block houses the “bridge”, which is the main office for the marine crew, especially when the vessel is in transit. The radio operator also generally works out of the bridge and is the main point of call for any emergency situations on the rig.


There can be anywhere from two to several levels within the accommodation block and sleeping cabins can be on all levels, but generally the higher you are up the food chain, the higher the level you will sleep on. As mentioned in the previous article, the cabins are generally two-man or four-man rooms. All later generation vessels will have ensuite bathrooms in each room but there are still many old rigs around the world that have four-man rooms and communal bathrooms.


cabin Legend


For safety reasons you are not supposed to keep your door locked while in your room because if there is an emergency then people need to get into your room to make sure you have woken up and preparing to evacuate the rig. During a fire drill it’s the utilities (cleaners) job to systematically go from room-to-room checking that no one is left in any of the rooms while the crew are preparing to abandon the rig.


desserts fridge


The galley and dining room/mess are normally found on a lower deck and meals are provided around the clock. The main meal times are at 0500-0700hrs, 1100-1300hrs, 1700-1900hrs and 2300-0100hrs, but the galley is open almost 24 hours a day so you can obtain snacks in between meal times. The quality of food varies from rig to rig but is usually pretty good. Depending on the cooks, you can sometimes get exceptional quality of meals. It’s not unusual to get top restaurant chefs working offshore because they can quite often make much more money as a cook offshore than working in a restaurant in the city. Many rigs even have pastry chefs who not only keep a supply of yummy cakes and desserts in the fridge but also bake fresh bread daily.


Being a 24-hour operation means that some unlucky people have to work over public holidays. The galley crews always put on a special spread over holidays like Easter and Christmas so even though you have to work a 12-hour shift you still get to have a celebratory dinner. The festivities are dampened somewhat by the fact that you only have 20-30 minutes to enjoy the dinner before having to go back to work and also, with alcohol being forbidden offshore, there’s only non-alcoholic wine or beer to wash down the feast. Being at home with family and friends is always a better option!


xmas food on rig


Recreational Facilities


Most rigs these days have reasonably well-equipped gymnasiums on board. The bigger the rig, generally the bigger the gym is likely to be. I have been on rigs where the gym is the width of the length of the treadmill and if two people are in there at the same time then it is crowded! Others have had two or more training rooms – one for cardio equipment and another for weight training gear. Big TV screens on the walls is also pretty commonplace, and someone has usually rigged up some sort of sound system that you can plug your iPod into if you want to listen to music. As well as training in the gym, many rigs also allow the helideck to be used for recreational activities in between helicopter operations. In sunny climates the helideck is also a favourite place for rig crew to work on their tans…not a wise choice if you’re one of the few females working on the rig…. especially given that there are nearly always closed circuit TV cameras tuned into the area 24 hours a day!


Gym Atwood Eagle


Many rigs also have additional recreational activities like table tennis tables, pinball machines, saunas, and probably lots of other things that I haven’t personally seen. It used to be common to have a theatre room where people would watch “videos” but these days most rigs provide TV’s and DVD players in all the bedrooms so that has pretty well killed the social interaction that having movie nights used to provide. Most people also have hard drives full of movies that they take out with them and watch on their laptops while lying in bed.




Satellite communications equipment is becoming ever-increasingly sophisticated offshore with online communications for workers wanting to connect with loved ones back home now an accepted standard of living conditions offshore. Naturally though, this is only a side benefit of the oil and gas company’s need to transfer ever-increasing amounts of data between the field operations and the head office. Real-time data packages sent during key periods of the drilling operations (such as drilling through the reservoir formations and wireline operations) require reliable and fast speed data transfer rates.


There will always be two separate communication networks; one provided by the drilling contractor and one provided by the operating oil and gas company. Both of these networks provide free wifi for the workers onboard the rig but it is usually of very limited bandwidth and very slow. It is however, a way for people to stay in touch with family and friends and instant messaging via a mobile device is probably the most popular method of communicating with the outside world while on the rig. All offshore rigs still have an “old-fashioned” telephone in a booth somewhere so people can make free phone calls home. The commonsense approach prevails of limiting calls if others are waiting to use the phone. Most workers these days travel with a laptop or iPad and access the Internet while on the rig, just as they would if they were at home. The only difference is that they have to expect certain sites to be blocked, such as porn sites and gambling sites. These two are big “no-no’s” and generally YouTube is inaccessible also as it uses too much data for the overloaded system to handle.


Mobile/cell phone use outside of the accommodation block is absolutely prohibited, as is taking photos. Because of the possibility of gas being encountered during drilling operations, all non-intrinsically safe electronic devices are forbidden. Should photos need to be taken for operational purposes then a special intrinsically safe camera has to be used. Normal cameras are able to be used but only with the issuing of a “hot work permit” which has to be signed off by several senior people who deem the work area to be safe for the task. The use of cell phones outside of the accommodation block can, and in many cases has, resulted in instant dismissal and an unplanned flight on the next available chopper off the rig.


Medical Facilities


All rigs have day shift and night shift medical personnel on board, and usually one of them will be a fully qualified medical doctor. They work out of a reasonably well-equipped “hospital” which is located in the accommodation block and usually in an area that can be easily accessed from the helideck. With many people working month-long hitches offshore it’s essential to have a facility that can cope with not only operational emergencies arising from accidents and incidents on the rig but also everyday medical problems as well. If someone unknowingly brings out a virus that they picked up while on break then it can travel around the rig faster than a wildfire. With the accommodation block being a watertight structure it is necessary to maintain a comfortable air quality and temperature using ducted air-conditioning. Added to this problem is the fact that many people spend their whole 12-hour shift working in customized shipping containers that are pressurized and have no windows and have to share their air with several other teammates in the very confined conditions. If any of these people have a cold then you can bet they will all eventually get it. While getting a cold at a job in the city may not be that big a deal – you just call in sick for the day and drive to the nearest pharmacy to get some cold and flu tablets – when you are hundreds of miles out to sea and still have weeks before you will be flying home then it is very inconvenient. Not only do you have to continue to do your job for 12-hours a day (as there are no relief workers out there!) but you can’t drive to a shop and pick up any medication. Gastroenteritis is another common illness that crops up from time to time and is easily spread around the rig by contact with handrails and doorknobs. And when you consider that NOT using the handrails when you are walking up or down the stairs is also a sack-able offence then it can be hard to avoid picking up germs if you aren’t diligent with personal hygiene. There’s also a chance people can pick up exotic diseases during their transit time to the rig, with many workers flying in from all around the world. Any sick or injured people who are deemed unable to continue with their duties will be medivac’d off the rig at the earliest convenience. The medics who work on the rigs are generally ex-military personnel and well equipped to deal with the first aid treatment of serious trauma injuries. Depending on how far offshore and how remote the area is it can take several hours to get to a land-based hospital so you definitely don’t want to be hurting yourself out there!


