Disloyal Tendencies: The Mobile Scare

There is a very real external danger in the war against conventional production reports. And, there is a very real internal danger from people who are working for oil & gas companies to actively undermine these reports…

This danger has become clear and present since mobile tech has become a reality in our everyday life. In companies, time and money saving ideas should not only be considered but encouraged.

However, this creates huge conflicts of interest for the status quo…


Now, when we were growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, the tendency was to force upon pumpers, admin, and the like production reports that sucked. It was a wonderful example of how technology worked against the very people it was trying to help.

And, in retrospect, management hasn’t been fair to these pumpers. With each iteration, internal responsibility was pushed to the field, and the pumper’s job became more and more difficult… their responsibility to manage production assets remained the same, yet they were now forced to work with production reporting tools that also sucked.

But who could blame these companies?

As they continued to grow and strive to run a more effective and profitable business, how could you not introduce new solutions to the field?

It’s always a process. You go through periods where you have to endure things like paper, fax, palm pilots, and clunky software before we eventually get to the good stuff.

Today, something very interesting is happening: a surge of new methodology, ideas, human reason, and logic. And, it’s not coming from the top down, but from the bottom up.

Mobile is being pushed by the field into the office. A single pumper shifts from paper to mobile. An admin back at HQ realizes she no longer have to make telephone calls to remind the pumper to ‘get his data in’.

Eventually, engineers and production supervisors start clamoring because they actually have data and graphs that make sense. The band wagon increases in size.

The things that mobile is doing are valuable and positive… it creates proactive pumpers, it alleviates minutiae from the back-office, and keeps engineers and supervisors focused on the task at hand (maximizing oil production).

And the best part?

People actually want to use this stuff.

Folks, there is no stopping this groundswell — it’s replacing processes that were forced on the field just a decade ago…

And, you’re right. The company who ignores the idea of mobile, may, in fact, prosper for the next 2, 3, or 4 years. However, if you take the long-view (like GreaseBook!), where do you think this particular operator be 5, 8, or even 10 years from now?

But, what do you do when companies continue to roll-out palm pilots and clunky “tough books” to the field? Worse still, what do you do if you find yourself working for one of these companies??

When this begins to happen, mobile seems like less of a high-minded sentiment, and becomes more like a threat.

And think about how difficult a threat it would be if those private investment dollars began flowing toward other, more effective operators?

If the public markets began to favor stocks of companies who embrace solutions that help them to remain profitable at a lower price of oil?

Or, in light of the small independent, if dollars were forgone in favor of production reports that suck, jeopardizing jobs in a potentially volatile climate?

Think how dangerous it would be if the ideas of mobile and consumer tech (iPads and iPhones) were spreading through the industry, but your company simply stays put.

Mobile is like a virus, isn’t it? There’s a germ-like quality to it. Employees and contractors filled with the dangerous idea of employing a solution they actually want to use are like carriers of a mental contamination or intellectual smallpox to companies that refuse to change.

To the status quo, mobile is like a Trojan Horse — an enemy from within. Contract and company pumpers alike start coming with kickass production reports that enable people in-house to get shit done. The people working at these oil companies tell two friends, then each of those people tell two more…

Eventually, the whole sphere of independent operators is mobile. Beware, the industry has an intellectual epidemic in it’s midst — it’s called GreaseBook, and its production reports definitely do not suck.

When summer turns to fall, it’ll be time to check out our Western methanol pumps in your oil and gas production fields.

Inevitably, those little pumps get dried up from lack of use over the summer. That said, September and October is generally the time to get them functioning and get those methanol tanks filled—not when it suddenly goes from 80 degrees to 10 degrees, as it does here in Oklahoma.

Believe me, I have spent my fair share of hours laying on the snow-covered Oklahoma prairie in 40 MPH winds tinkering with either a Western methanol pump or the regulators that feed pressure to them! Those regulators go out when you least expect them to.

I have found in my pumping career that the easiest thing to do is simply to take those pumps out of the weather for the summer. They are easily reconnected to a gas supply in the fall, and you’re keeping the fittings and screens from getting filled with fine dust and keeping the rubber gaskets that help the pump hold pressure from drying out.

But if you tend to be one of those pumpers (like me and about 90 percent of pump users) who just shut off the methanol to the pump and let it sit all summer, you will likely need to check the pumps out before putting the gas to them and expecting them to work.


Western Chemical PumpThe Western is a reliable diaphragm type pump, but it is gas operated. With a ceramic ball and seat these old pumps a pretty much bullet-proof, but if your supply gas is wet, and you are not using a dryer at the source you can have trouble with them. Some operators are getting away from gas driven pumps nowadays because they vent to atmosphere, and it will just be a matter of time before this is a cost prohibitive option with regulations (DEQ, etc.) coming down the pipe (pun intended).

