Blood, Sweat and Oil; What Mud logging in the Oilfield is like

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Drillship in the distance

Extraction of volatile substances sometimes under extreme pressure in a hostile environment — means risk; accidents and tragedies occur regularly.

As a Mud logger my job is to take, describe and log the rocks and gas all the way down to TD. I also monitor the well, watching for problem indicators on our sensors. At the end of the day we produce reports for clients.

The job is sometimes hard, with long hours of dirty, sweaty work in hot cramped machine rooms. The job can also be boring, spending 10 hours staring at computer screens. I experience social isolation during the 14-28 days I am out here. But it does come with its perks.

Advantages:

The views.

Money. All food is provided, no long car commute. Pay is pretty good.

Hot showers, warm bed, laundry services, all you can eat buffets.

28 On / 14 Off Schedule. Is good for traveling.

Gym onboard, no alcohol. Can get in shape and lose weight.

Ability to read a lot. I’ve read many books while offshore.

The Oilfield Life

“It doesn’t rain in the oilfield” Applies today well. I am working the Midnight to Noon shift. It is pouring down rain and lightning is hitting around us. Still the rig crew keeps tripping out pipe.

It never stops working. These rigs go 24 hours a day 7 days a week. No holidays because it costs 1.5 million dollars per day to operate.

I work 12hr/day. My back to back, does the exact same job for the other 12 hours.

After I knock off I can play guitar, watch tv, or go to the Gym. I have been going to the gym less often this hitch because my circadian rhythm is still off.

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Sikorsky S-92 Personnel Helicopter

To get out here I take a 1 hour helicopter ride from Houma on a 20 passenger Sikorsky S-92, 20. Was exciting at first and now just monotonous. I normally just bury my head in my paper back because they don’t allow electronics.

My Drill Ship is 780ft long, 138ft wide. 10-15 floors. Built in 2014 in South Korea and cost 700 million dollars. Includes a cafeteria, helipad, 2 gyms, and a movie theater.

The global oversupply has led my company to cut around 30,000 jobs. My pay has been cut by 30%. Morale out here is pretty bad. Most of us are just happy to have jobs. People are getting laid off right and left. The training schedule has been canceled and we are all making sacrifices.

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Sunrise on the Drillship

Oilfield Downturn

Operations On Pemex Centennial And La Muralla IV Deep Sea Crude Oil Platforms30$/ bbl Oil is causing havoc in the industry. In my company the layoffs come in groups of 20-30.

They call you in for performance reviews and remind you to bring your laptop. The managers send out emails filled with doom and gloom; citing reorganizing which read like eulogies for our comrades.

My roommate got the axe last week. Unemployment sucks for him. He is in the black hole of job hunting.

The boomtown of Lafayette, LA is contracting fast. For sale and for rent signs are popping up all over town. People who bought houses and trucks during the boom are seeing the possibility of sale or foreclosure.

I have seen 2 mudloggers and 2 Data Analysts fired in my 9 months on the same boat. Thankfully the boat I am on just signed another contract for 2 more years of drilling. We also got end of well bonuses.

I try and stay away from the news about the downturn. Entering the industry I knew that the job is boom/bust. It’s folly to listen to the wall street guys about the price/barrel. My job is in the air for now.

 

 

Rocks, Ripped Climbers, and Renegades. Yosemite’s Rock Climbing Revolution: Valley Uprising

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“The primary vibration in the air, was one of High Adventure”

-Tom Frost

Valley Uprising will inspire you to drop what you are doing and go climb. Yosemite’s Rocks are amazing and I hope to one day see them in person. Imagine a smooth vertical ocean of rock the size of 3 Eiffel Tower’s stacked and you have El Capitan (El Cap as they call it).  I had no idea before I watched this documentary. But being a geologist and an adventurer myself, I instantly loved learning about the Titans of climbing. Royal Robbins, Warren Harding, Lynn Hill, John Bachar, Dean Potter and Alex Honnold. All drawn to the 2,000ft Northwest face of Half Dome and the 3,000ft Nose of El Capitan.

