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Company Man

The structure of an rig crew usually involves an oil company hiring a drilling contractor to carry out the drilling operations. The rig crews are employees of the drilling contractor so in order to ensure that the operation is carried out according to the specifications, timelines and other goals, a company representative is assigned to each rig crew and this individual is referred to as the company man.

Some of the primary responsibilities of the company man are provided below:

  • Ensure and support all safety precautions and regulations on board the rig.
  • Ensure that the operation is proceeding according to the set time lines, budget and other goals.
  • Provide any company support the rig crew might require for the drilling operation or for any softer issues.
  • Serve as the eyes and ears of the oil company and report back any inconsistencies, concerns or discrepancies that may arise.

The company man is required to be around for all shifts and is responsible for the rig’s performance throughout its shifts. He is usually expected to be a college graduate and very often started out as the lowest position on a rig crew, building his experience and knowledge until he obtained this full time senior position with the oil company. A company man can progress to more senior positions like that of a floating foreman or rig superintendent who would handle complex drill issues. It is a respected and highly sought after position and commands a strong salary of $80,000 to $120,000 per year.


A critical role on any oil rig is that of the petroleum geologist. Apart from deciding where to actually drill the hole, geologists are required on a rig crew to assist with the drilling process. Since this chapter is focusing on roles within a rig crew, the role description of the geologist will be limited to his functions on the rig crew.

Some of the key responsibilities of the geologist on a rig crew are listed below:

  • The oil rig geologist spends most of his time working with the mud engineer to analyze the composition of the mud through which the drill is passing and anticipating any changes that may occur as the operation proceeds.
  • This includes collecting various samples of rock, particles and under the surface materials to fully understand how the sub surface levels are changing.
  • The geologist will also examine the gasses that emerge from the borehole wall to evaluate whether any hydrocarbons are present or due to appear.
  • Ultimately all the information he gathers is analyzed and studied so that a detailed report can be prepared outlining his opinion on the nature of the mud and suggestions on how to ensure its characteristics are maintained according to the mud composition plan.

An oil rig geologist is expected to have a graduate degree in geology and have built a fair amount of experience in the petroleum industry. It could involve working on oil rigs offshore or oil fields onshore. It is not a job for those looking for an air-conditioned office in the center of a busy metropolis. Chances are you will be positioned in sweltering or freezing conditions, exposed to the elements most of the time, getting your hands dirty with all the materials that are normally associated with an oil rig. The salary of course is commensurate with your education background and experience. You can expect a starting salary of $80,000 to $100,000 per year and as you gain experience, it could increase by up to 50%.

The Mud Engineer or Mud Man

For any drilling expedition, a vital component is the mud. It is composed of various chemicals and other essential components that ensure that the drill is kept effectively lubricated at all times, the hydrostatic pressure on the borehole wall is maintained which in turn controls any possible influx of the reservoir fluids. Controlling the chemical characteristics of the mud and keeping it constant is vital for the smooth function of the drilling operation and that’s where the role of the Mud Engineer comes in.

The mud engineer’s job responsibilities can be listed below:

  • Before the drilling operation begins, the mud engineer will consult with the geology expert and other references to prepare a ‘mud program’.
  • This will contain a detailed plan on what the chemical components of the mud should be at all times, how to keep its characteristics the same as different surfaces are reached and deciding what should be added or removed to ensure stability of the hole.
  • As drilling progresses, the mud engineer will rely on a number of experts to advise him on how the mud is changing. He will work with them to perform a series of chemical and physical tests to validate forecasts and formulate action plans.
  • As the hole gets deeper, small rock particles begin to emerge which changes the chemical composition of the mud. This has to be controlled with the help of various additives.
  • Ultimately on some occasions, the entire mud will have to be replaced and once again this will be managed by the mud engineer.
  • If at any time the stability of the borehole wall is at risk, cement is poured inside which is often times supervised and managed by the mud engineer.
  • The mud engineer maintains the equipment used to pump the mud so that it is functioning, as it should at all times.

A mud engineer’s experience and knowledge is essential for the effective running of a drill crew. He is usually expected to be a graduate with a degree in engineering or chemistry. He would have also obtained an additional certificate from a ‘mud school’ to supplement his education. Prior to becoming a mud engineer, he would need at least 10 years or more experience on an oil rig performing in roles such as derrickhands or roughnecks before spending more time with senior mud engineers.

