Monitoring production will take up a big chunk of time working a lease pumping operation. Most of your day will more likely be spent doing maintenance and basic repairs, however, on a wide range of equipment. A pumper will become competent in a whole range of skills while working on a lease, as their job covers a number of different duties.
This is particularly true as time goes on and production begins to drop. As a reservoir loses pressure, production inevitably falls. That fall in production means that there’s less money to hire specialists when there’s a problem. That means the pumper will most likely have to make more repairs on their own. Most of the equipment on the lease is repairable, from patching tanks to putting leak clamps on a line.
A Work Day
It’s important that the pumper not take on more than what can be done by a single person. As production drops, the pumper will have to do a wider range of tasks, but safety is important. You may need to perform a wider range of tasks, as production slows so does the pace of the operation. There’s more time for repairs, and time to schedule help for tasks that require it.
Oil has more time to sit, and so less chemical can be used in treating it. Vessels like heater-treaters may be turned into three phase separators, without using heat. Gas production will usually also fall, meaning that the gas system is easier to run. Less automation will be needed to handle all of this.
Maintenance of automation systems can sometimes be difficult, as the equipment is specialized and may be unfamiliar. The manufacturer will usually have resources to help you puzzle out problems and understand any repairs that may be necessary. Local suppliers are also usually good sources of information.
Your personal welfare is always important. There are many tasks and situations around the lease that can be dangerous if not treated seriously, but are perfectly safe when a little common sense is used. When repairing gas leaks and handling gas there are some particular safety rules to keep in mind, outlined below.
Working At The Tank Battery
The tank battery is the biggest above ground part of a pumping operation, so you can expect to spend a fair amount of time working there and maintaining the different parts. Every day should begin with look around the battery, inspecting the lines and tanks for problems. Leaks are usually very easy to see, as there will be a trail of black fluid trailing to the ground. When patching a leak on a tank, always lower the level of liquid below the leak. That will make the process much easier. Likewise, when tightening a leaking fitting there should be no pressure on it.
You’ll also want to keep the battery as clean as you can. It’s much easier to spot a leaking tank if the side of it isn’t already covered with drops of oil. Whacking weeds and keeping plants from overgrowing equipment will also make problems easier to spot. Other small tasks include lubricating valves and pumps, adjusting controls and valves, painting to prevent rust, and a whole range of other tasks to keep the battery operating.
Maintaining And Repairing Lines
A line leak can usually be stopped by applying a line clamp, which can be tightened around a leaking pipe. Special care should be taken when working with gas lines. Natural gas pumped from the well obviously doesn’t have the smelly stuff in it that the gas company adds later, so it’s possible to stop smelling it. That makes it particularly dangerous, as inhaling gas can lead to a loss of consciousness or worse. Always stand upwind of leaking gas, and have a second person standing by if possible. When a breeze is blowing, the small pocket of lower pressure created by your ‘wind shadow’ will draw gas into your face, even if you are standing up wind. Stand so that you’re facing at an angle to the wind, or shift a few steps to one side or the other regularly so that gas will be blown away from you.
This rule should also be followed when gauging tanks, as gas will be released then as well.
Figure 1. Keeping an eye on the wind’s direction is always a good idea.
Maintenance At The Wellhead
Maintaining the well and pump downhole is one of the pumper’s major responsibilities. You’ll need to keep engines and pumps maintained by changing oil and lubricating bearings. Other tasks you may be asked to perform includes tightening or replacing belts, checking stuffing on valves and pumps, replacing fuses, checking chemical levels and pumps, and treat fluid produced from the well with chemical.
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