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
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My Offshore Oilfield Packing List: What to bring Offshore for Guys and Girls

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My Packing List

-PPE: Personal Protective Equipment, i.e. Hard Hat, coveralls, steel toed boots, and safety glasses
-Toiletries: vitamins, melatonin for nights when you can’t fall asleep, deodorant, toothbrush, shampoo, body wash, razor, shaving cream,
-Neck pillow for the van/helicopter ride to and from the rig, Sleep anywhere is good
-Aeropress for coffee, grinder, and whole bean coffee
-Kindle and a paper back book
-Clothes: extra socks and underwear, extra pair of shoes and t-shirts, fleece for cold days, workout clothes, they do laundry for you, but they sometimes lose stuff, so bring extras
-Electronics: extra pair of headphones, 1 TB hard drive for swapping stuff with rig hands
-Healthy snack food, icebreakers ice cube gum, sunflower seeds, bag of mixed nuts and dark chocolate.
-Adapter for the European, Korean outlets onboard.
-Fitbit to track steps onboard
-Small notebook to take notes in, or tally book.
-My guitar, for after my shift

Dude Specific:

Dip and cigarettes, protein powders, pre-workout, bandannas, game for the Xbox Live

Girl specific:
Flip Flops for shower, Breathable clothes, boxers, tee shirts for under coveralls, blanket for the unit or the bed, hand and baby wipes, lots of tampons, teas

What you cannot bring:
Knives, Alcohol, drones, guns, chemicals, fireworks.

10 Common questions about working offshore

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Working on a Drillship in the Gulf of Mexico

Operations On Pemex Centennial And La Muralla IV Deep Sea Crude Oil Platforms

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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