Okay so It’s Halloween time and I can’t help but think of things that frighten me like plugged up Meko regulators, critters lurking in my meter houses and strange mechanics who appear late at night at my locations.

This year, there seems to be a lot of hysteria around clowns of, well, I just don’t get it. I think that’s just because most people don’t know that there are real things to be afraid of like ISIS for crying out loud.

The Haunted Lease

This week on Greasebook.com; The Haunted Lease! Stories from real pumpers like you about times when their leases became more horrifying than any haunted house.

And Greasebookers, reading the blog will not involve anything called work. Make no mistake about it. You could be at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, coasting through its famous Haunted Mansion, slipping into a ghostly foyer while being visited by giggling ghouls and you would not be as far away from work as you are now, reading Greasebook’s Wench with a Wrench.

This week, I was reading the 3rd chapter of the Lease Pumper’s Handbook about safety. Since I feel safety is the single most important thing on which we focus in this industry, I decided I would spend a little more time writing about it.

One of the statements in Chapter 3 mentions that pumpers, more than any other oilfield worker, do most of our jobs alone and miles from anyone who can help. This can be a serious problem when trying to do something that requires four hands. But the problems with being totally alone that I want to discuss this week are when you find yourself alone, in the dark with a well and you just know for certain that Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th is hiding just behind the water tank.

Okay so, have you ever seen – I mean really seen – the moon in late October? It sits low and deep and orange and hangs there very creepily in the northeastern sky.

This first story is from a company pumper by the name of Donnie C for a company who operates some oil and gas wells in and around the Laverne area as well as the Panhandle of Oklahoma.

He’s been a pumper for this company a long time and remembers well one night, just after Halloween when he was called out to a well on a particularly spooky night. So here he is to tell you about it.

“We have a well nine miles east of town called the Gonzer 3. It was on 24 hour satellite alarm call. It was actually one of the best wells we had at the time. It was making anywhere from 200 to 300 hundred Bbls a day. I would go to that well in the morning, at noon and again at 7 p.m. before I went home for the day.

Anyway, I get a phone call at 4 a.m. that this well is down so I get dressed and go out there and it starts snowing. It’s cold and dark – as dark as I have ever seen it. And did I say cold? Boy was it cold. I pull up to the pumping unit, get my jumper cables out and hook up to the pumping unit engine. Everything is all quiet except I’m hearing the wind howling in this funny, low pitch in the trees.

I have to admit, for some reason I was nervous. I hit the start button on the pumping unit and all of a sudden, it pulls so much juice that it shuts my pickup down totally. The lights go out and there is no sign of life at all with my truck and I’m standing out there in the dark with snow spitting in my face and no other sound than the wind howling in that creepy way in the trees.

So I feel my way back to my truck and I get in that pitch black pickup that won’t start either now and I call Mark (another pumper). I told him what had happened and he said he would come on out to help me. It was so creepy out there and I kept thinking I was hearing things so to keep my mind off of it, I put my headlamp on my hardhat and went and gauged the tanks. A little while later I see a light coming along through the trees and I call him to tell him to be careful because the roads are not good. He says, ‘I haven’t even left the house yet.’

I froze. I could hear my heart thumping in my chest because I knew I had seen lights.

Then he said, ‘Just kiddin’ man. I’m right here.’.”

Thank you Donnie C for that spooky tale and Greasebookers, we are not done yet. I have one more for you that you should enjoy. This one is from yours truly.

“Okay, so when I was working in Perryton, Texas for Chaparral Energy, we had a wonderful schedule; eight days on and four days off and then seven days on and then two days off. I enjoyed having a long weekend to go away and actually see some people. But it meant that you often had to work over the weekends.

So, we had a large, central production battery that had three large gas engine Co2 compressors and two large electric Co2 compressors. The central production battery was a maze of huge, complicated equipment  including horizontal treaters and three-phase separators that served the entire field of about 170 production and injection wells.

Having call on this central battery was involved, since every piece of equipment out there was on a satellite call system that would ring your phone automatically when something went down. There were times when the weather was bad that I was called three and four times in one night to go fix things.

On one particular night, which happened to be over the Halloween holiday, I was pretty happy to be on call because the weather was warmer than normal on this weekend and I anticipated no trouble with any compressor. Yay, I thought to myself. I will actually get some sleep.

Sometime around midnight, the phone went off and it told me that our most reliable electric compressor had gone down. Already, I had a bad feeling. I just knew something wasn’t right because even on the worst days, when my gas engines were going down, this electric compressor stayed running. And I knew there was power, or I would have gotten a call telling me there was a power failure.

So I dressed quickly and nervously. On my way out there, I called my best friend Evelyn, who is a 35 year career pumper and told her I was a little freaked out about this call. She said just keep me on the phone.

So when I get there, the place is deathly quiet. All the compressors have now gone down, which sometimes happens when one goes down because it increases the suction pressure since there aren’t as may compressors moving the Co2. The moon is this giant orange ball still hanging ominously in the sky and every shadow and every creaking sound is making me jumpy. I walk up to the first compressor that had done down and checked the computer to see what caused it to fail and it gave me a code that meant it had been put down manually.

The hair raised on the back of my neck and my heart was beating so fast I couldn’t even think. I reached for my phone to tell Evelyn what I found and that’s when I saw him out of the corner of my eye.

It was a compressor mechanic and he was getting out of his truck and heading my way, obviously drunk. He greeted me like he wasn’t surprised to see me. “I was hoping I’d run into you out here sometime,” he said in a creepy way.

I had a 14″ pipe wrench in my hand and I put it up in front of me before he even got close to me and said, “Did you put this unit down?”

He said, “I just adjusted the RPM on the gas engine compressors, it needs to be running at about 1,600.”

I said, “look, you need to get in your truck and go on.” He told me the only reason he stopped here was because he had been drinking and didn’t want to drive. I said, I don’t care what you’re doing, keep your dick-beaters off of my compressors unless we call you to work on them.”

He made some comments about what an awful and profane woman I was and how he was just trying to be friendly. But he did finally leave  the area. It took me another 45 minutes to get all those compressors back up and running and I was a nervous wreck the whole time I was there.

Many thanks have to go out to Evelyn for staying awake and on the phone while I did all that. Do you know how it is to be on the phone when someone is starting a compressor? It’s awful and I appreciate her being with me through that.

Anyhoo,  I may have sounded really brave and tough to that guy, but that really shook me to the core. I still think about it from time to time when the moon hangs low and orange in the late October sky.

Okay, so I was coming back from a much needed break out of the Iraqi war zone from Ireland.

The year was 2005. It was a beautiful vacation. I had met my family in Dublin and for 10 days we had just made a fabulous tour of the country, starting at Wicklow, through County Cork and then on to Dingle Bay.

When I left, I ached saying goodbye to my daughter, who was at the time a Freshman at Emory University. It was a prestigious private university for which I was paying – hence my work in a war zone. But anything for my daughter, who had clearly earned her opportunity.