Laundry Facilities


One of my favourite things about working offshore (that only a mother of three kids can appreciate) is that you don’t
have to do any cooking, cleaning or washing of clothes. It’s all done for you! The most you have to do at meal times is scrape your leftovers into a bucket and leave your plates and cutlery on a bench for someone else to wash. How brilliant is that?! But wait…it gets better. Your bedroom is not only serviced but generally your bed is made for you and the bathroom cleaned. But the best part of all is that before you go to bed, you place your work clothes from that day in a laundry bag and place them on the floor in the corridor outside your cabin and from there they get collected by one of the utilities and washed, dried, folded and placed back on the floor outside your door so by the time you wake up they are ready to wear again. If only life was that easy at home!


level 3 corridor


Pre-travel Briefing


When travelling to a rig for the first time, it’s recommended you contact anyone you may know from your company who is already on the rig to ask the following questions:


  • How cold are the living quarters? Even if the rig is in a tropical region, it pays to take a jacket out with you. The air conditioning can be savage on some rigs.


  • What types of power outlets are on the rig? As offshore rigs are built and work in different locations all around the world they can have power outlets that differ from what you use at your home base. Generally they are UK or US type outlets but it pays to make sure so you can take any adapters you may need for charging your personal electronic devices.


  • What are the dress standards in the living quarters? Most rigs will have a “closed-in shoe” policy or “no slip-on shoes” policy. It pays to take closed-in shoes with you just in case. You need to wear closed in shoes for the chopper ride to the rig anyway. I’ve seen a person rock up at the heliport wearing only thongs (Jandals) and didn’t even have a pair of safety boots with him because he expected to get these on the rig. He was not allowed to fly to the rig.


  • Are you allowed to wear work clothes inside the accommodation block? Work clothes are generally not allowed to be worn in the accommodation quarters, even if they are brand new or recently washed. Some rigs will allow clean work clothes to be worn so it’s best to check so you can be sure. You don’t want to be embarrassed by getting chastised about your mistake while standing in line to get your dinner.


  • What areas are set-aside for smokers? Smoking of cigarettes and ecigarettes is only allowed in designated areas/rooms. These areas can be out on the deck, inside rooms, or both. Lighters will be provided in these areas so there is no need to take them out with you – and it is prohibited to do so.


  • What wifi or Internet facilities are available? Knowing how you’ll be able to contact your loved ones while you’re away is handy to know so your family knows what to expect. The slow Internet speeds can make it difficult to download apps while on the rig so it’s best to download any apps you might need on your phone before you leave home.




As you can see, there are many rules and regulations that have to be followed when working offshore, not just when you are out on the deck doing your job but also in the living quarters. With so many people working and living in such a confined space it’s necessary to set the boundaries so everyone knows what’s expected of them while on the rig. There can be severe consequences for non-compliance and a free ride on the next chopper off the rig can be your punishment for not following the rules. Being “run off the rig” is a more common occurrence during the downturn we are experiencing now, when jobs are hard to come by and there are plenty of rule-abiding workers waiting in the wings to replace less dedicated workers. The old “three strikes and you’re out” rule has almost become extinct and replaced with a “zero tolerance” policy as health and safety standards become increasingly strict and rigidly enforced. The “foolhardy” or “larrikin” behavior of yester-year is no longer accepted behavior offshore. While the comraderie amongst some crews is legendary, you will soon find out that life on a rig is far from easy. Many jobs are labor-intensive and 12-hour shifts can be very arduous for the uninitiated.




In Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE Part 4 I will start to break down the different jobs, professions and trades that can be found on offshore rigs. Starting with the drilling contracting company I will explain all the positions, starting with the least experienced workers and building up to the rig manager. If you’ve ever wanted to work offshore but haven’t really understood what opportunities there are, then watch out for future posts so you can see the range of positions and qualifications needed to get a start offshore.


Don’t forget to supply any feedback or questions you may have about anything in this article or the previous ones. I’d love to know your thoughts and I hope you are gaining a better understanding of what it’s like to work offshore.



If you have only just tuned in to Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE then you can find Part 1 of this series of articles here and Part 2 here.




Amanda Barlow is a wellsite geologist in the offshore oil and gas industry with a field-based geology career spanning over three decades. As well as being a recreational marathoner who has run over 40 marathons in 16 different countries she is also a published author of two books: “Call of the Jungle – How a Camping-Hating City-Slicker Mum Survived an Ultra Endurance Marathon through the Amazon Jungle” and also “An Inconvenient Life – My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist”. You can connect with her through the Pink Petro community, LinkedIn: or through her Facebook page:

Amanda Barlow


Posted by Amanda Barlow Jan 7, 2017

An Inconvenient Life Book Cover


There’s a lot more to a fly in – fly out lifestyle than just a big pay packet and buffet meals. It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle – a lifestyle that has to be taken seriously by those who have chosen it because it can make you or break you.

How does a female geologist stay working in such an environment for over 30 years? By doing the same things it takes a man to do it – working hard, being prepared to sacrifice birthdays, Christmas and New Year parties for another 12-hour shift on the rig – moving your home base to wherever it’s needed – staying positive through the downturns and relishing the booms - loving what you do and why you’re doing it, and rising to the challenges when they look like beating you. But they won’t. They can’t. You won’t let them.


