In January of 2018, a surge of gas ignited and caused an oilfield fire that killed five men on a drilling rig near Quinton, Oklahoma. A following lawsuit alleged the deadly blowout was preventable: Red Mountain Energy, the owner and operator of the well, used a lighter drilling mud than recommended by experts. Why the cheaper mud? It was chosen to impress investors with cut costs.
You - standing in fire-retardant overalls with steel-toed boots, gloves, eye protection, a hard hat, and a shovel - listen carefully on your first day as the manager explains your job and watch as some seasoned guys demonstrate: is that training? Not by authoritative standards.
Welcome to the rig floor, where more oilfield accidents happen than any other location on the drilling rig. Roughnecks on the rig floor are some of the most prone to injury, positioned next to the moving drillstring, using heavy tongs and fast-moving spinning chains, heaving the slips, and working around the rotary table. Here are some of the major hazards roughnecks and floorhands face when on the rig floor.
Danger in the oilfields doesn't start when the drillbit hits the dirt. Hazards arrive on the well pad as soon as the set-up crews do.
Oil and gas operations have recently revved up the Texas economy and created new jobs, including thousands of jobs in oilfield trucking. With peak salaries ranging from $70k-$110k a year, many are enticed to join the industry. However, oilfield trucking is not normal trucking, and truck drivers sometimes end up with a wilder ride than they expected.
Beneath the crisscrossing latticework of an oil derrick, the threat of catastrophic well failure always looms. Perhaps the most feared of all oilfield accidents is the unanticipated well blowout, which can have catastrophic, deadly consequences.
On a 100-degree Texas afternoon, oilfield workers prepare a derrick for normal drilling operation. Few average people consider that they are digging up matter that could someday become neon nail polish, refined jet fuel, or a plastic storage bin. Even fewer average people consider what oilfield workers face when an oilfield accident happens on the rig, resulting in catastrophic injury or even wrongful death.
In the early 1900s, miners carried canary birds into the mines with them as poison testers. At the time, no available instruments could detect carbon monoxide (CO) - a lethal, tasteless, odorless, invisible, flammable gas. However, if the canary stopped singing or perished from CO exposure, miners knew to evacuate. Canaries have since become ingrained in mining culture, even though more sophisticated technology has replaced them as CO detectors. Unfortunately, the same threat of CO in the workplace remains.
The pop-off valve might not receive the same recognition as the battered hard hat, the treaded rubber boot, or the leather work glove, but it is still one of the most important pieces of safety equipment in the oil and gas industry. Also called a "pressure relief valve," it saves pipes and, most importantly, oil and gas workers' lives. Pipelines under too much pressure practically become underground bombs, but this device counters the kaboom by acting like an automatic diffuser.
Fatal and injurious oilfield accidents in Texas are all too common. In fact, the oil and gas industry has some of the highest rates of work-related accidents. Big oil companies and lobbies like the American Petroleum Institute (API) dispute the federal statistics, asserting that the industry has low rates of injury compared to other occupations.