However, until then, here is a checklist to make sure your Western pumps are in order for the winter:

1. If the pump is still hooked into the methanol lines:

  • take the fitting off of the pump
  • ensure that all valves are turned on
  • Make sure that methanol is running through your copper tubing to the pump.

2. Replace the fitting onto the pump inlet and then crack open the gas line valve that feeds pressure to your pump. This line should be running through a small regulator (probably a Meco or Fisher regulator) and then into the pump.

3. Don’t be worried if you turn on the gas and the pump doesn’t take off right away. There is a petcock on the top of the pump that regulates the speed and delivery of the chemical. A simple jiggle back and forth of that petcock can start the pump again.

4. If there is still no pumping sound, loosen the gas fitting and make sure you have gas to the inlet. Sometimes there are tiny inline regulators on the supply gas outlet (from the casing) that also get clogged over summer. The regulators are about a two-inch long, thick fitting that comes directly from the supply gas off the casing, which fits onto the copper line that goes to the Western. 

If that is clear, take the fitting off the inlet to the Meco regulator. The Mecos and Fishers have tiny screens that are often just packed with rust or crud that is easily cleaned. Replace the fitting and off you will probably go.

5. If your gas supply is working and your regulators are not clogged and you still don’t get pumping action, it is likely the stem, which runs right through the middle of the Western Chemical Pump. 

Most of the time, at that point, you just need to tell your company man and they can have someone work the pump over and put a kit in it. Sometimes, you may have to kit one yourself. I hate putting kits in anything, and these pumps are no different. The kits come with instructions, so my advice is just to clear about an hour and a half out of your pumping schedule to do it.

For the most part, Western Chemical Pumps (and another kind called a bean pump) are fairly straightforward. If you take care of them, they will take care of you. Set yourself some kind of reminder to drain them in the spring and put them up for the summer. They will treat you way better, and you won’t have to freeze your fingers off trying to get one to work in a blizzard!

– Rachael Van Horn

I know you groan when you hear that you have an Ajax engine on your pumping route. But the reality is, Ajax engines are still, to this day, among the very best engines for pumping units I have ever worked with.

For some reason though, when my fellow pumpers talk about them, they do so with an “I can’t believe I have an Ajax on my route” kind of flare.

Frankly, to me it’s a bragging right.

I love ‘em. When I get a lease location with one, I can’t wait to get a chance to start it. They are just so impressive.

Yes, Ajax engines can be cold-blooded in the winter. And if you allow them to go down in cold temperatures and they lose their heat, God help you if you are starting them with a pin-starter, or worse, kick starting them.

And pretty much any company still running an older Ajax is possibly going to be the type of company that might be skimping on allowing a methanol pump and a whole tank of methanol.

So, I agree, having an Ajax engine on your route can, at times, have implications that could point to pumper suffering.

But if you are a real pumper – someone who enjoys a nice day spent out changing stuffing box rubbers or changing the oil in your engines, then you too know the sheer excitement you feel when you realize one of your new leases has an Ajax.

Of all the engines I have had, my units with an Ajax have not had any parted rods or stuck pumps, and if you keep them maintained and running, they go down less than my C-96s and C-106s. They are certainly better, by far, than every single Fairbanks 503 I have ever had – now there’s an engine to complain about.

You may or may not know this, but Ajax is the oldest engine still being produced in the United States. They have been used in the oilfield for 130 years.

Even today, its two-cycle design offers the most simplistic management. It eliminates valves, rocker arms (arghghg), push rods, and cams. Typically, if I have an Ajax down, within minutes I can determine what is causing the trouble and fix it (and I am definitely no mechanic).

Ajax Iron Works began in Pennsylvania, a steel and iron producing state from way back. But also key to how Ajax became such a love child of the oil industry is that Pennsylvania was the drilling site of the first ever oil well in the U.S.

Ajax Iron Works started with steam powered engines, and in 1895 the company added gas powered engines to their line. In 1958, the company made the first ever Ajax integral-engine compressor. As the years went along, they made them larger and larger, with more power to compress and move gas in the field as well as continuing to make Ajax pumping unit engines (E-42s), of which I had many.

An E-42 on a pumping unit

I also had an Ajax C-42 that was a lease site compressor, as well as DPC-115 on a lease I took care of. Both engines were amazing and at least 30 to 40 years old. Yet, they ran well if we prepared them well for winter and I never had trouble with one during the summer. I will admit, restarting that DPC-115 was a bitch. We used compressed air and had to have the flywheel positioned exactly where it would engage the altronic ignition or you were SOL. That thing was huge and kinda spooky, but in some masochistic way, I miss that ol’ thing.

