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Posts Tagged “oil field basics”

Jobs in the oilfields are fairly labor intensive, involve long / unpredictable hours, and are done in under a variety of weather conditions.  Expect extreme heat and cold, especially in western North Dakota and eastern Montana.  Positions generally fall into a couple of categories:

  • Drilling Rig Jobs
    • land & offshore rigs
  • Pipeline Jobs
    • construction and maintenance of oil & gas pipelines
  • Seismic Jobs
    • seismic exploration and the acquisition of seismic data
  • Mapping & Survey Jobs
    • placement of oilfield facilities and pipelines, including land acquisition and permitting jobs
  • Transport Jobs
    • transportation of oil and gas, oilfield equipment and materials, and personnel


 Minimum age restrictions may be 18 or 21 years old.

  • Drug testing is required in the hiring process and performed randomly on the job – expect it !
  • Depending upon the position, you may need a valid driver‟s license with a clean driving record.  The # 1 hot job commodity currently in the Bakken oil fields is a CDL (Commercial Drivers License).  While a lot of employers are willing to waive the two years previous driving experience in the Bakken, at a minimum you should take the initiative and obtain the CDL permit (ie: taken the written part of the exam).  This will give you a leg up on applications, and make it easier to obtain the actual CDL once you are hired.  At a minimum, you will need transportation to get to and from your job site.
  • Significant overtime hours may be available and required.
  • Most companies will not hire individuals with a felony conviction within at least the past 5 years.
  • Housing is difficult to find.   Some employers offer transitions as well as permanent housing or housing assistance.
  • Be flexible in your expectations of the job schedule. You need to work the schedule that is best for the company’s needs, not your own. As you gain experience, you may be in a better position for other scheduling options, either with your current company or a new company.

Oil Field Positions

Derrick Hand:  is the crew member who handles the upper end of the drill string as it is being hoisted out of or lowered into the hole, may be responsible for the circulating machinery and the conditioning of the drilling or workover fluid and is usually next in line of authority under the driller.

Driller:  this crew member is normally in charge of a specific (tour) drilling or workover crews. The driller‟s main duty is operation of the drilling and hoisting equipment, but may also be responsible for the downhole condition of the well, operation of downhole tools, and pipe measurements. The driller is directly in charge of a particular crew.

Drilling Foreman:  This crew member is usually in charge of a number of rigs, and is sometimes the operator‟s (oil company‟s) representative and is called “the company man”

Floor Hand:  This crew member is a drilling or workover rig worker, is subordinate to the driller, and whose primary work station is on the rig floor. Sometimes called roustabout or laborer. Floor hands typically work long, hard days (very physical). Duties may include assembling or repairing oilfield equipment using hand and power tools, assisting in slotting, welding and inserting casing screens, assisting with well development and pumping tests, carrying out minor maintenance and repairs including lubrication, cleaning equipment, drilling and camp sites, digging and cleaning mud pits and drains, helping move drilling rigs and equipment from site to site, and more. 

Land Survey Field Assistant: A land survey field assistant is a member of a team that determines precise boundaries of land parcels, airspaces and water sites. Construction, transport and communications-mapping industries rely on this data which provides the legal boundaries for land ownership and political districts. A land surveyor field assistant uses telescopic and trigonometric instruments to gather measurements on, above, and below the earth’s surface that are later analyzed to determine borders.

Motor Hand: This crew member is involved in the proper maintenance and repair of the engines of the drilling rig and other motorized drilling rig equipment.

Pipe Layer:  This crew member lays 10″ irrigation pipe and does water transfer/pumping water to frac tanks.

Shop Hand: This crew member’s role is to clean the shop and trucks, moves and operates equipment and vehicles as needed, and helps with truck and equipment maintenance.

Stabber:  This crew member is a rig hand who, during the running of casing or tubing, stands on the tubing board high in the derrick and guides the pipe into position so the threaded end can be set in the collar and made up by floor hands using tongs.

Swamper:  This crew member is typically the helper of the more experienced person. A swamper spends a lot of time loading and unloading trucks. This person transports construction and plant equipment and materials (including pipe and living quarters for camps) on highway; moves equipment and supplies off highway; moves overweight or over dimensional loads; and dismantles, transports and assembles drilling and service rigs.

Truck Driver:   Operates various types of transports, including water trucks, fuel trucks, gravel trucks, string trucks, vacuum trucks, high boys/low boys. Truck drivers are required during every stage of the construction project. Truck drivers are responsible for operating the truck in a safe and efficient manner and generally require a Class A CDL with as many endorsements as possible.

Wireline Operator/Field Engineer:  Assist experienced crew members in running wireline operations in the field. Driving wireline trucks and cranes to and cleaning and maintaining the trucks and equipment. Supervise and perform wireline operations in the field as well as supervise and perform maintenance of all the trucks and equipment from well site locations.


If you are new to the oil patch, learn the basics !

There are two main processes that occur in the field:

  1. The front end of the operation is the drilling process.  The first step is setting up the drilling rig, getting the hole drilled, pipes installed, and cement casing around the pipes.  While the hole is being drilled, mudloggers take regular samples of the mud that comes out and the site geologist determines and verifies that the drilling is being done in the right location below the surface.
  2. The second step is to do fracking once the pipes and cement casing is installed. This process involves using explosive “wireline‟ cable to begin the process of opening up the surrounding rock so that the oil can leak out into the pipes.  Fracking crews then pump in sand/water solutions to further expand these channels so oil will flow into the pipes.

Once the fracking is done and the oil is flowing, a pumping unit is attached to the well head to extract the oil and channel it into storage tanks. At this point, the drilling rig crews, wireline operators, and fracking crews all move on to the next well site. The entire process usually takes a month or less if everything goes right.

OK – the following video, provided by Northern Oil & Gas, Inc., may seem like something from a video you’d see in middle school – but it’s sums up the process perfectly.  Be sure to take a few moments to view the drilling process:

Once a well is up and running, the workover crew comes in and maintains the well, troubleshoots any problems, and builds and removes structures as needed. Workover crew positions are generally long-term jobs since wells can have a 30-year life expectancy.