I traveled back to Dubai, my entry point into Iraq and at that point, all systems were go. Things seemed to be flowing nicely.

That is, until I hit a clog in Dubai. It seemed there was a sandstorm in Baghdad, where I always entered the country and so I was stuck in a terminal at the Dubai Airport.

Things got worse when all of the people I was traveling with on that would-be plane to Baghdad decided they were not going to remain stuck in what I called “the chicken terminal” at Dubai airport. And so they decided to try and re-enter the county of Dubai so they could sleep comfortably and come back to catch the first plane to Baghdad in the morning.

But there was a problem…

The system that stamped visas into the country would not allow someone to enter the country for less than 24 hours. And with good reason. The only way they were to allow those people back in, they said to us, was if we surrendered our passports. “We will give them back to you when you come back in the morning,” they told us.

Now, see, this was not going to work for me. There is a long-standing rule about never giving up your passport…ever…to anyone… in any country. You just don’t do it. Ever.

Do not ever give up control of your passport, except to the person stamping you into or out of a country.

But all the rest of the “sheeple” I like to call them, just wanted comfort. Without so much as a wink and a nod, gave up their safety for a good night’s sleep and a drink at the bar.

Not me. I stayed in the “chicken terminal” for 28 hours until that flight took off. That night was eventful in numerous ways that I cannot even explain to you.

There were hundreds of Middle Eastern men and women flying in and out of the terminal all night. I came to know people I suppose I never would have, had I chosen the same path as the folks I traveled with.

Why am I talking about this?  It’s simple. Things are built a certain way for a reason. And just like the system at the Dubai Airport, your equipment in the oil field was built to be used a certain way.

Change its structure, even a little bit, and it might work out for you. But most of the time what I have learned – the hard way of course – is that it either stops functioning immediately or the alteration puts long-term pressure on the equipment and there is an epic failure down the road – Uh, usually when you least expect it and there is an inch of ice coating everything. I’m just sayin’.

Those folks I was traveling with – they thought they got away with something dangerous and most of them did.

But one of them made a similar mistake in France about eight months later. Seems he got delayed and left his passport there at the airport. It worked in Dubai, right?

Near as we can tell, after getting the report from Interpol, he decided to just stay in Paris overnight and enjoy the city. He was never heard from again. We still do not know where he is.

We learned he was missing when his mother called our company area in Iraq, asking had anyone heard from her son. “He calls me every day and I haven’t heard from him in four days.” My guess, he ventured into a wrong part of the city and with no papers to identify him, became another John Doe crime victim. It’s as simple as that.

Welcome Greasebookers, to Wench with a Wrench this week. We proudly offer up, “Just passing through” stories of pumpers who tragically altered how their equipment worked with less than positive results.

Our next story comes from career pumper and former partner of mine, Jesse Caanan. I met Jesse when we both went to work for a private wildcatter who had 30 or so vertical wells north of Alva, Oklahoma. He now works for TapStone, an operating company here in Oklahoma.

I would say that Jesse was the single most professional pumper I have ever worked beside, aside from my two best contracting buddies, Greg Evans and my bestie Evelyn Dixon. A more conscientious, decent family man I don’t believe I know. And this was also how he treated his oil wells also.

But even Jesse The Great can be tempted, when faced with an irksome, hard to figure out problem, to try his own approach.

“I had a heater treater that wasn’t staying lit,” he said.

“You know how those pilots get plugged up after a while and they need to be cleaned. Well I always had carried a guitar string around that that seemed to work well. But then I got one of those nifty torch tip cleaning rigs that had all the little drill tips on them that were supposed to be so neat. So I just thought, I’m gonna just drill that orifice out.”

Well, the next day Jesse came back to the heater treater and could hear the fire roaring inside that treater and knew this was not going to work. It was eating a lot of gas up just keeping the pilot lit and who knew how hot the thing had gotten.

“So I ended up having to just take the whole pilot orifice off and buying a new one anyway,” he said.

It was while on the same set of wells that our boss, the wildcatter who drilled all these wells, made a similar mistake. It was at a cost of about $4,000.

It was like 2012 and Jesse and I had discussed one of our wells over a span of a few days, that was putting all the water into the oil tank.

Now, if you read in Chapter 10 of your Lease Pumper’s Handbook, you will learn about pressurized vessels and exactly how they work in dumping water out of the water leg and dumping oil out of the proper valve for it all to end up in the right tank.

It is important to understand that all of these wells were plumbed to automatically dump water all the way to the disposal well location. We did not keep water tanks on each location.

If you do not read and study any other chapter, you will need to read and learn and understand this chapter. Numerous issues can cause dumps to stop functioning correctly. But Jesse and I believed that since this water leg had been functioning all this time correctly, there must be an obstruction in the water line somewhere.

“I told him we needed to just hot oil that disposal line,” Jesse said. “Well the first thing he did was take the while water leg out and then put it back in there, at what cost I do not know. And it still did not work.”

Still convinced it was something more complicated, the driller and owner of those wells  believed then, that the issue must be something related to pressure. You see, he was distracted by the fact that he had brought on a new well on the system and he thought maybe there was just too much water going through those water lines where they all came together that led to the disposal well. And so he changed out all that piping, to the tune of $4,000 from 2 inch to 3 inch piping.

Still, no joy. Water STILL in the oil tank.

Jesse and I talked about that case back then and again recently and I reminded him that when things seem complicated, I try to remember a theory called Ockham’s Razor – given two explanations for a problem, the simplest is to be preferred, at least initially.

It’s not 100 percent always the case. Sometimes the more complicated answer is the right answer.

But Greasebookers, try to add this theory to your tool box. You will waste less time.

Thank you Jesse for sharing your stories with us.

And now we come to the end of the story this week. I have to end it by telling you one of my own attempts at making something “work better”.

Yeah, go ahead and laugh. Ever heard of a constant bleed dump?

The dump, instead of using a float device in the stock tank or heater treater, uses gas pressure variables to cause the dump to function. The system bleeds pressure constantly through what I call a bleed tube and others call it a gas tube. You will know one when you hear constant hissing when you approach the separator or heater treater. Most of my constant bleed dumps are on horizontal treaters.

Well, one day I realized the water dump was not functioning and I noticed that there was no gas bleeding through the bleed tube at all. Now those little, tiny bleed orifices find 100 reasons to clog up.

This one seemed to really be caked with limestone deposits and no matter what I put in it or washed through it, the clog would not open. So, I grabbed one of those orifice cleaners, a larger one, and wallowed out that orifice. Yes, I could tell it was a little bigger, but hey, it appeared to be working. It was bleeding gas right? Didn’t that mean something?

Next day the separator was swamped and the line to the gas meter was totally full of water. The friggin’ gas meter was gurgling for Pete’s sake!

I was just lucky it was not the dead of winter because I would have split more lines than infamous cocaine trafficker Pablo Escobar…

Pablo Escobar

Okay, so every time I go out to see my friend Renee Cudd, I know where I will find her. She will be riding around in her golf cart on her ranch in Woodward, Oklahoma overseeing and managing the vast quarter horse ranch she and her late husband built together. She is beautiful, my friend, Renee…

She is probably in her late 50s or early 60s, stays in shape and keeps her platinum blond hair tied up in a stylish knot on top of her head. She wears a classy button-up white cotton shirt and jeans.