“We have a purpose. Climb Hard. Put up good routes. Only through climbing can you find yourself. Bullshit like that

-Steve Roper

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I’ve only rock climbed once and it was terrifying and awesome. That feeling of being high up and hanging by your sore fingertips unsure whether you can make it is intoxicating. I am not at the weight I want to be currently, but once I get below 200 lbs I will go more. I go to climbing gyms when my friends are around, but I want to become more serious. I already dropped my gym account to save money, and I think I will continue to go to the local rock gym. It helps that I love to bike and it is 1 mile away.

I have talked endlessly about this movie to friends and made each of them watch it. Besides introducing me to some amazing alternative music, I’ve been inspired from this documentary.

This movie is the latest from the Reel Rock Series, and made by Sender Films. http://senderfilms.com/index.php

A lot of the fun of the movie occurs in the middle, with the story introducing the Aquarian Age, psychedelics, and a cocaine filled airplane crashing into Lower Merced Pass.

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After trying to boulder I see the difficulty and level of fitness it requires. Some of these climbers were world class athletes and they do a good job showing the training of these climbers. Pullups, running, and climbing was the way they got better. The perspective of rock climbers looking back enriches the black and white photos.

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This movie is a cool look back on the 50’s 60’s and 70’s. They are really good at telling a story through black and white photos. Thanks to graphic designer Barry Thompson who make the first photos appear to be a comic book animation. Thompson takes climbing’s clash of titans between personality opposites Robbins and Harding explode off the screen similar ala Pacquiao vs. Mayweather.

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“The gear had evolved. The techniques were in place. The rock climbers had matured to the point where they are up to tackling the great challenges of the sport, but the great challenges remain undone.”

-Dan Duane

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“The face of Half Dome stood there and said, “Try me if you dare”.

-Royal Robbins

The way one generation bleeds into another is a strong point of this Documentary. They highlight the Apprentice Master relationship just like in Robert Greene’s Mastery. Examples abound but my favorite was the Jim Bridwell to Royal Robbins relationship; first he is seen next to Royal Robbins as a wide eyed teenager, then 15 years later he is a scruffy journeyman doing acid teaching the the up and coming Stone Masters such as Ron Kauk and Lynn Hill. Teaching and pushing the standards higher and higher.

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Interesting to note the timing on this movie. It was released in September 2014. In the past 12 months Police shootings and Riots have occurred across the US. While the public at large has called for less militarization in the police, new rules and regulations have led to a mindset shift away from environmental protection and toward aggressive enforcement. This is nothing new to Yosemite Rock Climbers who have clashed with police since the 70’s.

“The Rangers have gone from having a degree in Biology to having a degree in Marksmanship”

-Yvon Chouinard

The tribal and happy go lucky mentality of the Golden Age and the Stone Masters is replaced by the somber rugged independence of the Stone Monkeys.

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Working on a Drillship in the Gulf of Mexico

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The H2S alarm blares me awake. Poisonous Hydrogen Sulfide Gas is just one of the threats keeping me from a good nights rest. Two seconds later a voice comes on “Disregard the false alarm, please disregard the false alarm”.

My dreams of large paychecks, sexy girls and the vacations are now over. My phone isn’t plugged in so I get up and check the time. I’ve missed one alarm this week, so my thoughts turn to dread, thinking I’m late again. To my relief it’s another 2 hours until wakeup.

My shoulders and lats ache, I smile knowing that means progress. Despite my fitness efforts over the past two years I have remained the same weight and muscle mass. Seeing the muscled guys in magazines reminds me of girls that I wanted so bad in high school, something I think of, but will never actually get to have.

I track it all. Sleep, Food, exercise, steps. I want that fitbit or jawbone even though I know it’s a waste. I cant wait for my Pavlok really. I see so many people wearing the fitbit. I notice it every time kind of like signal for health conscious people. I also started Winston’s War, which is a novel about World War 2 and how Churchill and the parliament worked before the war.

