What The Job Of A MWD Technician Involves

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The device above is a MWD or Measure While Drilling probe used in directional drilling of oil and gas wells.  To get a job as an MWD engineer or technician one must have electronics and engineering skills and education.   Here is some information on how to become an MWD engineer in the oilfield.

What is a  Measure While Drilling or MWD technician’s job all about? It is an engineering related job associated with the drilling of horizontal oil and gas wells. One of the most important revolutions in how we obtain oil and natural gas came about after the invention of horizontal drilling. This technology allows wells to be diverted from vertical to horizontal so that a larger profile of petroleum bearing rock can be exposed, and more  gas or liquids recovered from it than from traditional vertical wells. To do this, directional drillers, who operate the complex equipment on the surface, need to know which direction they are drilling, at what angle, and often what type of formation they are drilling in.

The Job Of MWD Engineer, Pointing The Way

This is where a MWD (Measure While Drilling) or LWD (Logging While Drilling) technician’s job comes in. MWD or Measure While Drillng Technician jobs involve knowing how to operate and calibrate complex directional sensing equipment that is placed in nonmagnetic or “nonmag” drill collars (drill pipe) that operate in the long drill string (assembly of pipe and equipment placed in the ground) just above the mud motor.  The mud motor is a  device operated by the flow of drilling mud, which turns a drill bit without having to rotate thousands of feet of drill pipe all the way from the rig on the surface. MWD sensors and equipment deep underground communicate with equipment on the surface either through positive or negative pulses in the stream of drilling fluid, or through electromagnetic (EM) signals. Up on the surface, the signals are decoded by computerized equipment and the MWD technican’s equipment displays the direction and angle of the drilling assembly on an LED readout on the rig floor, so that the directional driller can know which way to drill the oil well.  If the oil company wants to know what type of rock they are drilling through, such as shale or sandstone, they may pay the MWD-LWD company to provide extra sensors, called LWD or Logging While Drilling equipment. A real time log of the well’s geology can be provided by sensors that pick up gamma radiation, etc.   All of this complex technology takes time to learn. For this reason an MWD technician may spend several months training before finally “breaking out”.

How To Become An MWD Engineer Or Technician In The Oil Exploration Industry

The first step in how to get a job as an MWD Engineer is to get a good education. Most MWD or LWD technicians are graduates of college engineering programs or a technical school. This is especially the case with the larger companies such as Halliburton and Schlumberger. Others have worked their way up the oilfield ladder and have been hired because they have a high technical aptitude and have shown an exceptional work ethic and willingness to learn.  If you are in school and want to become an MWD Technician in the oilfield, make sure you take math and science courses and enroll in a degree program focused on mechanical or electrical engineering or oil and gas technology.

Why Become An MWD  or Measure While Drilling Technician?

Salaries for MWD or Measure While Drilling and LWD technicians are very good compared to other engineering technician jobs. Generally MWD is the term used for an employee who runs only basic directional equipment which may or may not have a gamma ray sensor attached.  LWD  or Logging While Drilling technicians run much more complex equipment, even sensors which contain radioactive material. Salaries for high end LWD technicians are typically higher than for MWD – only employees. An MWD or LWD “hand” with several years of experience and who can run many different tools, such as retrievable and collar based tools, operate LWD or Logging While Drilling equipment, etc, may make over $400 a day working for some of the larger companies. Measure While Drilling or MWD technicians are often provided a vehicle or compensated for using their own, as well as paid per diem while on the job. Typically an MWD or LWD technician’s day rate goes up with the complexity of the tools being operated. The more types of sensors, such as gamma ray, resistivity, etc, being used, the higher the day rates.

The Downside To MWD and LWD Jobs

One of the biggest downsides to Measure While Drilling and Logging While Drilling jobs is the fact that employees are often away from home for days on end. For this reason you will often find that many LWD and MWD employees tend to be  younger and single.  Working on oil rigs in a position that demands excellence 24-7, and often working for demand bosses, can be stressful.  When the industry is booming an employee may go from one job to the next without going home for days. Despite these negative aspects,  it is a good way for those with the right skills and attitude to make a good living.  To learn more about MWD and LWD Engineer jobs or more on how oil and gas wells are drilled horizontally see this article: How Oil Wells Are Drilled Sideways

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