And while she is now the force that carries on a legacy her husband left behind, she doesn’t yet seem to know how amazing she is.

You see, Renee’s husband was the quintessential example of someone who looked up at everything he did and followed his desire with a common sense approach. He took in what was happening around him, made a good judgement about it and then followed that with action. It’s a quality all too scarce these days.

Truth is, it not only made him a fortune in the oil industry, it turned his name into an icon that screams confidence at an almost John Wayne-ish level.

But for him, that wasn’t the point, right. For him, the whole exercise was to allow him create a life for himself and Renee that was comfortable and allowed them to do the kinds of things they both loved so much – buy, breed and sell some of the best Quarter Horses in the world.

This week, Greasebook.com proudly presents “Legacy” a story about an oil field icon who approached the industry with an astounding level of good judgement and common sense – just like the Lease Pumper’s Handbook says you should.

And Greasebookers, do not miss this. Because this thing…this journey you will take reading this blog is not work. Absolutely no way is this work.

You could be skiing down the black slopes of Jackson Hole Wyoming with the cold wind in your face, heading straight for the lodge where a hot-toddy of your choice and your best friends await you around a fireplace and you would not be as far away from working as you are right now, reading Greasebook’s Wench with a Wrench.

We have been taking a walk every two weeks through the Lease Pumper’s Handbook and I’m offering you a little real world example of how some of these very salient concepts that you can find in the handbook, can be applied. This week, I began reading Chapter 3, Safety.

The first section of this chapter is called “Good Judgement and Common Sense” and frankly, the first person I thought about was my friend’s Husband.

“The lease pumper never takes dangerous chances unless the event is already in motion,” this section notes.

Boring right? Everyone knows that, right? And yet EVERYONE ignores it. We see what we think are tough guys and we think, they can do that…so can I.

Not so much when you consider that my friend’s husband performed the most dangerous of work in the oil industry and came home alive to enjoy his life with his closest friend and business partner, his wife.

Did I mention that my friend Renee’s husband was the Iconic Bobby Joe Cudd of Cudd Pressure Controls. Maybe you have heard of him? Of course you have. He was one of the men who was one of the foundation characters for John Wayne’s character in the movie “Hellfighters”.

Lease Pumper Hellfighters

Bobby Joe Cudd was born in 1931 in Bradley, Oklahoma. He died in 2005 at 75-year-old. He had been working in the oilfield since shortly after he graduated. It was a choice he made as a new high school graduate after he took a long and hard look at what he was doing for work cutting broom corn for local farmers in his area. He never looked back.

The fact is, I thought of Bobby Joe Cudd when I read because through his more than 50 years in the oil industry he seemed to be one of the few who defined the industry rather than it defining him. He left a mark – a mark of someone with incredibly good judgement and common sense and not because he never allowed himself to perform dangerous functions but because he did so with amazingly good judgement and common sense.

Bobby Joe started out on drilling rigs, where every oil field worker used to start. He learned early that there are times when you have to take action quickly and perform dangerous functions, but he was sober, alert and intentional about what he was doing. He wasn’t on a cell phone while climbing a tank. In short in every second of every minute of every hour of every day, he was intentionally exercising good judgement and common sense. I am not just saying this crap. I know it to be true.

When I go see Renee these days, I find myself standing in front of large framed photos of Bobby Joe standing in front of these massive oil well fires. I’m struck by the calm look on his face. Just another day at the office, he seems to be saying.

But that was never really his attitude, according to his wife and the many men I have interviewed who knew him. He was firm and honest with his men and the people he talked to. He had no swagger. He had no hero complex. His wife said he just had this calming, fluid and very humble way about reminding people that they were here for a reason and to remain focused on what that reason is so that when you get to the end of your life, you can say you left something of yourself behind that in some way made the world all the richer for you being here.

It was the foundation upon which he and his men fought and brought under control 250 of the 750 oil field fires of Kuwait in 1991. It was the very bedrock of his establishment of Cudd Pressure Control Company of Woodward, Oklahoma in 1977. And it was the wisdom he used even when getting on one of his many Quarter Horses to go for a ride with his wife Renee.

In a March 2001 story written four years before he died, he was talking to a reporter who obviously was having a moment of hero worship. He was quoted as saying, “In the movie, it looks like everyone is trying to kill themselves,” he said. “The objective is not to kill yourself but control the well.”

Talk to anyone who served in the oil field anywhere in the world from Iraq, to Kuwait to Uzebekisan and they will tell you that Bobby Joe Cudd didn’t just follow those concepts of good judgement and common sense, he embodied them.

He left a legacy behind for those who care enough to research him. But after years of talking to his wife I have become aware of one more legacy he left and it is Renee. Ever a student of her husband’s insight, she told me of his last words to her before he died in 2005. He knew Renee was going to be left to carry on a company for him that was now pulling in $100 million per year with offices all over the world.

“He told me, ‘Renee, you have to be strong.” It seems a simple statement. But I think it’s clear that he’s really talking about being intentional. About setting your mind on something and resisting the temptation to let your mind wander. He was telling her there is never a moment in the oil field when she can take a break from exercising good judgement and common sense.

In the years following his death, Renee did not lose her drive. Despite her intense grief over the loss of her best friend, she picked up his mantle and never put it back down.

~ Rachael Van Horn aka “Wench with a Wrench”

Okay, so until about three years ago, I had not started a pumping unit engine by hand using a handle on the flywheel.

Until that time, all of my units were started by using a roll starter (or pin starter) or had a starting motor and I only had to plug into them with my pickup.

So one of my contract units was a C-96. Those are sweet little units that are generally fairly easy to manage and keep running.

Old Arrow C-96 running off natural gas in liberty mounds Oklahoma…

While not the same unit in the video above – the one I was working with had a small Lufkin that was a little more rod-heavy – the engine worked fairly well on this lease most of the time. The lease also had an Ajax compressor engine that I took care of too – an engine as you know, that I was very comfortable with since I had a lot of experience working with them in the past.

I had the lease about one week when the pumping unit engine went down and I knew I would have to manually start that unit and frankly, I was scared!

I had heard all the horror stories about how those handles had taken people’s hands off and how people who used their feet to kick start them had been wound around the flywheel and how people were killed when they hand-started units. Why is it you never hear any of the good stories?

Anyhoo, I made a few lame attempts at starting it and quickly decided the spark plug must be fouled and decided to drive to town and get one. The fact was, I was putting off starting that thing because I was just really apprehensive.

So, I did something I rarely do. I called a man I know who works for Unit Production who pumped wells near me. I asked Gary to help me crank-start this engine.

He came rambling out there from one of his wells and he set to work helping me.

He knew I had been in the oil patch for a while and he assumed that I had hand-started units before and so his assumption was that there must be something really the matter with this engine or I wouldn’t be asking for help.