The downturn is a time to rest, recover, take stock of what you’ve been through to get where you are today. Every bust brings the birth of a new era in resourceful innovation and reinvigorated enthusiasm to improve on what was done before. I don’t know what the resource industry will look like in 2020 but one thing I do know is that I intend to be playing an active role in it.


For me, a break from work has given me a chance to reflect on my 30+ years in the resource industry and then write a book about it. “An Inconvenient Life: My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist” is now available in kindle and print versions on I’ve worked too hard for too long to let this downturn put me off the job that I love. I hope reading it will inspire others to review their career and decide if it’s worth fighting for also.



Amanda Barlow is a wellsite geologist in the offshore oil and gas industry with a field-based geology career spanning over three decades. As well as being a recreational marathoner who has run over 40 marathons in 16 different countries she is also a published author of two books: “Call of the Jungle – How a Camping-Hating City-Slicker Mum Survived an Ultra Endurance Marathon through the Amazon Jungle” and also “An Inconvenient Life – My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist”. You can connect with her through the Pink Petro community, LinkedIn: or through her Facebook page

A year is smaller than a grain of sand in the scope of human existence, but it’s unbelievable how much changes in a short 365 days.


A year ago, we were facing $20-ish oil. Hundreds of thousands of our colleagues were being laid off; some still aren’t fully back to work and some have moved on. Terrorism showed no signs of ceasing. Brexit happened. The American election happened. Social media continued to force us into bubbles of our own creation. 2016 was tough, and we work in a cyclical business. Thankfully, our people persevered and we weathered the storm.


Things are better now. Oil prices are stabilizing and in America, Trump seems to be gearing for policy as an ally of energy.


Here’s what we can never forget: our industry literally powers the world. It’s our responsibility to provide a socially-responsible value chain. Disruptive forces are out there and making sure we have the best people and processes is key to winning in the long run.


Increasingly, women are becoming a bigger part of this picture. This is where Pink Petro comes in. In the past year, we were honored to:


Be proud of what we have done here, together.  

I gave up the idea of “resolutions” a long time ago. I call new year goals “evolutions.” How can I incrementally get better every day for myself, my colleagues, and my industry? In short: how do I evolve? I map that out and the go do it.


What’s 2017's evolution?

The first stop is March 8, 2017, International Women's Day at the HERWorld Energy Forum. We’ll be turning two (on the campus of Rice University), although you can stream the event all over the world and we expect thousands to celebrate. Last year, we had 53 energy organizations actively working towards solving the gender gap. This year, we’re expecting even more.


If 2016 was about resilience and building community, 2017 will be about leaning into the future of our industry and creating the new culture for work. Thanks for being part of your own evolution, and the evolution of this industry.


To our collective future!


2017- A quiet year for oil?

Posted by sksingh Jan 6, 2017

After several years of erratic fluctuations in the oil prices, 2017 could provide investors with the mercy of a relatively quiet year for oil prices. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about prices going into the start of the year. The OPEC production cuts have shored up sentiment and set the stage for restrained production in the first half which could draw down oil stocks considerably.


However, it’s not certain that oil prices will continue to rocket higher either. For one thing, many analysts are skeptical about OPEC commitment to cuts, while others are doubtful regarding the rebounding rig count used for unconventional U.S. production.


Place these factors together and 2017 could see oil struggle to make any serious gains while simultaneously being resilient to any serious losses. In particular, money managers as a group are very bullish on oil. Bullish investments from money managers on WTI prices going into January 2017 are triple what they were going into January 2016. Bullish sentiment is higher at this particular stage than any time since the oil price crash began almost three years ago.


Oil market sentiment in general appears to be more bullish now than it has been in years. That optimism is having different effects on different parts of the supply chain though. The OPEC nations have already started to see pressure coming off of them thanks to the pick-up in prices.


Middle Eastern oil companies reduced their borrowing in 2016 by 26% because of the increased prices in the latter part of the year. Due to the increase in prices, funding the exploration and production programs could be done without the requirement for additional borrowing. While industry was able to cut borrowing needs, many of the Middle Eastern nations themselves increased borrowing because of the holes created in their budget by falling oil prices.


In 2017, it’s likely that OPEC nations won’t need to borrow as much, and that borrowing by industry will continue to remain restrained. Although, as financial pressures ease, it may open the door to slow growth in production which in turn could limit the upside money managers are expecting in prices.


Limited volatility is expected next year because prices will be insulated from geopolitical risks. In the recent years, when many producers were pumping barrels all out, any supply disruption due to things like Canadian wildfires or Nigerian terrorism raised the risk of a short-term shortage often leading to price spikes.


With OPEC cuts largely baked into the price, it is unlikely that 2017 will see any more major supply cuts. Venezuela, would probably be an exception and is most likely to see overall production decline, but those declines are going to be driven by a lack of investment and they will probably be gradual.


This year, OPEC is aiming to operate below productive capacity, and therefore, there should be plenty of slack available in the event of unexpected production issues. The typical spikes and dips in pricing from over or under production should be limited as a result this time.


On a broader note, Wall Street analysts seem to agree with that view as well. Analysts are expecting crude prices to average $58 per barrel in the fourth quarter according to a Bloomberg survey. Dispersion among analyst forecasts is lower than usual as well.


Money managers and analysts have different views going into 2017, but neither group is forecasting a return to the oil price lows seen early last year and throughout much of 2015. Given that, investors should be breathing a sigh of relief and be ready to welcome a quiet year for black gold.



Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE Part 2


Safety Training


Before anyone can fly to an offshore facility, regardless of whether they work for the oil and gas company, the drilling contractor, or third party contractors, they have to have a current sea survival and helicopter underwater escape training (HUET) certification. And before even being permitted to do this course they have to pass an associated medical examination that checks for any problems that could compromise your health while performing sea survival skills, fire fighting drills and being dunked under water during the HUET. If you are a permanent employee of the company who you represent then the company will generally pay for your certification. If, like me, you are an independent contractor then you have to pay for it out of your own pocket.