This is an old C 42 with a pony motor right there by the flywheel. The pony motor has a starting wheel that I run to start this engine. Love this engine!

When I lay in my bed at night in the Panhandle of Oklahoma, I go to sleep to the rythmic “pop, pop, pop – pop, pop, pop – pop, pop” of an Ajax compressor that is near my home.

There’s just something about that sound that makes me feel safe – like, with all the trouble in the world, there is something in this life that actually lasts.

– Rachael Van Horn

When my father was in Vietnam, he had the nose of his F-105 Thunder Chief fighter jet blown off flying missions well into North Vietnam airspace. He looked down at his feet and saw open air underneath them. His survival and the ability to get that plane flown back to friendly territory, south of the Mekong River, was 100 percent dependent on his training.

Republic F-105D-30-RE (S/N 62-4234) in flight with full bomb load. (U.S. Air Force photo)

And herein lies the message this week: We all have safety training and classes on how to perform maintenance and a host of other dos and don’ts every month. There’s even more if you happen to be a company pumper.

I swear if I’ve heard lockout-tagout once, I’ve heard it 60,000 times. Wearing a hardhat is said so much that the phrase swims in my head. It even pops up when I’m saying the Rosary.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed is your hardhat.” No, wait, that’s not how that goes.

And yet, how many of us climb a tank to gauge it while blabbing into our cell phones?

How many of us decide it’s too hot to wear our hard hats?

How many of us blow down a compressor and don’t allow enough time for the gas to clear before restarting the engine?

I have done this, and just a note here, so did a good friend of mine, and he blew himself up. He lived, but was burned badly.

Here’s one you have probably NEVER done: putting oil in a pumping unit without clutching the unit and putting the brake on? Yep, I’m guilty, too.

What I’m getting at is that there is a reason those things are said, said again, and said one more time by our company men and corporate leaders.

As I have aged, maybe because I’m more aware of my mortality, I take 30 seconds now before I do anything on my units and ask myself, “What could happen if I do this?”

It has saved my life.

Safety is something companies have a vested interest in. They pay when we decide to be unsafe. That’s their reality.

But the bottom line is that if you are texting through your next safety meeting, it could be that you miss one small bit of new information that could kill you. That’s a worse reality, and it could be yours for the low, low price of catching a few Zzzs.

My dad made it. He flew that F-105 with the nose literally a burning fireball in front of him. He pulled out every emergency trick he had been taught while in pilot school and then added his incredible intestinal fortitude, and he crash landed just into friendly territory. It was 1965.

I find myself being glad, when I sit and chat with my now 84-year-old dad over a martini, that when someone was droning on in some insufferably boring class about safety and emergency tactics, that he wasn’t texting or letting his attention wander. He was hearing and absorbing the information because he knew there simply had to be a reason those grizzled old flyers were up there talking about it.

– R. Van Horn

When I began writing for Greasebook, the company’s founder, Greg Archbald, asked me if I’d be willing to write a few short pieces talking about who I am and “why a woman is writing a pumper’s blog”. (He didn’t really say that last bit… but I thought it was funny. 😉

I am a newspaper journalist and pumper.

I have written thousands of columns, and my least favorite subject matter is myself.

But I guess it gives you a chance to get to know who is giving you pumping advice. So, here goes:

I was born in the early 60s in a town called Ipswich, in Suffolk, England, because my father, Boyd L. Van Horn, was an Air Force fighter pilot.

While in the U.S. as a child, we lived in six different states; Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Oklahoma. We moved about every two years because my father was in Tactical Air Command. He was stationed and ultimately retired at Langley, Virginia, home of the CIA.

At any rate, my father’s influence in my life is probably what prompted my decision to go into the Army. I ultimately spent 21 years in the Army and Army Reserve, mostly on reserve duty.

Around the time I was scheduled to retire, I received mobilization orders to Afghanistan in support of Operation Noble Eagle in early 2003. I was an Army fuel truck driver at the time. I always had a mechanical side to my personality.

As my unit and I inched toward deploying to Afghanistan, the Army decided, at the last minute, to extend the currently deployed troops who were already there and whom we were slated to replace. They put our deployment on hold, and during that time, my orders to retire came due, so I retired.

Frankly, I was sad about missing this deployment, but knew that as a single mother, my daughter, who was about to graduate from high school, needed me to be around. I viewed that as a bit of serendipity because there were a lot of combat casualties in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2004.