And, to be honest, I really just didn’t correct that assumption.

It is sort of an oilfield tendency for most of us to never admit we actually don’t know something.

So Gary decides he’s going to squirt some gas into the engine while I pull the handle. Ugh. This ruse I was playing wasn’t working out for me. What I wanted was for him to start the damn thing so I could watch. My plan was to then say, “Look, amazing! It started. Don’t know what was wrong with that damn thing.”

Really what I needed was someone to pull the handle so I could see how they got that handle off the flywheel when the engine started.

But did I tell him that? No I did not.

So, being the Army girl I am, I gave the wheel a gigantic pull and the engine kicked over and started like a champ.  And since I didn’t know how to hold onto that handle and slide it off the hub, I let go of the handle. Yes, yes, you heard that right. I LET go of that handle.

Well, you know what happened then. Gary grabs me and runs to the other side of the unit and kills the engine.

Then, like a light bulb on top of the head of Wile E. Coyote, he had a moment of realization.

“Have you not ever started one of these by hand before?” He’s laughing but not really. I can tell he’s sorta pissed that I put both of our noggins at risk.

We are hiding behind the unit waiting for the flywheel to stop so we can get the handle, which is not barely hanging on, off the fly wheel. And I look at him, with my hands covering my mouth. “No.”

So Gary then teaches me how to do it properly. I am now one heck of a manual starting princess! I mean, if you have to kick start or hand start a unit, I’m your gal.

This week, on Greasebook.com – An Oilfield Thanksgiving – stories about real pumpers who found themselves in a bind and got bailed out at the last minute.

In the Lease Pumper’s Handbook, Chapter 4 is called, ‘Understanding the oil well”.

You think!?

Boy, if that isn’t an understatement. I needed this chapter, which takes a pumper through everything from understanding how oil comes into a reservoir to the types of rock and gravel formations are home to oil reserves. The Anatomy of an oil well is particularly interesting and easy to understand.

There are a lot of pumpers who feel they don’t need to understand all this since they are not drilling for oil, they are merely operating the lease. But let me tell you, there is a lot that happens downhole and in the formation that you will soon find, impacts your job on the topside. Believe me.

But don’t feel bad. I had the same attitude about allowing someone to know I didn’t know how to hand-start a pumping unit. The reality though is, that ignorance, as funny as it may sound when I write about it, could have killed me. And not understanding pressures and how gas and oil flow, especially on a newly completed well, can do the same thing at worst and at best, will mess up your plans for the day my friends.

Read it, learn it, love it.

This next story comes to us from, well, let’s call him Ty. Ty was a young, large, strapping, good looking pumper. And when I say young, I mean he was young in age and young in experience in the oil field. But he had a heart of gold and we were a team. (We pumped each other’s wells when we were on days off).

So Ty liked to try all the shortcuts, like anyone who has 36 to 40 wells. It’s understandable. But the reality is, you really have to understand not only how your well performs in all weather, but also how all of your equipment performs in all weather before you start playing fast and loose with the short cuts.

So on one particular well, which had a large Ajax DPC81 compressor, a pumping unit and was in a zone that had really sticky, black oil, he had situation that he still brings up about every time I talk to him.  Just a note, It was his well and so I never really looked into what zone but something tells me it was the Mississippian. That zone can be complicated. More on that in my next blog.

Anyhoo, the weather was turning colder. But this is Oklahoma and one evening, it had gotten real warm after two or three days of really cold weather. I mean, it is Oklahoma after all, right?

Now, it was a weekend and he had put off calling an oil truck to haul oil, thinking he knew exactly how many inches his well produced on a regular day. And that well usually did, indeed, produce about 7 inches of oil per day.

This is where I like to say, never let your well hear you say anything like, “I know what my well produces.” It will grow fangs and do bad things to you.

He got there Monday morning to a huge tank overrun. You guessed it. The weather caused a water dump to stick and dumped a bunch of water in the oil tanks and there you have it. Well, it was a hot mess. Oil all down the side of two tanks.

Now listen. The best way to get fired is allow a tank to overrun. It’s just a ginormous no-no.

Letting your tank run over is like a woman wearing white after September, it JUST isn’t done.

He called me on my phone. I was about 15 miles away on one of my wells. “Rach, I got a problem.”

“I’m on my way,” I said. I had no idea what I was going to find. But after years in the Army, when someone calls me, I go.

When I got there, we stood there in silence with about three inches of oil and water reaching the bottoms of our ankles. I went to my pickup and got a shovel.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m helping you. Happy Thanksgiving.”

After two and a half hours and a lot of sweat and shoveling of sand, you would have never known it happened.

Now, to be clear, what I did is really bad. In fact…well…it’s illegal. So don’t do this. That’s why I didn’t tell you where this well is…I don’t want you, to become accessories after the fact. In fact, this blog will self destruct after you read it.

I told you the story because It’s Thanksgiving.

So who in the oil field has pulled your fat out of the fire?

Give’em a call on Thursday and tell em how thankful you are for their help that day. Do it before you chow down on all the turkey. You’ll be surprised how good you will feel.

Just a note. Ty gave up the oilfield for greener pastures.

~ Rachael Van Horn aka “Wench with a Wrench” 

The oil and natural gas industry has a proud history of hard work, determination, grit, and using proven conventional methods to get the job done.

Greg Archbald, a savvy entrepreneur who’s challenging conventional thinking, is demonstrating these values with GreaseBook and infusing them with innovation.

Greg Archbald, founder of GreaseBook. Photo provided by EnergyHQ, Powered by OERB
Greg Archbald, founder of GreaseBook. Photo provided by EnergyHQ, Powered by OERB


“GreaseBook is essentially, an app for oil and gas operators,” Archbald said. “Basically, you’ve got pumpers that drive around in pickup trucks checking all these oil and gas pump jacks we see off the roads of Texas and Oklahoma. And as an oilman, you may own 50, 100, 500 of these wells, and you have no idea the current status of any of them. So with your army of pumpers, we equip them with an app, on their smartphone, iPad, or any smart device, and then they can track and enter all of their oil, gas, water production information, commentary, sales tickets, and everything.”

Simplicity is one of the key advantages of the app, which allows information to be entered as easily as setting an alarm clock on a smartphone. With software that includes a real-time dashboard, owners can review the status of their wells and properties as soon as entries are made.

Previously used methods to keep track of well information was in the form of paper tickets, which were faxed into a main office, transported in a pumper’s truck where they sometimes blew out a window, or left contained on the actual wellsite in a pickle jar or mailbox, Archbald said.

What’s in a name?

Photo provided by EnergyHQ, Powered by OERB
Photo provided by EnergyHQ, Powered by OERB

The name “Grease Book” refers to an old industry term that Archbald describes, was a natural fit.

“Back in the ’40’s and ‘50’s, pumpers used to carry a small notebook with them for all of their daily well entries. And they’d have their greasy hands on it all day from pumping these wells, so they referred to it as their grease book,” he said. “And we thought, hell, that’s a great name. Let’s use that. So now when we talk to somebody in the industry about it, and say ‘GreaseBook,’ these pumpers know immediately what it is and what you do and what your app does, so it’s really helped out a lot.”

