From the lease owner to regulatory agencies, when you work as a lease pumper there are plenty of relationships you will have to maintain. However, one often overlooked association is between the lease pumper and the owner of the land. To help preserve a healthy alliance with the land owner, it is essential to follow good lease maintenance protocols. While this can cover a wide array of duties, always ensure to keep up with these 11 important areas of oil & gas lease operating maintenance!
Oil & Gas Lease Expense Maintenance #1: Cattle Guards and Gates
A lease pumper requires daily access to the site as soon as a producing well has been established onsite. This often involves the use of fences and gates as vehicles will be required to pass through to get to the equipment and well. These protective measures ensure both the livestock and the equipment are kept safe. Cattle guards are often used in place of gates to avoid having to stop and get out of the vehicle to open and close the gate. Once the gate or guard is set up, the lease pumper needs to take in all safety considerations. This includes the distance between the highway and the cattle guard or gate. There should always be enough space for a large truck and trailer, a well servicing unit, or other large vehicles to stop completely in front of the gate or guard, without cutting off the public roads in any way.
Figure 1. A poorly installed cattle guard fence. Notice how the guard is filled with dirt, allowing animals to walk over it.
To keep the gates and/or guards in tip-top shape, always make sure to properly clean out, and if needed, re-leveled to ensure the safety of the vehicles and animals. If the well becomes closed or abandoned, it is up to the lease operator to remove the cattle guard or to replace the sections of fence.
Oil & Gas Lease Expense Maintenance #2: Lease Office
Commonly referred to as dog houses, lease offices are usually a one room building that is around 8 feet wide and 12 foot long. However, the exact measurements typically depend upon the lease. The area is used to store a desk or work area for the lease pumper, and storage. Depending upon the lease, it can also house several different daytime pumpers. The exact specifics are typically determined by the size of the facility and lease.
For instance, some lease offices have an attached materials storage room, equipped with a truck unloading door; while others only house a single desk and a room for spare equipment. Remember, no matter what type of facility is on the property, you should always keep the lease office well maintained for both a great appearance, and the safety of anyone who frequents the building.
Oil & Gas Lease Expense Maintenance #3: Livestock Injuries
The majority of leases are located on land where livestock roam free (ex. ranch, farm, etc.). As a lease pumper, you will encounter livestock on a regular basis while driving around during your daily duties. However, when areas are not properly fenced, livestock may start the habit of seeking shade near the lease equipment (see figure 1). To keep these animals safe from injury to both themselves and the equipment, a lease operator should always install sufficient fencing to keep animals out. Remember: small animals (such as calves, goats, and sheep) often lie down in the shade and can easily fit under some fences; to avoid this issue, ensure you use the proper fencing options for all the livestock and small animals involved.
Figure 2. Cattle and other animals may seek the shade offered by the oil field equipment.
The land belongs to the landowner; and as such, they have the right to run livestock on the property. This also means they have the right to protect their livestock. Whenever you’re driving on the lease, always take care when near the animals. For instance, cattle may follow a lease pumper during the beginning of a lease. This is due to many herds are fed supplement feed, and thus may think you are there to feed them. Over time, they will realize you are not there for them, and will leave you to your duties.
Figure 3. Often times, fences are installed around the equipment to keep out the landowner’s livestock.
Oil & Gas Lease Expense Maintenance #4: Off-Road Travel
The mineral lease agreement holds many of the specific details you will need. This includes: the location and type of road construction, how wide the roads are, as well as the location of the pits, tank batteries, and wells. During the course of time, a mud hole may develop in a low area of the road. While a lease pumper may be tempted to just drive around the hole, you should always try to solve the issue at hand. For instance, in this case the pumper could bring a small load of rocks to fill and repair the road damage.
Lease pumpers should always avoid going off road whenever possible. Otherwise you put yourself at risk for damaging the property as well as a wide variety of violations, such as: collisions with livestock or equipment, dead grass, soil erosion, and more. Typically the first indication the landowner does not approve of the lease pumpers practices is by providing a bill to the lease operator for the specific damages. However, some landowners have been known to take direct action by changing the locks or even forbidding the lease operator from coming onto the property.
In some instances, a third party may be responsible for the damages (ex. well service crew). Nonetheless, the landowner will still characteristically place the blame on the lease operator. Regardless of who is at fault, or whether or not the damage is real or imaginary; serious problems can arise when anyone drives off the roads or locations of the lease. Always use common sense to determine the best course for inspecting nearby installations. For example, walk to the location if a problem could occur from driving there.
One of the best ways to help prevent issues is to nurture the relationship with the landowner. Many lease pumpers become close friends with the landowners, which can provide them with a little more breathing room. For instance, in the event of a problem; the landowner is more willing to talk to the lease pumper, rather than just get angry and withdraw.