Nevertheless, after she graduated, and when I had a chance, I still yearned to serve. So I took a civilian position serving for four years as a military liaison in Iraq.  It was my finest service, and I will always be grateful for the lessons I learned while in combat. They continue to serve me today.

You may be wondering, “What does any of this have to do with the oil field?”

Absolutely nothing, except that when I came home after four years in a pretty heavy duty war zone, I needed to work outside. (I was present for just one too many chow hall bombings and IED attacks).

So when I got here, my best friend Evelyn, a 35 year career oilfield pumper, started training me to work full-time as a pumper.

Ironically, I landed my first full-time position not as a conventional pumper but as a Co2 and water flood pumper. This is a very complex type of pumping. There is a lot more pressure on tubing and casing and I dealt with a lot of submersible pumps (OMG—this is its own story). I also had quite a few pumping units, but again, working on everything in a Co2 flood, even changing stuffing box rubbers, is vastly different than in a conventional field.

While here, I also took care of a large central oil battery with five large Co2 compressors that ran 24 hours a day. We sold about 3,000 bbls of oil out of that battery per day and I also managed the production numbers. After nearly two years here, where I learned more than I can even write about in one blog, I wanted to move closer to my home. So I moved to a private company who had me watching 27 pumping units – all with C-106s.

This man’s field was in the Mississipian zone, and he ran those units 11 strokes a minute. I swear to you, it looked like a field full of Singer Sewing Machines. I also ran all four of this fellow’s salt water disposal batteries.

Sadly, this fellow, after a long day that we spent completing a well he had just drilled and brought on, sat down in his easy chair at home one day and died of a heart attack. After this, his family sold the entire field of wells and I moved to a company, that was even closer to my home.

Here I was pumping what in the business we call “strippers.” I had plungers, pumping units, free-flowing wells, and compressors of every breed. I loved it.

But I hated the corporate atmosphere. If I could have been left alone out in the field to pump wells without stressful phone calls from regional managers and engineers, some of whom had never even stood on a well location, I would still be into it full-time. Yes, I take full responsibility for my cranky inability to just ignore all of that.

These days, I write full-time and relief pump for a couple of very busy contract pumpers in my area. It’s the best of both worlds for me.

Me with one of my toughest leases, a unit with a 503 Fairbanks!!! Arghghggghghg.

You should know, I love the work of being a pumper. I love the feel of hand-starting a C-96 – you know, that little jerk when you give it a pull and it hits. And the exhilaration when you realize you got it done without losing your hand!

I love shutting down a pumping unit on a nice fall day to change stuffing box rubbers. I enjoy having time to think about life and watch snowflakes fall, while I wait for a plunger to come up so I can drop a new one.

The Fairbanks problem child. I had to put a new head gasket on it on that day. These are the worst engines!!!

The work we do is the finest and most important in the oilfield today. It is on our backs that money is made or lost. We are there many days, weeks, months and years after drillers and completion folks have long forgotten the location.

I know that there is little recognition in this field for a job well done. Pumpers are usually the first ones blamed when something goes wrong and often overlooked when a location performs especially well.

On a particularly bad day, I called my best friend Evelyn and asked her why, after 35 years, she was still fighting this fight – still performing as one of the single most respected pumpers in the state.

She said, “Rachael, there are days when I feel like a bloody stump with no legs or arms floating in an ocean full of sharks, all taking chunks out of me. And for some reason, I must still like it, because I stay.”

– Rachael Van Horn

In one of the companies where I was a full-time company pumper, we had a system called “partner pumping,” which meant one pumper would pump there other pumper’s wells when they were off-duty.

For reasons only a true pumper can understand, this proved to be a pretty terrible set-up.

My partner was brand new to the oilfield and not well trained. It was around Thanksgiving, the nighttime temps were getting into the 30s, and he called to say he was struggling to get one of his heater-treaters lit.

This could have been caused by numerous issues, so I knew that a phone tutorial was out of the question. It would be faster to drive over and look at it myself.

As I drove into the lease, I saw my partner with a small Bic lighter, hand shoved in to the fire tube up to his armpit, with his face peering right into the fire tube as well.

I honked and waved at him while screaming “Nooooo!” Fortunately, I stopped him before a disaster happened.

When cold weather arrives, it’s always a good time to talk about how to safely light a heater-treater. It’s not because I think you don’t know; we all just need remainders that we are dealing with really dangerous equipment and there is indeed a safer way to do all of this.

Not 11 months ago where I live and work, a fellow pumper blew himself up and landed in the hospital with third degree burns to his face, and this guy had been pumping for years!

So here goes:

1.         It’s ALWAYS safer to light the pilot than the burner. To do this, it is really important for you to understand how the whole thing is made and know which valve handle controls the burner and which one controls the pilot light. This might sound stupid, but you would be surprised how many people are always lighting the burner because they don’t have a clue where the pilot valve is.