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Archbald’s idea to start a company came to him after attending school overseas and meeting some of the sharpest minds in mobile app development. Upon returning home, he shared his idea of building an app to monitor wells with his father, who runs an oil and gas accounting software firm, and found he had the same idea.

“It was interesting; I came back from school over Christmas. And I sat down with him in the den. I go, ‘Hey, Dad, I got this great idea.’ And he goes, ‘Well, hold on a second. I’ve got this great idea.’ And then he said the idea for GreaseBook. And I was like, okay this has to be done,” Archbald said.

Entrepreneurial spirit

Being Oklahoma based has been an advantage for Archbald and his team. He continues to work with local talent to develop his business, and recognizes the opportunity for young people to enter the industry and help change perception. So far, GreaseBook has amassed 100 companies on their app. From small mom-and-pop operations to publicly-traded companies, the app use is growing daily, ranging from Ohio and California to Texas and North Dakota.

Archbald is quick to define what led him in this direction and not take a job with his father’s company.

“I always was chasing after my personal freedom, but I don’t think that ever happens actually. I mean, so you don’t have a boss, but you have clients now that are your bosses,” he said. “But that’s rewarding, just building something that’s an extension of you and your personality, and that you can do it your own way, and, and that you can have fun doing it.”

As for succeeding as an entrepreneur, Archbald said he believes surrounding yourself with the right people is essential for growth.

“You want to be the worst player in a rock band,” he said. “You want to be able to learn from the lead guitarist. You don’t want to be the best guy in the band, because then you don’t learn anything. So if you can surround yourself with great people, you don’t have to do it all. And if you have one trait that you’re really good at, you’ll be amazed at how many other opportunities you can spin this into.”

With a successful company under his belt and more opportunity to expose GreaseBook to a wider market, Archbald encourages other young entrepreneurs he meets to not give up, so they can experience just a little of what he has.

“I just think running business and opening business and trying this whole entrepreneurial thing is just the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It’s all I want to do and talk about and it’s just fun to be able to wake up and really feel that way about something.”

These are stories of real pumpers like you whose luck and the right equipment and supplies ran out at just the wrong moment.

Lady Luck
And Greasebookers, don’t think of this as work. Uh Uh. No way is it work. You could be paddling down the Pantanal River in Brazil with a jaguar giving you the evil eye from the river’s edge and you would not be as far away from work as you are right now, resting your oilfield weary eyes on the brilliant, beaming blogosphere known as Greasebook.com.

Okay, so my mother was a stickler for taking good care of the things she acquired.

I kinda skipped over it but in the first chapter on the second page (1B-2) of the Lease Pumper’s Handbook (you can find a link on Greasebook.com) there is a handy list of things you are likely to need while in the field. As I read through the list, I kind of laughed, much of this you will never really use…then I realized the truth. The truth is, if you don’t have it you will be sure to need it and the truth was, as I took a closer look, I had actually used or needed each of those items at least once.

But the key to my story today is, if you don’t take care of it, it won’t work when you need it to.

I guess the point of this chapter for me was that I sure wish I had this list of stuff to equip my first pumping truck and then I wish the things my mother tried to teach me, as you will see in the coming stories, had sunk in. The fact is despite all those lessons about how to take care of things, I know I have lost more 14 inch Crescent Wrenches than any three pumpers and I never seem to have the tool I need in an emergency.

Oh Momma! Why? Why didn’t I listen?

My momma, Tonya, grew up during the depression and talked about going for a time when her family could not afford shoes for her. You can imagine that this information was conveyed to me at a time when, as a child, I had left my shoes on the back porch to be rained on or something like that.

This focus on things though, well, it did something to me. You see, if you broke something in our house you were punished and of course,
because Lucky was never something I was called by anyone (my nickname is Little Black Cloud by the way), it seemed that destroying things was something that just came naturally for me and I really was trying to do the opposite.

It started when I was like 6-years-old and I decided I would help my mother by vacuuming the house. I pushed the vacuum cleaner too hard
into a side table, knocked a Tiffany lamp off the table and broke it.

She was furious. I Stood there with her towering over me and I said, “I was just trying to help. I didn’t mean to break it.”

She said, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions!”

Now I was going to Hell!

So things never really improved for me in the breaking things department from that point.

When I was 12-years-old there was the Raggedy Ann doll I sat too close to my hamster cage that got half her face eaten off. And there was the  fur bathroom rugs that were in the dryer upon which I tossed my wet jeans. You see I was cold and wet from playing in the snow and so I reasoned I would dry those jeans real quick, put them back on and head back out for more fun in the snow.

But I forgot that I had a full package of Gummy Bears in my pocket.  The Gummy Bears melted and found the perfect place to adhere to in the deep, plush fur of those brand new bathroom rugs. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. I tried to trim those now melted Gummy Bears out of those plush fur rugs. When I got done it looked like Edward Scissor Hands had gotten drunk and tried to trim them. So then, to make it all match, I sat in there and gave those rugs an overall haircut. My mother never knew. But the memory still haunts me.

That’s to say nothing of the pickup truck I wrecked when I was a teenager and the full bag of potatoes I jabbed with toothpicks as a child. These are stories for later though.

Anyhow, nothing has changed for me since becoming an adult either. And you add the oilfield to the mix, where whatever can go wrong does, and you have a volatile combination. I was Little Black Cloud on steroids!

So this particular event happened when I was working on a CO2 and water flooded field of wells north of Perryton, Texas called the Camrick. The well was one of my favorites. A rare pumping unit on that field (most were submersibles) that made an average of about 30 Bbls of oil per day and the pumping unit engine was electric. This unit had a rod rotator and of course a bean-pump for chemicals.

I always had a habit of seeing my wells on a rotational basis. That means, if I started with one well on the day before, I would run my route backwards the next day. That way I am seeing how my wells are acting at different times of the day. This particular well was on my list to be seen last on this day because it had been first the day before.

It’s important to understand that these CO2 wells had anywhere from 600 to 1,000 pounds of pressure on their tubing.

I just happened to be on a well that sat on a hill overlooking the other well when I noticed the early morning sun making a rainbow in a  mist that was coming off a fine sheen of spray shooting out and from the wellhead and I panicked. Here’s where it would have been nice if I could have found my set of field glasses.

I dropped what I was doing and motored as fast as I could to that well and what I found absolutely astounded me. It was such a perfect  accident that when my boss saw it he said, “The odds of this happening were a million to one. You should go to Los Vegas this week.”

It seems that on the down-stroke the rod rotator cable got just a little bit snarled in itself. On the upstroke of the horse’s head, the rod rotator cable snapped. So now you have a loose cable swinging around right? On the down stroke, the rod rotator cable, now full of
swing and velocity, wrapped itself about four times around the wellhead, throwing open every valve, including the valve on the end from which I take my well-head cuts. I needed bolt cutters to get the cable off because it had wrapped so tightly around the wellhead. Did I have any? Of course not.

