What A Directional Driller’s Job Involves

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One of the biggest breakthroughs in how we get the fuel for our vehicles and homes is the science of directional drilling of oil and gas wells. The job of a directional driller is one of the most highly compensated positions in the petroleum exploration industry. Directional drilling has helped discover vast new deposits of oil and natural gas in North America, such as the Marcellus shale and Eagle Ford shale formation. The technology is for the first time in years reversing the decline in domestic oil production.  For this reason, the number of jobs in directional drilling of oil wells is increasing.  The illustration above shows how an oil well is drilled sideways away from the rig, horizontally.  As someone who has worked in the business, I would like to offer some tips on how to get a job as a directional oil well driller.

What A Directional Driller Must Know

The people who most often become highly paid directional drillers have usually arrived at the position by one of two paths. Some have worked their way up the ladder from roughneck and regular oil rig driller and then applied for the job of directional driller with a service company, such as Sperry Sun,  that specializes in that type of work.  To be hired they must have years of experience drilling oil wells in different types of rock formations, working on different types of rigs, etc, as well as posses excellent math and problem solving skills. Others who become directional drillers may have spent several years working in the field of MWD-LWD (Measure and Logging While Drilling), which is the electronic technology used to guide directional drillers as they drill oil and gas wells horizontally through rock stratas.  Those working in LWD and MWD may have an engineering degree from a university or technical school degree. These two completely different career paths mean that there may be a diverse group of employees in any given company. Having good social skills and the ability to get along with others is important, since you will work in close quarters for long hours alongside persons from all kind of backgrounds.  If you want to get a job as a directional driller, make sure you take courses in math and science in high school and college. Trigonometry is an essential part of the job and though many of the calculations used to determine how to build or maintain angle in the well can be done on programmable scientific calculators, understanding the “why” behind the math is essential to the job. In addition, most companies require that directional drillers  attend a multi – day class and pass a final exam before being promoted any further than trainee.

What The Job Of Directional Driller Is Like

Your work will either be on a land rig or on an offshore rig. There is no such thing as a typical “work day” for a directional driller.  One of the most critical times on the job is when the directional driller is diverting the well from vertical to horizontal. A bad calculation on error in judgment when deciding when and how to build angle can mean the difference between having to abandon days of work, cement the newly drilled section of the well, etc. During these times both the day and night directional drillers may be up for many hours without sleep. During the training phase of the job a trainee may work part of the night with one driller and part of the day with the other full time D.D.  Since well trained “hands” are in high demand, they may go straight from one job to the other, with days in between going home. To say that the job can be stressful is an understatement. Salaries for directional drillers with several years of experience may be well over $200,000 a year but in return they are required to go to jobs anywhere, at anytime the company orders them to do so.

For those with prior oil well drilling or MWD-LWD experience, contact firms such as Baker Hughes, Schlumberger, etc. See What Is Directional Drilling for more info on the technology.   For others, try to attend a university or technical school that offers courses in oil and gas drilling technology.

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