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I broke regs and pushed my helmet up to bask in the brightness. Working at night has been okay, but I miss the sun, tennis, hiking, trees, animals. The cookies, chocolate, and rolls call to me, I think in my head, “Saturday, I can be a fat fuck”. I’m happy. This routine. I’m maturing. Sometimes I ask myself why I am here. Is it adventure to be on a metal boat that doesn’t move with 3 squares and a hot shower each night? Or it is restriction? No alcoholic drinks, no way to spend money, no girls, no porn, no drugs. I reduced the amount of choices I can make. I don’t feel distracted like I do at home, because at home anything is possible. The choices overwhelm me and I feel lonely if im not texting someone. Here I can’t. I am a man out here. I don’t have to appease anyone, I just have to learn, and eat and shit.

Then we finally get a day worth remembering.

3:30 am-My first 3 hours as a mudlogger is going well, it’s the calm before the storm. Suddenly a Gas alarm goes off in the shaker house, For the last 3 hours I have to announce gas values coming from our sensor in the shaker house. I get on the PA, “Total Gas is 2845 units, Total Gas is 2845 units.” A unit is 50 ppm. That means 142,250 ppm of Methane gas is coming up in the mud into the shaker house from the wellbore. PA comes on, “This is the captain speaking, there is high gas at the shaker units, do not go outside, all crew stand down”. The company man calls and tells us he thinks its sandstone, not shale with 10% siltstone, what ive been calling the last 250 feet of drilled formation. Hen, my sample catcher who goes to the shaker house every 30 ft to collect, sieve and clean samples, looks at me, “what was that?” he asks.” They want me to go into the shaker house? Damn. I tell him we to be calm, and I continue looking at the now fizzing rock sample..This means I was wrong, we aren’t in shale anymore. I have no idea but I want to remain patient.

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4:00 am- The company man and Chase want to know if it is still mud-shale. Ive back tested 5 samples, 150 feet of formation and they all fizz CO2 like a mutherfucker. Damn this isn’t shale and hasn’t been for some time. I tell Chase, this might be limestone, but I don’t have 50% HCL to know”, Chase stares at me mouth open, I continue, “They never sent it to me”. And I don’t know if its oil rich because the samples are covered in base oil from the drilling fluid, and the centrifuge is broken. Chase, who has 12 year’s experience, and makes more money than he could spend in a lifetime living in Mumbai, swivels back around. “So we can’t test for oil or carbon content, is what you’re telling me, I can’t work with this bullshit”. I get the point. I call over to Dennis to get his opinion. He is on the phone pointing at the computer, he hasn’t helped me in 2 hours. Tisharat and Mahmout, two international guys with 20 years combined experience are anxiously eyeing the door. Being 5 feet from a gas filled shaker house, I understand their anxiety; being danger close to a drilling operation going haywire.

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5:00am- Calls are coming in, shit is not going well. Under intense pressure small pockets of gas enter the wellbore, due to a change in pressure these pockets begin to expand. Which is what is currently happening. A small pocket of gas has expanded over the course of the 34,000ft wellbore into a 40 barrel gas pocket. Unknown to us, The Company shut the well in. But this is not the end of problems for the brand new drilling crew, not used to drilling over 5,000 ft of water, with a giant 50 ft Blow Out Preventer, now, cement is pouring onto the deck from a clogged nozzle. A roughneck is trying with no success to un-fuck the nozzle with a broomstick. Cement, mud, and drilling fluid is coming in globs down, Me and Hen look at each other, both thinking we are fucked. Dennis is yelling into the phone now.

Unknown to me, the problem of shale or limestone doesn’t matter. In the oilfield they have an invented term that is a 50% mix of limestone and shale called Marl or Calcareous Shale. Once all the chips fell and responsibility was doled out, we were not in the crossfire. The Mud engineer took the responsibility for the kick, and the drill floor gave us a pass due to our diligence and phone calls we made at the time. The Romanian tells me that this happens quite a bit, but this boat is too inexperienced to be drilling at 120 ft/hr. I am sent off the boat two days later, 2 weeks before my 4 weeks is up. They tell me that The Company wants someone with more experience as a mudlogger. In hindsight, this actually encouraged me, I liked the pressure.

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