2.         For the pilot, there is usually about a two-inch hole under the fire tube with a screw-on steel cap. Get a sturdy piece of wire at least two feet long. (I use barbed wire fence spacers). I create a little loop in one end of the two-foot length of sturdy wire (use heavy-enough gauge that it can’t sag) and pull a small piece of rag through the looped end of it, then dampen the rag with diesel fuel. Don’t use gasoline, and for SURE don’t use methanol. Methanol burns invisibly with no flame, so you have no idea if you have put it out.

heater treater

3.         While I am preparing all of this, I have already opened the face plate (usually with three or wing nuts on the front of the treater) and turned off all the gas to both the pilot and main burner to give it time to air out. If you don’t, when you stick that wire with a burning rag in there, it will explode. Not good.

4.         Wait about five minutes to be sure the gas is gone, use a lighter to light the diesel-soaked rag, then poke it into the hole made for the pilot light. Find out exactly where the gas comes out on that, but it’s usually a one-inch line running under the main burner gas tube. That way you have the lighted rag directly over it when you gingerly turn on the pilot gas. It should light with no problem. If it doesn’t, try cleaning it a little with a brush.

5.         When you have gotten the pilot light going well, ease on the main gas valve so the burner engages. You should be able to hear it engaging.

6.         Yes, there are times when the pilot is not working or staying lit and you have to just light the burner. I have a couple like that too. If you are doing this, it will require you to take the face plate off (it should already be off) and then stick your handy-dandy wire with the burning rag all the way (about 2 feet) into the fire tube where the gas comes out of the long tube that runs toward the middle of the treater (away from you). It is a three-inch tube running away from you (as you are standing in front of the treater) with a bell-shaped end.

7.         Stand well to the side of the fire tube and ease the gas on. You do not want to ever look into the fire tube while starting a treater. If there is any build-up of gas, it shoots out the front and can burn you badly.

I know that a lot of the old-timers in the field are probably laughing right now. I have seen pumpers do some amazing things while starting heater-treaters, and I have seen them injured badly too.

That said, I’d like to keep my face! How about you?

– R. Van Horn


Hello World!

For those of you who are looking for GreaseMonkey from the E&P Magazine article entitled, “Operator: Unchained“, look no further!

We’re actually known around the oil patch as “GreaseBook”. Anyways, typos happen and we’re still VERY thankful to Hart’s Energy and the folks at E&P for including us in their September edition!

GreaseMonkey Typo

To find the Pumper Mesh you seek, click the link below!


The folks at GreaseBook

In any business, there are “rules”—traditions and expectations that most accept as true.

production manager software oil gas

The oil and gas industry is full of them. That said, many of these rules are probably due for some questioning (if not a little breaking).

All too often, businesses plod along holding onto long-held views and calling them “rules.” However, many times these rules can be reclassified simply as bad habits.

Bad habits make for all sorts of struggles in business and in life. But because these habits are mistaken for rules, most people don’t realize they can be changed.

Recently, I stumbled across some interesting insight from Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten (Japan’s biggest e-retailer) and #23 on the Forbe’s “Richest in Tech” List. Mikitani explains that when building a company, every system you set up eventually breaks. Pretty obvious, right?

oil and gas production system optimization

That said, Mikitani goes on to say that you can actually predict when your business will begin to break down. Essentially, Mikitani claims that every system you put into place will need to change at roughly every 3rd and 10th steps.

For example, as an oil and gas operator, when you go from one employee to three, it takes a bit of adjustment. However, eventually you ante up and make the jump from 3 to 10, then from 10 to 30.

When it’s just you, you know what you’re doing. But as you continue to grow you must bring on staff, a production supervisor, and add more pumpers to maintain your production assets.

What I found even more curious was applying this same rule of 3 and 10 to our well count (i.e., the amount of wells we operate). Nearly every operator I’ve had the pleasure to know generally falls into a specific “step” or size, with 3 wells, 10, 30, 100, 300, or 1000 under management.

Many independents enjoy running a small shop and find that about 30 wells is all they can (personally) manage before hiring beyond their current set-up of a couple of pumpers and an outside consultant.

The next rung up from 30 wells tends to hover around 100. An active operator such as this will generally have 6 to 8 pumpers tending these wells, an in-house engineer, and support staff. New wells will be drilled. Old wells will be plugged and abandoned. But, 100 wells (give or take a handful) is generally where they’ll remain.

Why? Because it’s what they know. It’s what their rules permit. And, it’s what they’re comfortable with.