There was more than 30 Bbls of oil on the ground – a MORE than reportable spill and I wanted to die. My boss just shook his head and drove off.

Smash Mouth

Our next story is about a fellow named Gavin we won’t use his last name because he needs to keep his job and if you work in the oilfield you clearly understand how the higher-ups view ANY accident – you know, as your fault because despite your 100 percent perfect record for 10 years, this time you were smoking pot and obviously caused this on purpose. Anyway, I digress.

Introducing Gavin;

Gavin is a motivated young pumper with several years of pumping experience behind him. I think at least four years. He was born in Woodward, Oklahoma and is engaged to a bright young businesswoman. The pair own a house in Woodward together.

“Well, we had to move this compressor. It was not a large one but it did have a 350 Chevy engine on it. I was working on disconnecting the suction line, which on this compressor was a two inch flex hose. The way it was put together, it call rested at like, my chin level, so I guess I should have thought about that. It was put together with a two inch hammer union and what I usually do is just unhook both sides of that hammer union and take it off. But we were in a hurry and I didn’t have the right wrench with me.

I was going to unhook it and it was kinda stuck and the flex hose was, sorta like, twisted you know… So I gave it a good pull and the end with the hammer union (of course) came off really fast right toward my face and hit me in the mouth.

Well, I cussed a little and walked right over to my pickup because right at first it didn’t hurt really bad but I could tell something was wrong. I looked into the side mirror of my pickup and that’s when it really started hurting and I realized it had broken my front tooth almost clean off and split my lip.  My tooth was hanging by a thread and I wasn’t sure how long that was going to last.”

Of course hours later, after the Spanish inquisition and a drug test Gavin finally got a hold of the only dentist they would let him go to for a worker’s compensation injury. Of course, turns out and they couldn’t get  in for 7 more days. It was 7 days of eating soup and babying that tooth because he didn’t want the root to be exposed if the whole thing came off. I know all this because his wife works with me and each day I heard the “save the tooth” saga.

When Gavin finally got to the dentist it was discovered that Gavin’s tooth was cracked all the way into the root and had to be pulled anyway. Go figure. Sounds like something we could have handled in the field with a set of needle nose pliers and a box o’ rags.

~ Rachael Van Horn aka “Wench with a Wrench”

Understanding what it is like downhole (a term referring to the underground part of the oil well operation) is important for a variety of reasons; but most importantly, it is one of the fundamental aspects in understanding the procedures for: drilling a well, how and why a bore hole is not complete until the casing strings are run and properly set into place, what the rig personnel responsibilities are, and more.

Oil Bearing Formations

During the production stage, lease workers should understand the formation (what type it is, what is happening in the formation, etc.), the flow lines, what the production timeline is looking like, as well as all the handling containers from the stock tank to the farthest reaches of the bottom of the hole.

Oil Bearing Formations

Figure 1.  A drilling rig used for an oil well; note the drill pipe alongside the derrick.

In order for a lease pumper to be able to identify and/or remedy a situation, they must have some basic knowledge of what could cause an oil and/or gas production to slow down or stop. As you gain experience, you will start recognizing a wide assortment of downhole warning signs and symptoms; and once you are able to identify these issues, you can go about the correct course for restoring production to the well. It is also important to remember, many small operators are required to do their own well servicing. Therefore, the lease pumper may become a member of the service crew; helping to pull and run rods and tubing as necessary.

However, even when a company contracts all their well-services, the lease pumper is still required to understand these aspects. While it may not be in your description to perform the duties, you are a representative of the oil company; and as such, are in charge of ensuring everything is performed to the standards and satisfaction of the company. For that reason, every lease pumper should understand: how to submit the proper change records, what records are required to be kept, and how to precisely record any and all changes made downhole (see www.greasebook.com for more information on how we can help you with those records 😀 ) Also, here are a few answered questions about the structure of oil-bearing formations and a basic impression on oil well design.


How is Oil Extracted?

The entire purpose of a well is to harvest the oil and gas from beneath the earth in underground deposits. Over the years, researchers have agreed gas and oil are created from the chemical remains of ancient plants and animals. What started as remains deposited on ancient sea beds, became rock after the pressure from layers of sand and other sediment compressed the minerals; with the hydrogen and carbon parts of the remains combining to form different chemical chains (known as hydrocarbons) – natural gas or crude oil.

As time passes, rock layers continue to form. Some form a porous type of rock, like sandstone, that allows for substances (such as oil, water, or small grains of rock) to occupy these openings. Other rocks formed, such as granite, are nonporous. In order for a well to be productive, you will have to go through layers of strata (porous and nonporous rock) to get to the trapped sections of hydrocarbons (also referred to as a reservoir). These reservoirs are created when the hydrocarbons become trapped between nonporous rock, or when specific kinds of rock formations (oil-bearing rocks) form keeping the oil (and/or gas) contained.

Most areas drilled for oil are made up of sedimentary rock, and any experienced lease pumper can tell you igneous rock will never contain oil. Yet other types of rock, such as limestone meta-morphed into marble; while generally oil-free, have been known for a rare oil find. In most cases, the oil-bearing rock will likely be made up of one of the following:

Stratified Rock                                                                   Abbreviation

Conglomerate                                                                       Congl

Dolomite                                                                                Dolo

Limestone                                                                              LS

Sandstone                                                                              S

Unconsolidated Sand                                                           US

What is an Oil Trap?

Unlike the old days, finding oil deposits is less of a guessing game. This is because geologists are able to examine land formations and rock samples to determine if an area is likely to contain oil. These tests can include a diverse selection of assessments; such as measuring underground rock formations and rock density to determine possible oil reservoir locations. Since the 1970’s, great strides have been taken in understanding the different shapes of reservoirs and improving the likelihood of finding hydrocarbons.

Before drilling commences, there are numerous factors the oil company will have to consider before determining if the petroleum is worth mining; and one of these aspects is the formation shape. There are many different types of formation shapes that can result in underground oil reservoirs. Sometimes these characteristics can be visible on the surface in land formations along canyons, road cuts, or other areas where you can see layered sections of the earth.


Types of Oil Traps

  • Anticline Formations

Anticline formations form an upward fold; but instead of creating a dome-like shape, the fold spreads across a wide area. Sometimes covering many miles, despite the narrow areas; anticline formations also have finger-like projections, known for trapping oil. Once found, these reservoirs can very productive. Unfortunately, anticlines are known for their disappearing act. It’s common for them to vanish for miles, only to reemerge and disappear (sometimes even several times); with the reservoir depths varying from shallow to deep depending upon the location and length of the anticline.

  • Dome Formations

Dome formations are caused when the pressure of pushing up in the layers underground is so intense it causes a fold within the strata. Hydrocarbons have been known to be trapped both inside the dome, and within the donut-shaped formation surrounding it. When produced, the oil reservoir will typically be driven toward the center of the dome or journey outwards. Dome reservoirs are often referred to as plug traps, and typically consist of salt.

