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“Human prosperity rarely dwells long in one place.” So said Aristotle.
We’re drilling on top of abandoned homesteads, the dreams of last century. How much longer will the Bakken last?
There is plenty of oil in the ground. The oil goes on trains that take it to ships that take it to refineries that send gas and diesel and kerosene and bunker fuel and asphalt and plastic and motor oil and grease to all over the world. And they send us pipes and God knows what else. I’ve seem pipe from Germany, India, South Korea, the USA, and Mexico. Globalization in action. The industrial might of nations converging in the Northern plains.
Already the Bakken and her cousin formations have turned the balance of world power. Iran finds itself in a weaker bargaining position because of the glut of US oil. Globalization in action.
We’ve turned the economy into a strange organism. Could we dismantle this monstrosity even if we wanted to?
The night is very cold, and from my vantage point out the V-door on the rig floor I can glimpse the Killdeer Mountains, where the US Calvary fought the Indians.
As far as they eye can see, there are hundreds of natural gas flares, thier large plumes illuminating the horizon. I think of Gideon’s army surrounding the enemy, waiting to light their torches and sound thier trumpets.
The next joint of pipe comes through the door, and we go a little deeper.
The temperature got down to -26 F in some parts of the Bakken last week. Like everything else, you get used to it. Now that it has warmed up to the twenties it feels quite balmy.
People ask if weather ever shuts down oilfield operations. Usually weather doesn’t stop anything for more than at few hours. Blizzards and extremely high winds are the most common causes for a rig shutdown, but I’ve only seen it happen twice in the last year.
The cold does slow things down considerably, as equipment parts become brittle, diesel gels, and oil gets cold.
Whenever I travel through Montana, I stay with a friend in the Missoula area that runs a sort of commune. A very conservative commune to be sure, as there are no drugs and a strong support for second amendment rights. Last time I passed through I ran into a guy named ABH.
He had twenty years of honorable service in the military as a helicopter technician. For his time in the service, he looks very healthy; the military seems to age most people quite a bit. He was coming up from Florida looking for the next step in life, and told me he had his eye on the oilfield. Missoula is four hundred miles from the Bakken, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Montana geography. I referred ABH to my blog to get him pointed in the right direction.
A week later I’m back through and he is tells me that he has a $100,000 a year job with Marathon lined up in Dickinson, using Sven’s Bakken Blog and his own Internet research as guides.
Another Bakken success story! I’ll post some of the online resources he found later.
The Bakken Oilfield, Fail of the Day is a Facebook group that posts a Bakken oilfield related picture of the day. Some are funny, involving dirty Porta-Potties and such, but most are more grim and morbid, involving highway accidents and overturned heavy equipment. The anonymous author of Bakken Fail of the Day operates it as a public service to remind people to be safe on the roads and to stop criminals.
I think BFOTD is a good thing because it can stop us from being complacent. It features real pictures of often gruesome highway accidents, but it can be a stark reminder to keep our eyes on the road, drive at a safe speed, and keep rested.
One thing that bothers me about BFOTD is the commenters that take it upon themselves to rant about how careless and stupid other people are. They show a lack of compassion for the family and friends who may have just died or been horribly injured by doing this.
What really bothers me is the smugness of people who judge the actions of people whose bodies are still warm. They think they are untouchable, above it all. Nothing could be more pigheaded.
Oilfield work is INHERENTLY DANGEROUS. That’s a way of saying there is a chance of getting hurt no matter how safe you try to be, no matter how perfectly you follow the rules.
We all work long hours, and it is easy to let your attention slip for a moment. Equipment fails at unexpected times. Other workers make mistakes.
Corners are cut in the oilfield. Less corners that the good old days (or bad old days, depending on who you talk to), but still. I try to be a by the books guy since I run a crew, but I still take a shortcut sometimes. The point is, everyone does once in a while. So why are these fools second guessing their fellow workers? I hate the macho tough guy attitude of “it can’t happen to me.”
It can happen to you. Be careful out there. Make your peace with your God(s). Get the best insurance you can afford. Make sure your loved ones would be ok if you had an accident.
I’ve worked quite a few dangerous places, in the military, on ships, in the high mountains, etc. and I suppose every man has to mentally be a little bit “above it all.” Knowing that you are just as vulnerable to the whims of fate can be too much to think about; still, we need to be kinder in our judgements of people who are making fatal mistakes in the oilfield.
As the Romans said: “Speak no ill of the dead.” They can’t defend themselves.
Today I begin telling the stories of folks working out in the Bakken. I hope readers can get a sense of the boom phenomenon through these stories. I want to show a complete picture of what is happening out here.
PW is about fifty years old, and works for Haliburton as a directional driller.
Directional driller: uses special computers and instruments to make the curve as the well transitions from vertical to horizontal. He then “steers” the drill bit through the 25 foot thick Bakken formation horizontally for up to 2.5 miles. To learn more about directional drilling, watch this.
PW grew up in Colorado. He does a sedentary job, so he is trying to lose weight by biking and lifting when he isn’t working. As a directional driller, he stays with the rig, living in a trailer for up to a month at a time.
In the early 2000s, he worked as a general manger at a ready mix concrete company in Colorado. He lost his job when the company was sold, so he went back to college for architectural engineering. In ’07, he met somebody from Haliburton and got his first oilfield job as a “measurements while drilling” tool hand.
A measurements while drilling tool is a sensor that goes inside special non-magnetic pipe near the drill bit. It uses radition to sense what type of geological formations it is passing through.
PW teaches kids how to alpine ski in Colorado when he goes home, and he talks about starting a pub when he finishes up with the oilfield. Like a lot of Bakken workers, he doesn’t like the oilfield, but sees it as a great second chance to make the money he needs.