There are a few industry-standard survival courses that can be undertaken and they increase in degrees of complexity depending on how extreme the working environment is going to be where you’ll be working. Additional safety measures are continually being added to the course as newer and more sophisticated equipment and emergency breathing systems evolve within the industry. The following is a list of the standard courses:


BOSIET – Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training.

The BOSIET course is a minimum requirement to work offshore. The two day (generally) course consists of four modules; Safety Induction, Helicopter Safety and Escape (HUET), Sea Survival and First Aid, Fire Fighting and Self Rescue. During the safety induction delegates gain an understanding and awareness of emergency response procedures on offshore installations. The BOSIET is required for cold-water areas and includes additional training in the use of survival suits and emergency breathing systems during the HUET module.


                   HUET module


Although the HUET part of the training doesn’t sound too arduous, it’s surprising how hard it is to hold your breath when you are securely restrained in the module with a 4-point harness and turned upside down underwater. Panic tends to take over which increases the brain’s need for oxygen so the body’s natural reflex to breath becomes even stronger. Knowing how hard it is to remain calm in a simulated exercise only makes the thought of being in a real-life helicopter ditching scenario all the more terrifying. It’s always in the back of your mind when you work offshore but you just hope it never happens to you.


This YouTube video gives an excellent idea of what to expect when you do your BOSIET:


TBOSIET – Tropical Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training.

The TBOSIET is almost the same as the BOSIET but it is for people who will only be working in tropical waters. This course doesn’t involve the use of cold-water survival/transit/submersion suits or the use of emergency breathing systems during the HUET component of the course.


Given the nature of the job, and the fact that all offshore workers could be working in many different environments over the 4-year validity of a training course certification, it’s wise to do the BOSIET rather than the TBOSIET because you are then covered for working in both cold and tropical water environments.


FOET – Further Offshore Emergency Training

This course is only applicable to participants who have a current BOSIET card that is still current within its four years of validation. It is designed to assist in maintaining participant’s skills that are required to respond effectively to offshore incidents and offers a practical, theory reduced opportunity to practice how to respond to a helicopter incident and all components of survival at sea including fire fighting, self-rescue and first aid. It is generally a 1-day refresher course but can only be undertaken if your previous certification hasn’t expired. If you delay in getting re-certified before the four years is up then you have to do the full BOSIET course again.



Travelling to the Rig



In well-established oil and gas fields there will be a heliport dedicated to flying workers to the offshore facilities. For exploration wells that are being drilled in unestablished fields there may just be a temporary check-in facility at the closest airport to where the rig will be drilling. Many of the people working on the rig will reside in a location other than where this heliport is located and many specialists are based in countries all around the world and make the long journey to the heliport in the days leading up to their crew-change day.


The hitches offshore are generally “even-time” and can be up to four weeks long which sees the workers on the rig for up to four weeks straight and then they fly home for four weeks. On offshore production facilities the rosters are generally a lot shorter than this but drilling rigs tend to have anywhere from two to four week rotations. The cost and convenience to fly people from the other side of the world usually see these workers working four-week hitches. The closer the workforce is to a home base then generally the shorter the hitches will be. Generally it’s wise to pack enough toiletries to last for 4 weeks…just in case!


Once everyone has “checked in” at the heliport on the day of travelling to the rig, they will have their bags either manually checked or placed through an x-ray machine. There are strict rules about what can’t be taken offshore, and especially in the cabin of the helicopter. There are total bans on weapons, alcohol and cigarette lighters and mobile phones have to be checked in with your luggage and are not allowed to be taken in the cabin of the chopper. You must always carry a current BOSIET card with you at all times and quite often you are also required to carry a passport. Different countries have different requirements for documentation so you need to check what you will need before leaving home. If you cannot produce these documents upon checking in then you will most probably not be allowed to fly offshore. This then has a knock-on effect because your back-to-back who is on the rig and due to fly home when you get there, will not be allowed to leave the rig.


Once the bags are checked in everyone is required to have a breath alcohol test and sometimes a random (and sometimes not so random!) drug test. You can also expect to have your body physically patted down and also brushed over with a metal-detecting wand. Most companies today have a “zero tolerance” policy in regards to drugs and alcohol and if you fail the tests at check-in then you will not only miss going to the rig for that hitch but will most likely never be allowed on that rig again for the duration of that drilling campaign.


With all the testing out of the way the passengers are directed into a briefing room where they will find a life jacket and set of earmuffs that are to be worn for the flight to the rig. Everyone has to watch a helicopter briefing video before every flight, including when you leave the rig to fly home. The video shows the safety equipment on board the particular aircraft you’ll be travelling on and also gives a brief recap of how to escape from the helicopter should it have to land on the water. With the briefing completed everyone is led out to the tarmac in single file and instructed to board the chopper. The only items you are allowed to carry with you in the cabin are magazines or soft-covered books. No newspapers, hardcover books or iPods (or any personal electronic devices) are allowed. Once the chopper is in flight it is extremely noisy in the cabin and it’s necessary to not only wear the earmuffs but also earplugs underneath these. Unlike in the “Deepwater Horizon” movie nobody generally talks during the flight because you can’t hear a thing above the engine and rotor noise. If you are working in cold weather environments you can expect to have to wear the following gear for the chopper flight to the rig: 3 layers of clothing, a survival/transit suit, an inflatable life-jacket, emergency breathing apparatus, ear plugs and earmuffs. It’s far from being a joy flight!


Arrival on the Rig


When the helicopter lands on the rig the incoming crew disembark and head to the heli lounge in the accommodation block, which is usually close to the helipad. The chopper keeps its engines and rotors running while the incoming bags are offloaded and the outgoing bags are loaded into the cargo hold. While this is being done the incoming crew gets a brief handover of operations from their outgoing back-to-back while they swap life jackets and earmuffs. This usually takes place in about 10 minutes and as soon as the bags are loaded the outgoing crew are lined up and marched out in single file to the waiting chopper.


