You may not think of oil rigs as being that high tech, yet they are becoming ever more so each year with advances in oilfield instrumentation. The job of an oil rig electronics technician involves installing, maintaining and troubleshooting complex systems of sensors, display units, networked PC’s, rig communications systems, rig satellite communications systems and more. On most modern oil and gas drilling rigs there are computer terminals in each office on the rig location, such as the company man’s trailer, mudlogger’s unit, rig floor, etc. Each of these displays can tell bosses, rig workers and service hands what is going on in terms of the well being drilled, drilling fluid flow, mud pump status, speed of the rotary table, rate of penetration (ROP), weight on bit, and much more. In addition to oil rig electronic sensors, the same company may provide a large satellite dish system which transmits this information to other remote monitors in the oil company office, geologist’s offices, etc., as well as providing phone and data communications for the drilling rig. Companies such as Pason hire oil rig electronics technicians to service this equipment.
What education do you need to become an oil rig electronics technician? Companies who hire rig electronics tech’s look for graduation with good grades from a technical school such as ITT, Devry, etc., as well as community college programs and university electrical engineering programs. Usually a four year degree is not necessary to become an oilfield electronics technician.
Oil Rig Electronics Tech, Not An Office Job
These jobs usually require that the technician be on call at all times of the day, including weekends, with possibly a week or more during the month when they are “safe” from being called. The technician will be working in all kinds of harsh weather in a dangerous environment that requires rigorous safety training. He or she may have to wear a climbing harness and climb to certain parts of the drilling rig to install wires or sensors. They will work closely with the rig employees to install and calibrate drilling rig electronics such as weight on bit sensors, intercom lines, etc. An oilfield automation technician may travel by crew boat or helicopter to a remote rig offshore, or by four wheel drive vehicle to a land rig far off the highway in any kind of conditions. It’s definitely not an office job, but it can have its benefits.
Pay for oil rig electronics technicians can be as much as $50,000 a year or more, often with many opportunities to make more money by working overtime. The tech will be expected to work on their own, often far from civilization, and troubleshoot complex problems which may have the rig shut down. Pressure on the drilling rig electronics technician may be intense, since a shut down rig may be costing thousands of dollars per hour.
Other Oilfield Electronics Jobs
Aside from rigs, there are oil and gas electronics jobs related to production and transportation of petroleum. Infrastructure such as pipelines and compressor stations require many kinds of electronic sensors and communications systems to function safely and efficiently. A pipeline electronics technician may do anything from maintaining microwave links and radio towers, to installing and troubleshooting automated valves, flow sensors, corrosion protection systems and warning systems. On the production side of the industry there are automated oil well gas meters, pumpjack and compressor warning systems, H2s warnings sensors and more for an electronics technician to work on. As our nation continues to need more energy, job growth in this sector will increase. Part of the reason so much oil rig instrumentation is being demanded is for safety. In the wake of disasters such as the BP explosion, the need for high tech instrumentation on oil rigs will result in even more technicians being hired.
To find jobs in oil rig instrumentation search sites such as Rigzone.com, Monster.com, Texasoilfieldjob.com and other sites such as the websites of newspapers in areas where oil exploration activity is occurring.