  • Fault Trap Formations

Fault trap formations are formed when the earth breaks at low depths. These breaks are often referred to as a fault or fault lines. These sites are frequently the cause of earthquakes (when the two segments of earth shift relative to one another); and if the remaining rock formations on the fault move where they no longer line up with the other side of the fault, it creates the perfect reservoir for trapped oil and gas. In fault trap formations, oil may be discovered on either side of the fault, or both sides. In the process of following a productive fault line, it is common for many dry holes to be drilled.

  • Lens Formations

Lens formations are usually difficult for completing and/or producing a well. This is due to their broken up reservoirs created by the strata being penetrated by bands of nonporous rock. Think of it similar to a rumpled blanket. While there are various pockets for the gas, oil, or water to get trapped in; it depends upon the setup on whether or not the hydrocarbons can flow between pockets, meaning the production on the oil-bearing spectrum can vary from well to well.  Plus in some cases, isolated areas may require separate drilling.

  • Reef Trap Formations

Usually reef trap formations are developed by dolomite and/or limestone deposits. These deposits are typically made up of minerals from dead marine life. The cavities created in the minerals from the passing water create the perfect cavities for hydrocarbons to be trapped and held.

  • Unconformities

Unconformities have been weathered by the elements because of their upward thrusting rock formation. After the rock has worn away, a solid layer is placed to form a cap over the end of the porous layer. This traps and preserves the oil reservoirs. In fact, some of the most significant oil fields in the world are formed from unconformities.


How does an Oil Rig Work?

Thinking about a completed oil well and how everything comes together to create the finished product is one of the best techniques for learning about the oil well drilling process. As shown in FIGURE 1, drill pipe is run through the hole, allowing the bit to cut through the rock formation at the end of the drill pipe. (This is completed after the derrick is in position.)

An important consideration to keep in mind is mud. As you drill, mud is pumped into the top and emptied out at the end (top) of the drill pipe. This is useful for several purposes, including:

  • Reduces the chance of the walls crumbling in the hole
  • Cools the drill bit, while forcing the cuttings up the side and out the top of the drill pipe
  • Helps prevent uncontrolled release of gas and oil

Casing is installed as the well is drilled. After the drill pipe is removed, heavy steel pipes are installed into the hole. Once completed, the pipe is filled with wet cement and capping the top with a plug. Before the cement has a chance to dry, mud is pumped into the casing. The pressure from the mud will then force the plug (and cement) down into the casing to where the cement is forced into the space between the surface of the well and the walls of the bore hole. Once the cement hardens, continue drilling into the next formation (if necessary).

As soon as well is drilled into the oil-bearing rock, the drill pipe will be removed and the last of the string casing will be installed and cemented into place. One section of this casing will pass through the reservoir becoming perforated, with the small cavities allowing gas and oil to pass through it. Tubing (a small diameter pipe used inside the casing) is then placed inside the casing to harvest the oil and gas, and bring it to the surface. Prior to start of the well’s production, the derrick should be removed, and the tubing should be topped with a Christmas tree (aka wellhead – a set of control valves).

Is your appetite for oil & gas operating knowledge insatiable like ours? 😀 If so, check out these related articles, A Basic Guide to Oil and Gas Drilling Operations and, 6 Areas You Should Know About Completing Any Oil and Gas Well – they’ll be sure to pump you up!!!

Before the mid-1950’s, very little acknowledgement was given to the risks and dangers lease pumpers face while working with high levels of hydrogen sulfide gases (H2S). Although improvements to drilling rigs have allowed us to achieve depths of over 20,000 feet, experience has shown “the deeper the well, the higher the bottom hole pressure and more H2S gases the lease workers will experience”. In fact, some wells have H2S rates so high, they have to plug the entire well.

Lease Worker Fundamentals

While regulations have been written and enacted to protect lease workers from this growing danger, this is still a worldwide concern. Due to these revised laws, regulations, and large court awarded settlements to workers (or their families) when negligence can be shown; most companies typically utilize the best equipment, exposure considerations, literature, etc. they can afford. One of the most important aspects of this is education and training; to help understand more about hydrogen sulfide gas and the dangers associated with it, here are some of the most common questions lease workers have about hydrogen sulfide.


What Is Hydrogen Sulfide?

Hydrogen Sulfide (also referred to as H2S) is a naturally occurring gas produced along with natural gas and crude oil. Like many other gases, it can be fatal if breathed in. Therefore, it is vital for lease workers to have some form of breathing apparatus on hand; as well as understand the warning marks. Tanks containing deadly amounts of hydrogen sulfide are typically marked by a star or some other indicator showing the presence of H2S. When this warning is present, lease pumpers may be required to wear a breathing apparatus when testing or sampling the crude oil.


What Are the Important Properties of Hydrogen Sulfide?

In order to fully understand how hydrogen sulfide acts the way it does, you have to be aware of the physical properties of the gas; with H2S being a colorless gas consisting of two parts hydrogen and one part sulfur.  Other properties include:

  • Has an API gravity of 47.6
  • Has a blue flame when burned
  • Has a boiling point -75° F
  • Is explosive in the air
  • Is slightly heavier than air, thus will seek lower areas
  • It attacks a large amount of metals to form sulfides (usually insoluble precipitates)
  • It dissolves in water, forming a weak hydrosulfurous acid
  • It has a melting point of -119°
  • It is extremely poisonous
  • It is soluble in water
  • Liquid density of 0.790 @ 60°F
  • Typically gives off an odor of rotten eggs in small doses. However, higher concentrations can cause the olfactory nerve to be paralyzed within 60 seconds, making the odor undetectable.

What Are the Dangers of Breathing H2S?

The toxicity level of H2S is typically determined by the parts per million (or ppm) in the air. This means a 100 ppm concentration of hydrogen sulfide is equivalent to 100 liters of H2S in a million liters of air. How a specific concentration level will effect an individual is determined by a wide variety of factors including: age, air temperature, health, humidity, personal susceptibility, and more. The following values are general guidelines for lease pumpers to keep in mind.

1 ppm or 1/10,000 of 1 % Can be smelled (typically smelling of rotten eggs)
10 ppm or 1/1,000 of 1 % 8-hour exposure permit.
100 ppm or 1/100 of 1% Will numbs your sense of smell within 3-15 minutes, and can also burn your eyes and throat.
200 ppm or 2/100 of 1 % Will quickly numb your sense of smell and burn your eyes and throat
500 ppm or 5/100 of 1 % Causes loss of logic, reasoning, and balance; and within 2-15 minutes will result in respiratory disturbances requiring prompt artificial resuscitation.
700 ppm or 7/100 of 1% Quickly causes unconsciousness, breathing stops, and death will result immediately if the individual is not saved promptly.
1,000 ppm or 1/10 of 1% Immediate unconsciousness occurs, and permanent brain damage can result if not freed quickly.

To ensure you use the proper tools, lease pumpers can also use exposure monitors to measure the contamination levels (see Figure 1).