To break beyond a step, an operator must reorganize itself and its systems (i.e., break rules). Generally, as the market permits, they’re able to grow unhampered until they hit that next step.

The exception to the rule is when you see operators receive a large influx of capital from outside investors. Basically, this enables them to skip steps.

Companies with huge influxes of money have serious growing pains. Pumpers in the field are left to their own devices with the only instruction being, “Let us know when you have oil to sell; we’ve got other things to work on now.” Missing run tickets and a sloppy oil sales reconciliation process causes these large companies to hemorrhage perfectly good money. (Check out this post on how 80% of your company’s skimmed oil comes from just 20% of your purchasers.)

Essentially, what these operators find is that they’re bumping up against Mikitani’s law. Although they’re operating 300 wells, they’re still relying on the same systems that were set up when they were managing 30.

If you haven’t arrived at one of these milestones yet, just ask your predecessors who have. Ask what happened when they reached 100, 300, or even the 1000 well mark.

They’ll tell you that at every one of these steps, everything breaks. Everything: your communication systems, your payroll, your accounting.

Usually, operators end up adding people to the process. And this is where we get into trouble. Understand, we must refine rules and processes before adding people. Adding people to a refined process multiplies output; however, using people as a fix to a poor process multiplies your problems.

Basically, we don’t add people to broken systems. People are expensive. If Operator A manages 100 wells with a staff of five people and Operator B manages 100 wells with a staff of twelve—all things being equal—Operator A wins. His investors win. His employees win. And, the company will carry on in nearly any environment.

When operators are wondering why they can’t move beyond a particular well count, or why their operating costs are so high, it’s because they’ve skipped one of these steps without reevaluating their processes.

Those who were able to make it to the next step in good times (or survive in bad times), were the ones who were able to successfully revisit their rules and habits and make the necessary adjustments.

There’s nothing magic about 3 and 10, but we see it all the time. Every time you approach one of these milestones, take time to review your processes before chasing that next well!

Do you think Mikitani’s Rule can be applied to oil & gas?

If so, where else have you seen the rule of “3 and 10” play out?

If not, why not? Leave your response in the comments below!


The other day, a gentleman called to inquire about the GreaseBook pumper app.

Basically, this guy — we’ll call him Dave — had spent the better part of his professional career in the oilfield, had sold his service company, and is now retired. However, after a few years on the sidelines, he was now sick of sitting around.

Dave wanted back in, and he wanted to open up a well servicing company.

That said, Dave had one minor issue: he was a transplant from Texas, and therefore had no wells to service and very few contacts to call upon here in Oklahoma…

oil filed pumper jobs

Hey Pumpers! Line ’em up and knock ’em down!!

Dave told us he’d printed up 4500 flyers to pass out and bought ads in an industry trade mag. He’d even knocked on a few operator’s doors around town (and in the process said that he found a new respect for people he saw going door to door during his professional tenure while on the other side of the desk…)

At GreaseBook, we speak to dozens of operators and pumpers every week. And, not too long ago, we were the new kid on the block.

We tried the cold calling. We tried the dropping by of offices of operators.

And to tell you the truth, the word ‘No’ still rings clearly in my mind…

Now, how many times have you heard the oil & gas industry is a network of ‘Good ‘ol Boys’?

Sure, there’s a lot of inner mixing of operators in different parts of the country and the industry is a small world (even smaller for those with a weak moral compass or questionable business practices… ;-P)

However, Dave — someone who was very much apart of this “Network” in his younger years — now, may have found himself on the outside.

That said, something about this guy resonated. He was probably twice my age (I’m 33 FYI), and he was getting back out there and starting from zero. And it wasn’t for lack of money — this guy simply loved the oilfield (which makes him really freakin’ cool in our book :-D)

Side note: if you’ve never read it, check out the Lease Pumper’s Handbook. (Get your free download by clicking here!) Basically, It’s 500 some-odd pages on the topic of “oil lease pumping”, a great resource for new and veteran pumpers alike.

Anyways, we wanted to help.

We work with a lot of data. And while we focus on kick-ass oil production software for operators and pumpers (and eliminating human error in the oilfield!), we have a lot of other very helpful data sources cross our desk, too.

So, armed with this task, we asked ourselves, “if we were a contract pumper or service company (or company pumper trying to tend a few wells on the side ;-P), how would we go about landing our first few clients?”

The first thing that came to mind is that the proximity of one well to another would be very important to me. Besides pay, drive-time and wear-and-tear on your truck may be just as important of factors to consider when taking on a new well.

During this search, another thing we kept at the forefront of our mind is the idea that you may be able to pump — and receive payment(!) — for 50 wells in close proximity, but maybe only 20-30 if they’re spaced further apart.