The incoming crew are then briefed on the current operations on the rig by the Company Man and the Offshore Installation Manager (OIM). Anyone who is new to the rig has to do a full rig induction before they can start work. Everyone else drops their bags off in their room and either starts work if they are on day shift, or attempts to get some sleep if they are going onto night shift.


The standard of the accommodation cabins varies from rig to rig. The older rigs have many 4-man rooms with or without ensuite bathrooms, and communal shower blocks for those without ensuites. Most third-party contractors and lower rank drill crew workers will be allocated these rooms while the supervisors will usually get allocated 2-man rooms that generally have an ensuite. The OIM and the day Company Man (Wellsite Manager) are commonly the only people who have a room to themselves. The 2 and 4-man rooms are generally occupied by a mix of dayshift and nightshift workers to minimize the amount of people in the room at any one time. Once you leave your room at the start of your shift it is accepted etiquette that you take with you everything you need for your shift and not go back into your room until your shift is over. By doing this the people who are on the opposite shift and trying to sleep will not get disturbed.


                     Atwood Eagle cabin


Daily Schedule


The operations are 24-hour and everybody works 12-hour shifts. There are two main shift times and these are “12 to12” (midday to midnight or midnight to midday) and “6 to 6” (6am to 6pm for dayshift and 6pm to 6am for nightshift). The shifts are commonly referred to as “tours” (pronounced “towers”) and generally half an hour before each “tour” starts there is a mandatory “Pre-Tour” meeting that everyone going onto that shift must attend so they can find out what operations have been carried out during the previous 12-hour shift while they have been sleeping. A lot can happen during a 12-hour shift so it’s imperative that everyone knows what to expect when they start work. Any issues with personal safety, process safety or just the stage of current operations are discussed. As with all the meetings offshore, everyone has to sign an attendance sheet as proof of being present. There can be anywhere from 100 to 200 workers onboard the rig at any one time so these meetings can be very busy.


In addition to the pre-tour meetings there will quite often be an additional third-party meeting at about 7am and 7pm. The company man/wellsite manager holds these meetings and only the supervisors need attend. Everyone briefly explains what they will be doing for the shift and any safety concerns are raised and discussed. There can be many concurrent operations being undertaken while the drilling operations proceed and everyone has to be aware of timings and how their tasks will affect all the other operations.


There will be a daily “morning call” at around 0800hrs (depending on time zones between the rig and head office), which is a phone (and sometimes video) conference call between the rig and the drilling superintendent who is based onshore in the head office of the oil and gas company that is drilling the well. This meeting is attended by the dayshift company man/wellsite manager, the OIM, the DLC (logistics coordinator), possibly the wellsite geologist, and any other person who may need to provide specific technical information on the current operations.


Every Sunday there are mandatory weekly safety meetings that are held at 0100hrs and 1300hrs for all off-tour personnel. There may also be one at 0700hrs or 1900hrs for the personnel who work the 6 to 6 shift. These meetings are held by the rig safety and training coordinator (RSTC) and will cover “safety shares” about incidents that have been reported within the industry in recent weeks. As well as a weekly safety meeting there is also a weekly fire and abandon rig drill. These are compulsory for all non-essential personnel and the timing of them usually alternates each week so the one shift doesn’t keep getting woken up all the time. If the alarm goes off while you are sleeping then you have to get up and don full personal protective equipment (PPE) and muster out at the lifeboats on the deck. The drill usually takes up to an hour to complete.


As you can see, there are a lot of meetings to be attended when you work offshore and many of them are either before or after your 12-hour shift. Depending on how busy your back-to-back has been while you’ve been sleeping, you can also have a lengthy ‘handover” time between shifts and together with the pre-tour meeting you can find your shift stretching into 13 hours. When you are working this schedule for up to 28 days straight then you need to be able to manage personal fatigue so you don’t compromise your safety, and the safety of everyone else onboard.


In the next article I will describe the facilities that can commonly be found on most rigs, With so many people working and living in such a confined space it’s important to have a well-structured routine not only out on the deck but also in the accommodation block. Because commonsense isn’t always a given, and with so many different cultures represented, it’s necessary to also have stringent rules about how you perform day-to-day tasks that you take for granted at home. How good is the food on offshore oilrigs?? Watch out for the next article and you can read all about it!


Don’t forget to supply any feedback or questions you may have about anything in this article or the previous one. I’d love to know your thoughts and I hope you are gaining a better understanding of what it’s like to work offshore.



If you missed Part 1 of this series of articles you can find it here.



Amanda Barlow is a wellsite geologist in the offshore oil and gas industry with a field-based geology career spanning over three decades. As well as being a recreational marathoner who has run over 40 marathons in 16 different countries she is also a published author of two books: “Call of the Jungle – How a Camping-Hating City-Slicker Mum Survived an Ultra Endurance Marathon through the Amazon Jungle” and also “An Inconvenient Life – My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist”. You can connect with her through the Pink Petro community, LinkedIn: or through her Facebook page


Fearlessness and a penchant for the Spanish language quick-started @Paula Waggoner-Aguilar's ('95 M.S.) finance career in the energy industry.


"After a year at Ernst & Young as a tax accountant, I learned that I couldn't sit at a desk all day," says Waggoner-Aguilar, who earned her master's degree in taxation from UNT's College of Business.


Waggoner-Aguilar's love for the Spanish language came from her mother, a former English as a second language teacher in San Luis Potosi and Mexico City. Waggoner-Aguilar grew up visiting Mexico and completed a postgraduate course in advanced Spanish for executives in Cuernavaca after graduating from UNT.


After applying for dozens of jobs, banging on doors and hearing multiple times, "Lady, we're not going to send you down to Latin America," Waggoner-Aguilar finally received an offer from Dresser Industries, known today as Halliburton, that did send her there as an auditor. Over the years, she has worked in places like Mexico City and Villahermosa, Mexico; Maracaibo and Caracas, Venezuela; Neuquén, Argentina; Lima, Peru; Bogota, Colombia; San Salvador, El Salvador; Cochabamba, Bolivia; and Rio de Janeiro and Cuiaba, Brazil. She has also worked in the United Kingdom, Norway, Canada and Australia.


"Back then, it was unusual to have a woman working in Latin America. I'm still amazed to this day that they were willing to hire me to do that and grateful to the industry and the men that gave me that first shot," Waggoner-Aguilar says.


Though it was difficult to get that first job, she says all subsequent positions came organically based on her skillset and willingness to learn new things. Career opportunities led her from the oilfield to working on pipelines and power in Brazil, to serving as Mexican controller for deregulated gas utilities for what was at the time the world's largest independent power producer, to working on contracts and mitigating operating risks pertaining to the commercial side of exploration and production projects, to becoming the first non-engineer to work as a planner for BHP Billiton Petroleum.


"I found myself in situations where I was the only trained CPA who speaks Spanish and I was getting promoted and doing things people 20 years my senior had not done," she says, noting that she's gained finance and business experience beyond what an accountant traditionally does.


She credits her year at UNT for providing her with a broad understanding of business and stretching her to think differently.


"I was getting my master's in tax, but was exposed to economics, finance and marketing," Waggoner-Aguilar says. "My education at UNT provided a broad base and my professors helped develop my critical thinking skills."


She worked as a graduate assistant for accounting professors Janet Trewin and Barbara Merino-Mayper and credits them, and Teresa Conover, for providing her with a thorough base in tax research, advanced theory and current value accounting.


After more than 15 years working for major companies in the energy industry, Waggoner-Aguilar became a consultant offering small private companies the same financial leadership that benefits major corporations.


"When I was working in San Antonio for the largest private independent oil producer in the nation, and first to drill in Mexico since 1938, I interfaced a lot with their vendors," Waggoner-Aguilar says. "I realized what an advantage the vendors would have if they had the financial leadership of a larger company, at a price point they can afford."


Since founding The Energy CFO in April 2013, with offices in San Antonio and Houston, Waggoner-Aguilar has provided private energy, technology and life science companies with consulting, interim and permanent fractional outsourced CFO services. The firm specializes in entrepreneurial finance and focuses on helping entrepreneurs and family businesses start-up, grow, evolve and navigate through rough patches. She was named Best CFO for Private Medium-Sized Companies in 2014 by the San Antonio Business Journal.


"My accomplishments as a business owner mean so much more to me than any promotion I've ever received," Waggoner-Aguilar says. "There's something different about it when it's your business."


She's also found that she has more time to give back to the community and help mentor the future leaders of the energy industry.


She helped found the Women's Energy Network of South Texas in 2013 and currently serves on both the Board of Advisors for WEN South Texas and also on the Executive Advisory Board  for Pink Petro, two organizations that promote women in the energy industry and provide networking opportunities, career and leadership development. In addition to helping businesses thrive, Waggoner-Aguilar devotes at least 10 percent of her time in support of local innovation and entrepreneurship, helping energy colleagues in transition explore new endeavors, and supporting efforts that educate and promote women in energy.


"It really humbled me when I came to South Texas and saw all these women who are working in energy and really trying to move up," Waggoner-Aguilar says. "It made me realize how fortunate I am to have started in the field, to have the corporate experience and men who taught me along the way. The only way I know how to thank them is by following their lead and paying forward to the next generation."


Read the article here

29 companies from more than a dozen countries have been named by Iran as being allowed to bid for oil and gas projects using the new, less restrictive Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) model, the oil ministry news website SHANA reported on Monday.

The list of pre-qualified firms included Shell, France's Total, Italy's Eni, Malaysia's Petronas and Russia's Gazprom and Lukoil, as well as companies from China, Austria, Japan and other countries.

The new IPC has been devised by Iran as part of an effort to sweeten the terms it offers on oil development deals, attract foreign investors and boost production after years of sanctions.

However, the list did not include oil major BP. It was reported that BP had opted out of the bidding because of concerns over possible renewed U.S.-Iran tensions after President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20.

Trump has said he will scrap the deal between Iran and world powers that imposed curbs on Tehran's nuclear projects and lifted sanctions on the Iranian economy last January.

The first oil output contract under the IPC model was signed by the State-run National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) in October with an Iranian firm identified by the United States as part of a conglomerate controlled by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The IPC model has been delayed several times due to opposition from hardline rivals of President Hassan Rouhani. The recent happenings end a buy-back system dating back more than 20 years under which Iran did not allow foreign firms to book reserves or take equity stakes in Iranian companies.

The new IPC has more flexible terms, and oil price fluctuations and investment risks shall be taken into account, a senior Iranian oil official told Reuters in November.

Oil majors have said they would only go back to Iran if it makes major changes to the buy-back contracts, which companies such as France's Total or Italy's Eni said made them no money or even incurred losses.

Source: Reuters



The tone of cautious optimism for the oil and gas industry will likely continue as we enter into 2017. After oil prices bottomed out in 1Q 2016 and OPEC finally agreed to cut production, sentiments among the industry seem to be on the rise.

Oil and gas labor market conditions were positive in 4Q 2016, the first time this year, according to a quarterly energy survey released Dec. 29 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

The survey of 147 E&P (exploration and production) firms and oilfield services firms in the Eleventh District (Texas, northern Louisiana and southern New Mexico) revealed:

  • Although the majority of respondents reported no change in headcounts, 18 percent of firms reported net hiring, while 15 percent reported net layoffs
  • Oil and gas production stopped declining this quarter, according to E&P firms
  • 58 percent of respondents revised up their 2017 oil price forecasts and company outlooks in response to announced production cuts
  • 71 percent of respondents expect higher oil prices a year from now, while 50 percent expect higher gas prices

OPEC and Production Cuts

The energy survey also included questions about OPEC and some non-OPEC countries agreeing to curb production in 2017.

Responses were split, with most expressing doubt that OPEC and other non-OPEC countries would be able to enforce agreements to limit crude oil production. Forty-two percent of respondents expect production agreements to be enforced, while 58 percent believe they will not be enforced.

Based upon recent meetings regarding cuts to crude production, 44 percent of respondents believe it’s most likely the oil market will come into balance in 3Q 2017. Skepticism surrounding OPEC’s agreement affected these responses. Almost all respondents who believe markets will balance in 2018 or later also doubt producer agreements will be enforced.

