‘Roughneck’ is a term used colloquially to describe an oil rig worker. It can cover everything from drillers to derrickhands, from tool-pushers to pit watchers. Theirs is a way of life that has seen both marked change, over the decades, whilst at the same time retaining that central tenet of ‘hard graft’ that has for so long defined the profession. Advances in health and safety have been welcome, in recent times, but there’s no getting around the fact that this still isn’t a job for the faint-hearted, no matter how safe an onshore rig is ultimately made.
The team here at TriStone Holdings Ltd, a growing UK non-operator within the O&G sector, wanted to explore the human aspect of oil drilling – something which is easily forgotten amongst all the statistics and data that the world of stocks and investment so often brings with it.
Long Hours, Long Days, Long Weeks…
Undeniably, one of the most noticeable features about a roughneck’s life is the serious hours that they work. Whilst they might not be out over the North Sea on an offshore platform for weeks at a time, sometimes they might as well be! In busy periods, workers will regularly clock twelve to eighteen hour days at a time, starting early and finishing very, very late. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to spend with loved ones when they get home from their shift.
That is, of course, assuming that the rig is nearby to where the workers live in the first place! Which very often, it isn’t. Onshore drilling has the misnomer of being the ‘easier’ of the two disciplines (when compared with offshore) but you can quickly see just how off the mark such a statement actually is.
In this sweat-soaked, mud-caked arena of effort, drilling crews often develop a tight-knit bond with one another. A camaraderie borne out of shared experience; the sort you can only foster when spending as much time with each other as these guys do. Roughnecks go through the best of times together, as well as the toughest of times. Business decisions might be made and numbers crunched at oil investment companies such as ours, but without the roughnecks and their grit, the industry would be nothing – and that’s by no means an exaggeration!
Learning What It Is To Work Hard
It’s an objective statement saying that working on an oil rig, whether onshore or offshore, is one of the hardest professions out there. Whether it’s the so-called ‘worms’ (the lowest members of the drilling crew – operating as floor-hands) being covered in dirt from sun-up to sun-down, or the lead driller having to take care of an entire crew, there’s no room for passengers on an oil rig. It would be a braver man than I, that bets they had what it took to work at one of these oilfields, at least, to do so for any real length of time.
Even with the improvements continually being made in the sector, working as a roughneck on an onshore rig is inherently dangerous. It most likely always will be as well. The risk of caught-between and struck-by accidents, falls, explosions and fires and various other hazards have all been mitigated in recent years, thanks to advances in PPE and regulation, but they’re risks that are very much still present. Unfortunately, fatalities still occur within the industry (albeit rarely).
What Does The Future Hold For Roughnecks?
Inevitably, as oil companies look to automate and streamline their operations, there’ll be fewer roughnecks as time goes on. Indeed, if this year has taught us anything, it’s the need for operators to be agile and adapt, where possible. So-called smart rigs are becoming increasingly common, with digital processes more and more replacing their analogue forebears. The usage of drones for surveillance and inspection, for instance, as opposed to engineers.
Not Quite Yet…
That being said, we can’t envisage a situation as it stands currently, what with the limitations of robotics – impressive though they may be – where rigs will become entirely automated. Maybe, someday far off in the future, that might be the case, but it’s certainly not going to be for a while yet. And whilst we have already seen a decrease in on-site personnel, much of this has been the decline in the need to call out engineers, or to have an engineer on-site permanently, as opposed to necessarily getting rid of the drillers, themselves.
So, yes, it might become a little more lonesome for some of the roughnecks on an onshore rig, and there’ll likely be no way around this fact. However, that’s a way of life that most roughnecks are already well used to.
Contact TriStone Holdings Ltd
As a non-operator, we keep up to date with how operations are run at the oil fields, themselves. That includes those who work there. Being connected helps us operate more authentically, as a company. It also means that we’re able to make more insightful business decisions, as well.