Mud engineers are provided a lot of support for their jobs including computer aids and reference material so that all possible issues can be anticipated in advance. It is a highly critical and technical function as any mistakes in this area can prove to be extremely expensive. The salary is in the range of $72,000 per year but can differ according to experience, companies and tasks expected.

Oil Rig Motorman Jobs

An oil rig functions with the help of a variety of machines all of which have to run continuously and seamlessly in order to support the crew. The oil rig motorman’s job is to keep all the machines running smoothly by oiling and lubricating all the relevant parts and ensuring they are functioning as per their specifications.

Oil rigs use a variety of machines depending on either diesel or electricity to support the extraction of oil. Equipment is used to lower and extract the drill from the drill hole, another set of machinery is used to rotate the table that in turn rotates the drill bit; and still more equipment is used to circulate the mud, which is used as drilling fluid. If any of these machines were to malfunction or get damaged, it would severely hamper the productivity of the crew. The oil rig motorman’s job is to ensure that this never happens.

Apart from spending their time on the engines, the oil rig motorman also performs a number of additional tasks, some of which are listed below:

  • Train, mentor and oversee the more junior manual workers like the roughnecks and roustabouts.
  • Support the other rig workers in their roles as the demand arises.
  • Maintain all the machinery by periodically lubricating it and servicing it.
  • Examine certain machinery parts like the tongs, which are used when connecting the spinning chain and the drill pipe.
  • Ensure the stores are well stocked with replacement parts and bits. This includes ordering replacements when required.

The oil rig motorman should have a strong interest and flair for mechanics. Once again, attention to detail is vital as well as a positive team player attitude. Most roughnecks are promoted to this role after completing a certain number of years of experience and backing it up with a number of supporting certifications. It is very rare for a new entrant to grab this type of job without having any previous oil rig experience. The salary of this function ranges from $45,000 to $60,000 per year.

Derrickhand Jobs

The derrickhand is responsible for the uppermost portion of the drill and takes care of ensuring it is effectively lowered or raised from the drill hole. This process is called tripping and occurs a number of times during the day to remove any broken parts or to replace any parts of the equipment. About a quarter of the derrickhand’s time is spent high up on the rig’s uppermost platform also called the monkey board. This location is prone to strong winds and needs careful attention to safety to avoid fatal accidents.

The following are some of the key roles performed by the derrickhand:

  • Raising and lowering the drill from or into the drill hole from the monkey board. They play a vital role in guiding the pipe as it is rejoined to the pipe string when lowered into the hole.
  • Since tripping doesn’t happen throughout the day, the remaining 75% of the derrickhand’s time is spent on other activities like working the mud system, which includes circulating the mud.
  • Thanks to the derrickhand’s strong experience on the rig and dexterity in his function, he is often relied upon to assist the driller in his functions
  • Finally as and when the requirement arises, the derrickhand oversees or actually performs equipment maintenance functions on a case to case to basis.

The role of a derrickhand requires strong attention to detail, ability to work in a team, dexterity and a fearlessness of heights. It pays about $37,000 a year and after gaining sufficient experience in the function, good derrickhands can expect to get promoted to driller positions.

Offshore Jobs – Learning What to Expect When Looking

Title: Offshore Description: Offshore platform...
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Being knowledgeable in many fields is critical when looking for an offshore job, especially when looking for an oil rig job or one in the gas industry.  One thing you should start with is to know that the job is going to be very physical. However, don’t forget that physical jobs have their own rewards. A person starting off in an oil rig position is paid anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 annually.  Such a person is characterized by having little or no experience. However, more money is made as experience increases.  This is explained well by the fact that worker demand exceeds the supply of people who are in line to work in this area.

Not all offshore jobs are on oil rigs or the gas industry, but all offshore jobs typically require one to be away from home for weeks or months.  There are also other requirements and they include having a clean bill of health on top of being in a good physical condition. Some areas don’t provide medical care and this is enough reason to know if you are a high risk person. Thus, qualification may be difficult for someone with health risks.

Oil Driller Jobs

An oil driller is assigned the responsibility of supervising the rig crews and ensuring that every task is being performed accurately and  fficiently. He in turn is supervised by the tool pusher or rig manager. An effective oil driller who is good at his job will be a good communicator, have strong attention to detail, be well abreast with government and statutory regulations and have excellent organizational skills. He is in effect a leader and should possess the skills expected of a strong leader.