Positivity in the Permian

A bright spot for the upstream industry in the second half of 2016 was the increased interest in the Permian. Operators began to jump at the chance to acquire acreage – referred to as “Permian Panic.” Diamondback Energy Inc. said Dec. 14 it would pay $2.43 billion for acreage in the Permian, making it one of the latest companies to show interest.     

While some survey respondents said they believe Permian acreage was overvalued, the increased Permian activity does stand to create employment opportunities – something oil and gas professionals have been waiting on for years.

Oilfield services company Halliburton is looking to hire 200 workers in the Permian, spokesperson Emily Mir said in an email to Rigzone. The company is hiring in all of its product service lines and support functions in the Permian.

“The Permian Basin is an important area for Halliburton and we’ll continue to make adjustments to our workforce based on business demand as needed,” Mir said.

Source : Rigzone

1. As one of final acts, President Obama imposes sanctions on Russia and expels diplomats.


The Obama administration responded harshly to alleged Russian interference in the presidential election, expelling 35 diplomats, imposing new sanctions on Russian officials and ordering the closure of two Russian compounds in the U.S. “All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” President Obama stated. “These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.” These new sanctions put President-elect Donald Trump in a difficult position of either having to go along with the Obama administration or choose a different path when he takes office.  In regard to the impact on oil and gas, it is unclear what comes next, but Obama’s decision could make it more difficult to lift sanctions on Russia moving forward.


2. OPEC deal begins this week.


The countries involved in the recent supply cutting OPEC deal are scheduled to begin production cuts this week at the start of the New Year, but members are allowed to average their reductions over a six-month period, so immediate cuts are not a given. It will take a few weeks to figure out who is cutting and by how much – data for January will be released in February.


3. Natural gas inventories continue to fall.


The EIA reported another drawdown in natural gas stocks, with inventories falling 237 billion cubic feet as of the end of December. That puts total stocks at 413 Bcf lower than last year’s levels at this time and also 79 Bcf below the five-year average.  More simply stated, this means the gas market is no longer in a glut, which helps explain why prices are up above $3.81/MMBtu, the highest price in more than two years.  Production has fallen this year while demand has climbed.  If this trend continues, prices will rise even further, potentially surpassing $4/MMBtu for the first time since 2014.  This is great news for a few different players in the market.  First, this is good news for natural gas drillers, who are already adding rigs back to the shale patch.  And second, it’s good for coal-fired power plants, which are being asked to generate electricity more than they have in quite some time.  Oil prices often hold the spotlight of media, but the ongoing rise in natural gas is a big story that’s just as important.

Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE Banner


The drilling of offshore oil and gas wells is almost as far “upstream” as you can possibly go in the oil and gas industry. “Upstream” refers to the source of the supply chain for hydrocarbon products while “downstream” refers to the refining and transporting to the final end user. Naturally there’s a whole range of stages between these two end points but the stage that most people have least exposure to is the initial drilling of the wells, as only the specialists who are involved in the operations are allowed access to this environment. Barring the few VIP dignitaries that visit the rigs, it is practically impossible to visit a rig as a “tourist” unless you are directly involved in the operations. Due to the extremeness of the locations and the hazards involved in not only getting the people to the rig but also guaranteeing their safety while on the facility, only appropriately trained essential personnel are allowed to fly to offshore drilling rigs.


With the majority of Pink Petro community members being involved mainly in the downstream operations within the Oil and Gas industry I thought it would be of interest to people to read about what is involved in the drilling process. I doubt if too many of the existing Pink Petro members would be interested in working in this environment but it may give you some useful information to pass on to young adult family members or friends who are wanting to start out a career in the O & G industry, so they can see what skills are needed to be able to work in the offshore drilling environment. The technical expertise in this industry is phenomenal and for anyone interested in geoscience or engineering disciplines you couldn’t ask for a more dynamic and exciting career. As well as exploring all the different professionals and trades people involved in the operations, I’ll also explain the hierarchal structure of the work force - from the O & G company men to the drilling contractor, third-party contractors and all the other specialists involved in the drilling of a well. It is a huge collaboration by all people involved and everyone has their part to play in the successful drilling of a well.


flowchart of companies


But before we discuss the people who work on a rig, lets first get a brief introduction to the drilling rigs themselves and the most common types of rigs in use today.



Offshore Drilling Rigs


Offshore drilling rigs fall into two main categories: bottom founded units that have legs that sit on the seabed, and rigs that float on top of the water. They are all commonly referred to as mobile offshore drilling units (MODU’s). Deciding what type of rig to use is most commonly dependent on the depth of the water and the weather conditions expected at the well location.


The main types of offshore drilling rigs are:


Jack-Up Rigs


jackup rigA jack-up rig consists of a platform that is supported by usually three legs (but sometimes four) whose footings are seated on the sea floor and the rig is then “jacked up” to a specific height above the surface of the sea where it won’t be adversely affected by wave and tidal movements. The jack-up rig is towed to location with its legs elevated and once on location, the legs are lowered to the seafloor and the platform is "jacked up" above the wave actions by means of hydraulic jacks. Due to the fact that there is a limit on how high a rig can safely be jacked-up, this type of rig can only be used in water depths up to approximately 550 ft (167 m).