Side note: here in Oklahoma, most batteries aren’t commingled. There are exceptions, but the general rule is one well to one battery. That said, Okie pumpers can probably command higher monthly fees per wells than their commingled pumping counterparts.

Of course, starting out you may not be able to be so choosy. But, as you begin to establish a name for yourself, you’ll probably have the ability to be more selective about the wells you take on.

Our friend Dave was living just outside of Oklahoma City. Therefore, keeping our focus on tight knit group of wells, we think Oklahoma County is where he would want to concentrate his efforts.

oilfield pumper jobs oklahoma

That said, we tapped a friend of ours on the shoulder and asked if she’d poll IHS for some data. Basically, we told her we were looking for all the active wells in Oklahoma County AND the operators who owned those wells.

Side note 1: Most operators have some sort of subscription to IHS. If you’re like a lot of pumpers we know, you come to know some of your operators pretty well (at least over the phone!)

Most your clients will have a subscription to IHS can poll this operator/well info for you in about 8-10 minutes. If you don’t have any connections — hang tight, we’ve got an alternative for you!!

Anyways, within 20 minutes our friend had shot us an Excel document of every operator with production assets in Oklahoma County — bingo! From a pumper’s perspective, things were starting to heat up…

After a little sorting and a little manipulating of the Excel sheet, we found there are 120 operators and 1505 active producing wells in Oklahoma County (we’ve attached this Excel spreadsheet at the bottom of this post…)

We figured for Dave to get started and start building a good name for himself, all he needed was about 10 wells (that’s less than <1% of the wells in Oklahoma County  — .0066 to be exact).

Dave used to run a fleet of pumpers, and my guess is he had more knowledge of wells than about 95% of the guys out there pumping. He’d be a hell of an asset for any operator lucky enough to find him — Dave just needed to get his name out there…

Don’t be just another Oil field Pumper…

Most pumpers hold onto their wells with an iron grip. However, as in any business, there will always be folks who are disengaged, disinterested, apathetic, or simply spread too thin to give their job the attentiveness it requires.

Pumpers allowing tanks to spillover, pumpers who are a month behind on their paperwork, and pumper’s who are hard to get a hold of are all “Prime-Time” targets from which to snipe wells.

oilfield pumper jobs

“Say what? You tryin’ to get a hold of me?!” ~ Deion “Prime-Time” Sanders

I know for a fact that if you contact an operator at the right time with the right approach (the manner of approach is crucial!), you’ve got a damned good shot at snagging a few wells.

So, what is the “right approach”?

Being different is a fundamental differentiator. Different is better when it’s more effective or more fun. If everyone is defining a problem and solving it one way and the results are subpar (ie knocking on doors, taking out ads, or waiting for the wells to come to them), this is time to ask, “What if I did something else?”

Don’t follow the model that doesn’t work. If the recipe sucks, it doesn’t matter how good a cook you are.

And, Dave was right: cold calling ain’t gonna work.

In my mind, my fundamental differentiator would be to spend 2-3 days driving by 20-30 wells in Olahoma County. If you’re too busy with the wells you already got, make a stop by one or two wells on your way home. Walk around the premises of each lease, take photos with your smart phone, and make notes of what you would change or simply clean-up if you were the pumper there…

Side note: a great FREE app for determining the operator of just about any well. Basically, the map interface shows all the wells within a 5-8 mile view radius of your location.

oilfield pumper jobs 2 oil field pumper jobs

iPhone App can be found here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/di-wellspot/id562174037?mt=8

Android can be found here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.drillinginfo.baytown&hl=en

Look for things that are amiss, ways in which you think you could better rock the well, etc. — basically, stuff that the lazy or inexperienced guys (ie ‘windshield pumpers’) might overlook.

Do a quick internet search to find the operators telephone number and address. If the operator is close by, print out and drop the 2-3 page write-up w/ your findings and photos by the operator’s office with your business card.

If the operator resides further away, call his office and tell whomever answers the phone that you’d like the contact info (name and email address) for the production or well supervisor in charge.

When she asks why (which she inevitably will), simply state “I have some important information I need to forward in regards to XYZ Well in _______ County”.

Fire off your report via email telling him what you found, and tell him how you think you can help his business and his operations. You don’t necessarily have to be right. From a business owner’s standpoint, the simple fact that you’re engaged and putting your head to use for their company is very refreshing.

Extra Credit: For an added umph, open an account on LinkedIn, add a photo, and fill out the pertinent fields about your professional experience (where you worked, for whom you worked, what you did there…). Be sure to link to this profile in your email and tell the operator to check it out! Linkedin offers you a place to demonstrate your experience and showcase your personality.