Apart from overseeing the smooth functioning of the crew, the oil driller also has the following other responsibilities:

  • Supervise the rig crews and ensure that tasks are being performed as per the specifications.
  • Ensure that each member of the crew is observing the work attire and safety regulations.
  • Hold daily safety briefings and assign tasks and responsibilities for the day.
  • Hold and enforce regular drills to promote the safety of all rig workers and the machinery.
  • Conduct periodic tests and assessment of the machinery performance and record performance in the rig logs.
  • Update the personnel and staff files with relevant details.
  • Act as a mentor and supervisor for the new staff who join the rig.

To obtain the oil driller role, a variety of certifications have to be obtained particularly in the area of safety precautions and first aid. Some employers also prefer a bachelor’s degree in engineering. These educational qualification backed by a fair amount of experience on the job propels oil drillers into more senior positions. Salaries at this level usually amount to $17 to $25 per hour with an additional amount as a living allowance.

Roustabouts and Roughnecks

The entry-level position on an oil rig is that of a roustabout and as they get more experienced and climb up the ladder become known as roughnecks. Most individuals get their foot in the door through this type of role, which is considered by many as the backbone of any successful oil rig. The job requires unskilled or semi skilled manual labor and includes all the peripheral tasks that have to be undertaken so that the rest of the team can focus on getting the oil out of the ocean bed smoothly.

Some of the tasks that roustabouts and roughnecks perform are listed below:

  • Repair or service the machinery and drills
  • Work on digging ditches, pouring concrete, preparing slabs and derricks using different types of machinery.
  • Ensure that the deck is always clear of any hazardous clutter and kept clean.
  • Heavy lifting of machinery or material across different parts of the rig as required.
  • Maintain the equipment by scraping rust off deteriorated parts, applying a fresh coat of paint and so on.
  • Any other tasks that do not require specific skills to perform but are essential for the smooth functioning of the drilling process.

On some rigs only roustabouts perform the above tasks. The roughnecks perform a more specialized skill involving threading drill bits and connecting the steel tubes. Most roughnecks begin with the roustabout job and then as they get more experienced, are assigned this more skill-oriented role. From an employer perspective, roughnecks and roustabouts are expected to be diligent and conscientious in their work so that they can be trusted to take on more challenging work. From an employee perspective, it is an opportunity to get onboard a rig and build your experience so that you can progress from this entry level position to a better paying more responsible job.

Most oil rigs have about 8 to 10 roughnecks or roustabouts, 2 being assigned to each crew or shift. The salary could range anywhere from $33,000 to $45000 per year depending on the company you are working for, with some companies paying even more. In most cases benefits are also included in the salary package.

The Drilling Department

The Drilling Department takes care of the bread and butter of the rig – actually drilling for oil. The roles in this department are very similar to the onshore drilling roles since the tasks are essentially the same.

  • Roustabouts and Roughnecks
  • Oil Driller Jobs
  • Derrickhand Jobs
  • Oil Rig Motorman Jobs
  • The Mud Engineer or Mud Man
  • Geologist
  • Company Man
  • Crane Operator

The ToolPusher

The oil rig manager or toolpusher is the individual who supervises all aspects of the rig, from the crew to the machinery. The entire team depends heavily on the oil rig manager for their safety guidelines, tasks for the day, personnel issues, conflicts and other concerns. In addition, the rig manager is the interface between the oil company and the crew. He will be answerable in case of any delays, issues and disasters. On the flip side he can also claim credit for any key achievements and accomplishments.

Most rig managers get their job after working their way up. They start out as roustabouts and gradually progress up the food chain until they reach this level. Their level of experience is substantial considering they have in all likelihood had a chance to work in most of the functions on the rig. They are also on many occasions right in the thick of things, performing manual labor functions as and when the work demands it. That said, experience alone does not an effective rig manager make. He also has to be an extremely capable leader with the ability to drive a team of individuals towards a common goal.

Some of the roles of a rig manager are listed below:

  • Overseeing and supporting the set up of an oil rig and the closure of it when it is completed.
  • Coordinating and scheduling between different rig crews.
  • Supervision and adherence to all safety precautions and procedures.
  • Ensuring that the rig and crew complies with all governmental, statutory and individual company policies and procedures.
  • Leading and motivating the rig workers and handling any personnel issues that crop up.
  • Planning, organizing and managing the day-to-day activities on the rig with the help of his supporting team.

 In order to become a rig manager, you need to gain a vast amount of oil rig experience, display strong leadership potential as well as build your certifications. Some of the training you would have to complete would be First Aid, Safety, Fall Protection, Oil Field Boiler and others depending on the requirements of the company. Most rig managers have been in the industry for a number of years and depending on their experience and size of rig, can expect salaries starting from $80,000 per year.