Nic is a regular guy’s guy with a work-hard, play-hard mentality. To keep his fast-paced lifestyle in-check, he jokes about the number of energy drinks he regularly consumes and prefers over coffee because it’s “not healthy.” At 25, Nic already has a dream life of travel, good times and a great salary which he credits to hard work in the petroleum industry. Currently, Nic works in the drilling sector as a derrickhand working his way up to become assistant driller for Nabors Drilling International.
A recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan’s Bachelor of Commerce program, the accounting major did not anticipate a career in the petroleum industry, let alone spending the last seven years on the drilling rigs. Nic supported himself through university by working on the rigs in his downtime. The office culture in accounting did not appeal to Nic admitting, “I’m definitely more adventurous and not your typical office, suit-and-tie kind of guy. I wanted to earn a great salary, do something challenging, and work with people that I could also relate to.”
“I originally wanted to go into forestry, but heard about the opportunities in oil and gas. The wages you could earn were definitely appealing, but I had no idea how to get my foot in the door.” So, Nic jumped into his old car, with $1500 cash in his pocket, and began pounding the pavement for a job in Alberta. Soon enough, Nic ran into a few oil and gas workers at his local gym and they connected him to Human Resources for Bonus Well Serving. Nic landed an interview and was hired on the spot.
At the ripe age of 18, Nic started his career in oil and gas as a floorhand. Floorhands are entry-level labour positions working on the rig floor with a drilling crew, made up of other leasehands, floorhands, motorhands, derrickhands, a driller, and a rig manager. Drilling and service rig crews are hired by exploration and development companies (also known as producers) to explore, test, complete and hopefully produce oil or gas from the well.
Nic recalls his first day on the job as a floorhand. “The first day for anyone new to a drilling rig is extremely overwhelming and you’re somewhat awestruck. There was so much going on and equipment I didn’t know how to handle. You want to help but it’s so fast-paced and sometimes hard to keep up. I had to learn quickly through on-the-job training, observation and taking safety courses.” Under the direction of the motorhand and driller, Nic was responsible for safe operations and maintenance of drilling equipment, cleaning, assembly and insertion of drilling pipes and surface casing downhole. He also helped in “tripping in and tripping out” – the process of running drill pipe into the well or removing pipe from the well to change a worn drill bit or complete a well test.
Nic quickly recognized the importance of safety on the job and developed a great appreciation for the industry training he received. “I’ve taken H2S Alive, fall arrest training, rig rescue and first aid. There can be hazards and dangers on the job if you don’t know what you’re doing. Luckily the safety training builds your confidence and is very important to do the job properly.”
Now as a derrickhand, Nic is responsible for mud systems and monitoring drilling fluid (known as mud). Mud is critical to drilling operations – it lubricates and cools the drill bit as it cuts through rock, removes excess rock cuttings and helps to maintain constant pressure in the well. Drilling fluid is composed of various minerals and chemicals and must be monitored regularly for appropriate weight and density.
Age: 25 years old
Job Title: Derrickhand
Company: Nabors Drilling International
Base Salary Range: Visit Canadian Association of Drilling Contractors Wage Schedule
Education: University of Saskatchewan, Bachelor of Commerce – Accounting Major
My Life’s Mantra: “Living the Dream”
Salary, education and advancement may vary from company to company
Entry-level positions within a drilling or service rig crew typically do not require experience other than high school, H2S Alive training, first-aid, a driver’s license, and workers must be 18 years of age or older. When workers become motorhands, they can have their hours counted towards a Journeyman Certificate in the Rig Technician trade by registering with their provincial apprenticeship board (in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories).
Note: Leasehands, floorhands and rig managers are not part of the Rig Tech trade. Rig Tech training begins at the motorhand level.
- Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC)
- ALIS OccInfo – Use search terms such as “derrick”, “rig tech”, “service rig” and “drilling”