Seem like an overkill?

Maybe so. But by doing so, no longer are you just an interruption or an email. You’re a name with a face. Or, in Dave’s case, a guy with a hell of a lot of experience who wants a shot at upping your production.

Notice, Dave doesn’t get stopped by the admin before he gets access to the decision maker. Dave provides value right out of the gun…

First, the owner would say to himself “who the hell is this guy?” 

Then, 5 minutes later he’d be thinking of how he can get you on some of his wells.

If he isn’t, he’s:

  1. somehow managed to hire nothing but A players in his operations (which anyone who has ever run a business knows how hard this is to do),
  2. he’s too snowed under to respond because he’s hired too many B and C players and can’t see the forest through the trees (remedy: fire B/C players, hire A player who is knocking on the door – YOU!), or
  3. he’s apathetic in the management of his wells (unfortunately, this is sometimes the case…)

If anyone ever approached my business in a similar manner, told me how I could improve my app, showed me a way to better run aspects of my operations, I’d hire the guy in a freakin’ minute.


‘Cause nobody does this. And that right there folks, is what we call “differentiation”.

It’s a very targeted approach to winning wells. You offer value. And, i’d bet you’d do better than winning 1 in 5 wells you visited. If nothing else, you’ll be top of mind when they’re replacing one of their pumpers at another site.

Look, the fishing is best where the fewest go, and the collective thought train of your competition (other pumpers!!) makes it easy for people like you to hit home runs while everyone else is aiming for base hits.

Getting more wells begins with asking for them properly.

You’ll find the Excel list we used attached below.


Download (XLSX, 40KB)

You know how they say good things come to those who wait? We’ll we say good things come to those who read to the bottom of our posts 😉

That said, what if we told you landing new wells as an oilfield pumper was a snap?

What if you could pick and choose your wells at will, letting go of wells that were off the beaten path in favor of those that were closer to home?

Well, as of now, it’s not a dream anymore.

Introducing the GreaseBook ‘Pumper Mesh’ – a directory for gaugers, pumpers, lease operators, well tenders and the like – designed to introduce YOU to companies operating in the counties in which you pump.

Hang your shingle out. Get introduced to Oil and Gas Operating Companies. Get your shot at more contract pumper jobs. All through the Pumper Directory. All at no charge to you.

Why do this for the pumpers?

It’s just our way of saying “thanks” for being out on the front line of oil & gas.

To check out the ‘Pumper Mesh’ click here.

Last month, GreaseBook did the impossible: we rolled the 15,000,000 barrel mark.

That’s right, since GreaseBook’s inception a short 2 years ago, America’s independents have scrolled, swiped, and tapped more than 15 million barrels into our modest field production app.

15MM barrels tracked via oil production software

Click the image to check out our bbl counter in real-time!

For our clients, that’s 15 million barrels that went ‘skim free’.  15 million bbls that were fully paid and accounted for. And, 15 million bbls that were tracked, organized, and reported with little to no intervention on behalf of the admins, engineers, and owners responsible for overseeing these operations.

Instead of pushing paper and manipulating spreadsheets, these folks were able to focus on what they do best: pumping oil.

For us — well, we feel a great sense of pride and responsibility.

Pride, because we’re bringing cost-effective solutions that make other industry software vendors curse us.

Responsibility, because so many independent operators have entrusted their production to the folks here at GreaseBook.

You see, something very interesting is happening… a surge of new methodology, ideas, human reason, and logic.

And, it’s not coming from the top down (the large, integrated operators), but from the bottom up (the small independents).

A single pumper shifts from paper to mobile. An admin back at HQ realizes she no longer has to make telephone calls to remind the pumper to ‘get his data in’.

Eventually, engineers and production supervisors start clamoring because they actually have data and graphs that make sense. The band wagon increases in size.

The things that mobile is doing are valuable and positive… it creates proactive pumpers, it alleviates minutiae from the back-office, and keeps engineers and supervisors focused on the task at hand (maximizing oil production & minimizing overhead).

And the best part?

People actually want to use this stuff.

Folks, there is no stopping this groundswell — it’s replacing processes that were forced on the field just a decade ago.

Thanks to mobile technology, independent operators are able to scale every last man hour — and squeeze every last drop of oil — from their operations.


Greg Archbald


P.S. To celebrate this liberation of the oilfield (and the number 15!), GreaseBook would like to extend a special invitation:

For a limited time, any operator who signs up  to trial the app will receive a 15% discount to be applied to his/her app subscription for the first 6 months. (The door closes Friday @ 4:59PM CST.)

As always, our 60 day / 110% money-back guarantee stands.

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