Oil & Gas Lease Expense Maintenance #5: Open Pits and Vents
It is common to find open pits in an oil field. Unfortunately, due to the lower water tables, dams, and other issues; these pits also invite the local birds (and any migrating through the area) to land on or beside these ponds to get a drink. This has caused a number of animals and birds to die from drinking oil and/or non-potable water. The same thing goes for vents. When opened, vents can make an attractive location for nesting; and can often draw in bats, birds, squirrels, and other small animals.
We have already lost so many species of birds in our lifetimes, and hundreds more will be lost during our child’s lifetimes. Don’t contribute to this tragedy. Always guarantee you are following the proper regulations and protocols to protect the area wildlife. Pits should be fenced, coverings should be carefully planned and thought out, and make sure careful maintenance practices are followed.
Oil & Gas Lease Expense Maintenance #6: Plants and Animals
As a lease pumper, it’s a guarantee you will come into contact with plants and animals at some point throughout your line of work. While some plants are native to the area; others could be planted by the landowner to improve the land, as a cash crop, or any number of reasons. On the other hand, animals (including wild birds) are often regulated by the state fish and game board, or even federal regulations; and in some cases, the landowner may consider the wildlife as part of their property (even performing some degree of care for the creatures).
Birds can make nests on the oilfield equipment, animals may use the equipment for shelter, or livestock may find their way into the area. Despite these issues, both the lease pumper and the lease operator do not have the unconditional right to attempt to control these animals. For instance, if a bird is endangered, the pumper will have to wait until the eggs have hatched, and the young birds have left the nest before attempting to haul away the equipment. To make sure all proper procedures are followed, always talk to the land owner (and if necessary, the fish and game department) when you experience any issues caused by plants or animals.
Oil & Gas Lease Expense Maintenance #7: Road Maintenance
It can be very expensive to build and/or maintain roads. You can experience pot holes, mud or water in the road after excessive rains, or other surface issues that can develop over time. Due to this, unless you have a high producing well, there is typically little money available to go towards road maintenance. To help combat these issues (and prevent them from becoming larger issues), many lease pumpers will periodically perform various road services. This could include: putting small loads of gravel in mud holes, moving large rocks to the side of the road, or other road maintenance.
Oil & Gas Lease Expense Maintenance #8: Soil Contamination
Working as a lease pumper requires you to handle a wide variety of substances that are hazardous to the environment. This can include: chemicals, salt water, oil, petroleum production substances, and other various materials. Spills from any of these materials can pose an eminent risk to both humans and animals (livestock and wildlife) alike. These substances can kill plants, grass, and other vegetation; or even prevent anything from growing for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it is vital for a lease pumper to address any spills or leaks as soon as possible; and every effort must be made to clean up after the mess.
Sometimes this can be completed by simply following the directions on the product label. Other times, it may indicate soil should be mixed in with the spill; or water should be used to dilute it. Depending upon the circumstances, you may even be required to call in a specialty crew for clean up. Whatever the case, always make sure to report the incident to the proper regulatory agency.
Oil & Gas Lease Expense Maintenance #9: Trash Removal
You should never accumulate trash on the lease. A lease agreement does not give the lease pumper, or any other individual entering the lease, the right to scatter bottles, cans, or other trash along the way. Many of the roads on a lease are private, and it is up to the lease operator to remove all trash and keep the paths clean. The best method is to pick up any trash as soon as you see it. This way you never give trash the ability to accumulate. As a lease pumper, you should be able to drive over your entire lease without seeing a single piece of trash.
Oil & Gas Lease Expense Maintenance #10: Vista of Lease
The Vista of Lease is what refers to the general appearance of the equipment, and everything else on the lease. This includes: idle equipment, junk, pipe racks, scrap materials, and more. A lease pumper should keep in the habit of arranging everything in a neat and orderly fashion, with the pipe racks arranged in order. Proper protocols for materials should be utilized. This includes:
- Using Available Stripping to Separate Layers of Pipe in Neat Stacks
- Storing Equipment and Chemical Barrels in Aligned Rows
- And More
Keeping things clean and organized is contagious. If you do it, so will the other workers; and the same goes for the reverse. If the site is constantly unorganized or chaotic, the workers will continue to follow those methods. Remember, a well organized stored equipment area is not unexpected benefit. It is a result of a well operated and organized company or group of people.
Oil & Gas Lease Expense Maintenance #11: Weeds
All equipment and stored materials should be clear of vegetation and weeds. Not only is this a fire hazard; but it can also increase rust or corrosion in the metal, cover up holes or other dangers, collect trash, and/or provide a refuge for small animals and/or snakes. Therefore, excessive vegetation should be addressed immediately by the lease pumper. This ensures the excess is always cleared away and trimmed back.
Is your appetite for oil & gas operating knowledge insatiable like ours? 😀 If so, check out this related article, The Lease Pumper’s Cheat Sheet to Oilfield Emergencies – it will surely pump you up!!!