Lease Worker Fundamentals

Figure 1. Exposure meters used for hydrogen sulfide. (courtesy Mine Safety Equipment Co.)

What Safe Working Procedures Should be Followed in Gaseous Areas?

Whenever a situation arises for lease pumpers to go into a gaseous area alone, there are certain precautions they should use; and since there is no backup, they should take even more measures to ensure their personal safety. For example, first and foremost, you should always check your equipment and make sure it is on (see Figure 2) and operating correctly before entering the contaminated region; and the lease pumper should continue wearing the breathing apparatus until they exit the area.

Lease Worker Fundamentals

Figure 2. Example of safety equipment – a warning gate indicating the existence H2S, and that a breathing apparatus is required to proceed.

There are also plenty of different hydrogen sulfide safety training courses available for lease workers, and everyone should take the time for these courses. This official training will help result in a better understanding of the material than if you had read the information in a pamphlet. Plus this will also give the lease pumper valuable experience and training with 30-minute backpacks, 5-minute emergency escape pack, exposure recorders, H2S detectors, monitors, safety equipment, a variety of situations you will rarely see working in the field, and valuable advice from those who have experienced different things.

Remember: when working in a group, only one person will be required to have this formal training. However, it is important for any lease worker who has the chance of working alone on the lease to complete these safety preparation courses.


Where Will A Lease Pumper Encounter Hydrogen Sulfide?

Lease workers can come into contact with H2S almost anywhere on the lease. This can include areas such as:

  • Acidizing Wells
  • Closed Tanks and/or Vessels
  • Contaminated Sulfur
  • Drilling Muds
  • Gauging Tanks
  • Injection of Sour Gas
  • Pits and/or Low Areas on Still Days (see Figure 3)
  • Tank Bottoms
  • Vapor Recovery Units
  • Water Injection

Lease Worker Fundamentals

Figure 3. Windsocks are often used on sites to show the wind direction and to determine whether it is likely for a H2S buildup.

What Type of Breathing Apparatus Should a Lease Worker Use?

When working in the field, there are times when it is essential to have some form of fresh air available. These fresh air systems used by lease workers can range from fairly simple devices to very elaborate ones. Although the most common system is a portable air pack; some companies or lease owners are known to use industrial size fresh air bottles strapped to a truck bed with a long hose on a reel or other measures. Whatever type you choose, in order for the device to continue to save lives, you always need to properly use and care for your safety gear.

  • 5-Minute Air Packs

One of the most widely used and recognized safety backup systems is the five-minute air pack (see Figure 4). This device can be used for an emergency escape; including areas where air packs may only be slightly needed. Any instance where the lease pumper is being continuously fed air through a hose; the worker should wear a five-minute air pack for emergencies. Workers should also carry backup systems whenever working in areas more than a few seconds away from safety.

Lease Worker Fundamentals

Figure 4. A service bench with 5-Minute Air Packs and 30-Minute Backpacks. (courtesy Marathon Safety Department, Iraan, Texas)

  • 30-Minute Backpacks

Another widely used option is the 30-minute fresh air unit (see Figure 4). This breathing apparatus is highly recommended because it can be quickly gauged and generally lasts a week or longer before needing refilled. The device comes in a form-fitting box, and it should be stored there whenever it is not in use. The worker should also:

  1. Carry a few essential replacement parts (such as the spider or head strap),
  2. Always keep the device (and the box) clean,
  3. And if the pack ever breaks a strap, always replace it before wearing it again.
  • Compressing Fresh Air (Models using Large Industrial Size Bottles)

These air bottles can typically be refilled at most town fire stations for a fee. Nevertheless, in areas where large amounts of fresh air are consumed, you will also find a variety of companies providing this refill service. In most cases, when a company consumes large quantities of fresh air, the owner(s) will install some form of their own refilling equipment (see Figure 5), such as a compressor. The compressor uses the surrounding air to refill the bottles by first compressing the air, then injecting the air into a series of industrial sized bottles. This acts as an oxygen volume tank to help reduce the time needed to refill the bottles later on.

Lease Worker Fundamentals

Figure 5. A compressor used to fill fresh air tanks. (courtesy Marathon Safety Department, Iraan, Texas)

When filling these bottles, it is common to generate heat. As a result, the bottles are often submerged in water while they are being refilled. 30-minute bottles are also branded with a date, and it is required for them to periodically be checked. In addition, these bottles are illegal to refill after a set amount of time has passed, and each bottle is to be replaced with one meeting the proper inspection tests.

When large amounts of air are required, industrial-sized bottles (see Figure 6) with an air line and face mask are often required. These can be rigged up in a variety of ways; from the tank battery to the bed of a pickup truck.

Lease Worker Fundamentals

Figure 6. Industrial-sized bottles waiting to be filled with fresh air. The water tank on the left is where the small air tanks are cooled during the refill process. (courtesy Marathon Safety Department, Iraan, Texas)

In most cases, an industrial-sized air tank is too large and heavy to tote around and carry. Typically an air hose is used to transfer air from the bottle to the user, with a fresh air mask being utilized by each person breathing the air (see Figure 7). Typically the tank is just on stand by; and if a warning alarm or horn goes off detecting gas, the masks will be used wigging up to kill the well again. Sometimes when pulling wells or when workers are cleaning tanks, all crew members will be breathing air through hoses and masks.

Lease Worker Fundamentals

Figure 7. A lease worker using an industrial-sized air tank with an air mask, and a 5-minute escape pack for emergencies. (courtesy Mine Safety Appliance Co.)

  • Trailer-Mounted Standby Units

Industrial-sized air tanks can be used in two different ways. It can be mounted to the bed of a pickup with a reel hose, or it can be installed on the ground at the end of a walkway. This type of air tank is often selected for cleaning tanks, new construction, well servicing, and other jobs onsite (see Figure 8).

Lease Worker Fundamentals

Figure 8. Trailer Mounted Fresh Air Devices (courtesy Marathon Safety Department, Iraan, Texas)

Whether you use a trailer mounted fresh air device or a 5-minute emergency air pack, you should always take care of your breathing apparatus. You can learn a lot about an employee based on how they use and take care of their equipment. For instance, visually inspecting the breathing apparatus and looking at the bottle’s refill schedule can indicate a great deal.

As soon as a lease pumper receives his breathing gear, they should first inspect it, put it on, adjust it to fit properly, open the valves, set the rate, and find out if the device works in a satisfactory manner. Generally the device will use quick connect fittings to buckle on, the settings will remain as is, until they are adjusted again. Therefore, when a supervisor checks the equipment and finds the apparatus still wrapped as it was when it was shipped, it is obvious the lease pumper has not been using it.

Remember: Breathing equipment may be expensive, but it provides an invaluable service when properly cared for and maintained; and after each use, the lease pumper should take a few moments to clean and properly store this life saving equipment.

Is your appetite for oil & gas operating knowledge insatiable like ours? 😀 If so, check out the related article, Oil and Gas Safety: Topics of Discussion for Oilfield Operators – it will surely pump you up!!!