Semisubmersible Rigs


semi sumersible rigbA “Semi-sub” is a floating unit that obtains most of its buoyancy from ballasted, watertight pontoons located below the water surface and wave action. With its hull structure submerged at a deep draft, the semi-sub is less affected by wave loadings than a normal ship. Semi-subs are commonly subdivided into generations, depending upon the year they were built and the water depth capability. Generation 1, 2 and 3 rigs commonly use mooring systems and operate in waters less than 1,500 ft (500 m) while generation 4, 5 and 6 rigs can drill to a water depth of up to approximately 10,000 ft (3,000 m).

 generations of rigs

Semisubmersible rigs are kept on location over the well by a computer-controlled system known as “dynamic positioning” (DP). Position reference sensors, combined with wind sensors, motion sensors and gyrocompasses, provide information to the computer pertaining to the vessel’s position and the magnitude and direction of environmental forces affecting its position. This knowledge allows the computer to calculate the required steering angle and thruster output for each thruster. This allows rigs to operate where mooring or anchoring is not feasible due to deep water or seabed problems. Dynamically positioned vessels are categorized into three classes: Class 1 has no redundancy so loss of position may occur in the event of a single fault. Class 2 equipment has redundancy built in to the system so that no single fault in an active system will cause the system to fail. Class 3 systems also have to withstand fire or flood in any one compartment without the system failing. These vessels have at least two independent computer systems with a separate backup system.





drillshipDrillships have the functional ability of semisubmersible drilling rigs but being a ship means they have greater mobility and can move more quickly under their own propulsion from drill site to drill site. They generally have a higher POB (persons on board) capability, as they require a full marine crew to operate the vessel as well as a drilling crew for drilling operations. Like semisubs, drillships are subdivided into generations, depending upon the year they were built and the water depth capability, and also classes of dynamic positioning capabilities.




Types of Oil and Gas Wells


Wells are classified according to their purpose and fall into three major categories. Exploration wells are tentative ventures that drill in new areas with the hope of discovering untouched resources. Appraisal wells are drilled to evaluate the characteristics of existing hydrocarbon accumulation discoveries and production/development wells are drilled specifically for commercial production of oil and gas from proven hydrocarbon reservoirs. The different types of wells are basically all drilled in the same way but they differ in the way they are completed. In exploration wells there is a very strong focus on end-of-well testing to determine petrophysical properties of any potential reservoir zones, while production wells are completed to allow for future infrastructure to be set up over the well to enable the extraction of the hydrocarbons. Every stage of all types of wells is performed by a collaboration of many teams of people who have very specific expertise in the tasks being undertaken. Experts are flown in from all around the world, which results in a rig full of the most culturally diverse workforce unlike any other workplace in the world. It’s this cultural and professional diversity that makes working offshore more exciting and rewarding than any land-based job could ever be.



Working Offshore


The following series of articles in “Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE” will explore the different professions and trades that offshore workers require to be able to perform the highly specialized jobs that are involved in the successful drilling of offshore oil and gas wells. While it’s possible for anyone to find a niche occupation within the many varied roles that are represented offshore, being able to work in this type of environment is another story. Working 12+ hours every day for up to 28 days straight is not for everyone, especially when it might be on the other side of the world from your family and friends.

Before even being allowed on the chopper to fly to the rig, every worker must have completed a sea survival course, which includes helicopter underwater escape training (HUET). This 2-3 day course has to be renewed every four years and is a mandatory prerequisite to be allowed to fly to an offshore facility. The HUET component involves being strapped into a helicopter simulator module, which is submerged in water and then rotated until the occupants are sitting upside down while submerged completely under water. They then have to perform an emergency escape out of the windows of the module and swim to the surface of the pool. Not everyone’s idea of fun! This step alone has been known to end some peoples offshore career before it even begins.


While there are many transient workers offshore who come out from time-to-time, the articles to follow will cover only the main personnel who provide the core of the offshore team. There are many others who act as support crew onshore but their positions are beyond the scope of these articles. The offshore workers will be grouped according to the categories below (but not limited to…I’m sure to think of others as the series progresses!):


Oil and Gas Company

  •        Permanent company employees – Wellsite Managers, drilling engineers
  •      Contractor company representatives – Logistics coordinators, wellsite geologists, HS&E personnel, drilling fluids engineers (mud engineers)


Drilling Contractor

  •       Offshore Installation Manager (OIM)
  •       Drilling crew – toolpushers, drillers, assistant drillers, derrickmen, roughnecks
  •       Deck crew – deck pusher, crane operators, roustabouts
  •       Subsea crew – subsea engineers
  •       Marine crew – drillship captain, dynamic positioning operators (DPO), ballast control operators (BCO), storemen
  •       Radio operators
  •       Medics
  •       RSTC – rig safety and training coordinator
  •       Mechanical tradespeople
  •       Electrical tradespeople


Third Party Contractors

  •       Mudloggers/Data engineers
  •       Fluids control engineers
  •       Casing personnel
  •       Cementing personnel,
  •       MWD/LWD engineers (Measurement while drilling/Logging while drilling)
  •       Directional drillers
  •       Wireline engineers
  •       Well testing engineers
  •       ROV operators (remotely operated vehicle)
  •       Catering contractors – camp boss, cooks and kitchen staff, utilities (cleaners)
  •       Many various specialists 


I will explain what all these roles entail, what qualifications and experience is needed to work in these positions, and also the day-to-day routine that all offshore workers have to follow. There are uncompromising HS&E standards that must be adhered to and countless meetings and reports are an unwelcomed, but very necessary, part of everyone’s responsibilities offshore. Due to the 24-hour operations, men and machinery can be pushed to their limits – and quite often are! The unpredictability of drilling operations means that everyone has to be on their toes and alert for any signs of danger. As the Deepwater Horizon incident has shown, ignoring warning signs can lead to catastrophic events. If something goes wrong offshore, it can go disastrously wrong!


With this article giving a broad overview of operations on an offshore drilling rig, the second article will explain the day-to-day routine of all offshore workers before breaking down the different roles people work and the expertise needed to perform these roles in subsequent articles. Please feel free to ask questions or give feedback, as I want to write about things you want to know. If one person has a question then you can bet lots of others are probably wondering the same thing.



I hope you enjoy reading the articles and gain a better understanding of the people and jobs associated with the offshore oil and gas industry.




Amanda Barlow is a wellsite geologist in the offshore oil and gas industry with a field-based geology career spanning over three decades. As well as being a recreational marathoner who has run over 40 marathons in 16 different countries she is also a published author of two books: “Call of the Jungle – How a Camping-Hating City-Slicker Mum Survived an Ultra Endurance Marathon through the Amazon Jungle” and also “An Inconvenient Life – My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist”. You can connect with her through the Pink Petro community, Linkedin or through her Facebook page