What Oil and Gas Workers Do
Oil and gas workers carry out the plans for drilling that petroleum engineers have designed. Drilling workers operate the equipment that drills the well through the soil and rock formation, and they prepare the well for use. Service workers then finish preparing the well and assemble the equipment that removes the oil or gas from the well.
Oil and gas workers include roustabouts, derrick operators, service unit operators, and rotary drill operators.
Roustabouts typically do the following:
- Clean equipment and keep the work area orderly and free of debris
- Use electronic detectors and make visual inspections in flow lines to locate leaks
- Use truck winches and motorized lifts to move pipes to and from trucks or move the pipes by hand
- Dismantle and repair oil field machinery, boilers, and steam engine parts
- Guide cranes that move loads
- Attach lifting slings to loads moved by cranes or by other special equipment, such as gin-pole trucks
Derrick operators typically do the following:
- Inspect derricks, or order their inspection, before they are raised or lowered
- Make sure the drilling fluid continues to flow correctly
- Repair pumps and other equipment related to the drilling fluid system
- Ensure that rig pumps and other drilling systems are working properly
- Use harnesses and platform climbing devices to position and align derrick elements
- Supervise crew members and help train them
- Guide lengths of pipe into and out of elevators
- Help maintain other rig equipment
Service unit operators typically do the following:
- Maintain wells by removing tubes or rods from the hole that is drilled into the ground
- Observe load variations on gauges, pumps, and pressure indicators
- Inspect engines, rotary chains, and other equipment to detect faulty operations or unusual equipment conditions
- Drive truck-mounted units to well sites
- Install pressure-control devices onto wellheads
- Thread cables through derrick pulleys
- Operate pumps that circulate water, oil, or other fluids through wells to remove sand or other materials obstructing the free flow of oil
- Operate controls that raise derricks or level rigs
Rotary drill operators, also known as drillers, typically do the following:
- Oversee maintenance of the drill rig and implementation of the well plan
- Train crews and introduce procedures to make operations safe and effective
- Observe pressure gauges and move throttles and levers, both to control the speed of rotary tables and to regulate the pressure of tools at the bottoms of drill holes
- Observe gauges that monitor well flow to prevent an overflow
- Keep records of footage drilled, locations and the nature of layers drilled, materials and drilling tools used, services performed, and time required
- Start and examine pump operations to ensure circulation and consistency of drilling fluids or mud in wells
- Use special tools to locate and recover lost or broken bits, casings, and drill pipes from wells
Rotary drilling crews do most of the work in oil fields. Most workers involved in gas processing are known as operators.
Additional occupations on drilling crews are as follows:
Engine operators are in charge of engines that provide the power for well site operations. They also do general maintenance of the engines and keep the rig equipment lubricated.
Pumpers operate and maintain the equipment that regulates the flow of oil out of the well.
Gas treaters oversee automatic treating units that remove water and other impurities from natural gas.
Gas-pumping-station operators tend compressors that raise the pressure of gas to send it through pipelines.
Gas-compressor operators often assist gas treaters and gas-pumping-station operators.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition