Blowout at Oil Rig

Oil Field Services

Oil field Services

Our civil engineer posted in Toot oilfield, informed us that he was required to immediately rush home owing to his mother’s ailment. I was asked to work in his place during his absence. In fact, I also wanted to be posted in some oilfield for a short period so as to have a feel of conditions out there in the camp. Toot oilfield was in potohar region at a distance of about 130 kilometers from Islamabad, near Chakwal.  It was an established old oilfield and its first oil well had started producing crude oil in 1968. Two more wells were drilled there with success which were producing oil. Drilling on Toot-4 was in progress and I was sent there for civil works and foundation of Russian rig for Toot-5.

Oil field Survey

All works for foundation of rig and allied infrastructure were executed through deployment of labour from adjoining villages on daily wage basis. I was new to this system and didn’t know much about doing departmental work, and had to rely on my work supervisor who was also a local resident and a regular employee of OGDC. Within few days I made the assessment of their daily output which in my view was not enough. Based on their performance I made a deal with the labour, gave them assignment of the day which was a little more than the one which they were performing, and told them to finish the job and go home irrespective of the time. My trick worked.

Labor Workers at Oil field

The labourers worked hard and would even fight with each other to quickly finish the work. This was a win-win situation.  The output of work was improved and the labour was also happy to finish the work and go home much earlier than before. The other work force used to envy them and they would try to come to my department. I earned a reputation among the locals for being a good paymaster and also being friendly with them.

Emergency in Oil field

It was past midnight that I heard a knock at my door.  Thinking of who could that person be, for waking me up at this odd hour of the night, to my utter surprise it was the master driller, and the manager in-charge of oilfield. He appeared to be in distress and in bad shape.

“I am sorry to wake you up so late at night, but I had no other choice. I want you to please help me.”

His entire body was trembling and he was hardly able to say this in broken words. I asked him to come inside and to cool down and compose himself, and that I was available to him for any service that I could do for him.

“I want your urgent help. Toot-4 is getting out of control and if we cannot stuff it with barite, it can blow out anytime. I have made all efforts to summon the labour from adjoining villages but they have refused to come to my call. I want at least forty people to fill the well with barite. Please help me get these people quickly”.

Gas Pressure in Oil Field

Being new to that place I couldn’t understand what he was saying and what the emergency was. Later on, I learnt that Toot-4 was drilled to about 1000 meters and was in oil containing zone. The drilling was continuing there but the gas pressure was very high which was to be controlled by filling the well with heavy mud (barite is the name of cohesive material like fine clay which is mixed with water to make a paste of required specific gravity).

Blow out at Oil Rig

In case if the column of well filled with barite is insufficient to counter the gas pressure, and God forbid, if the gas manages to ooze out of the well, it can result in a deadly consequence of a blowout. It immediately catches fire with a loud bang, and the intensity of fire is so heavy that it melts the steel rig and spreads like wildfire burning everything that comes in its way. A devastating situation, to say the least.

“But how can I help you?  I am new to this place and have hardly been here for fifteen days and I know nothing about this place as compared to you, who has been here for many years.” I asked.

“I know that, but Mr. Bughio I want you to get me the people from villages to make this mud and manually fill the well. Since you deploy the local labour and you have made your place in their hearts during this short period, I am sure they will respond to your call. Besides, I have no choice but to surrender and be ready for disastrous consequences of blowout”.

Urgent Help

He was literally shaking now. I told him to calm down and told him to send a message to my work supervisor and to tell him that there was an emergency and that I wanted him to bring as many people as he could. There were no mobile phones at that time as we have them now, and so the manager gave his own jeep along with a fleet of vehicles to go with my message for my supervisor who also lived in a nearby village. I was not sure if my call would be responded positively, but to show solidarity with the master driller, I accompanied him to the site.

Help reached at oil field

There were a couple of people (on payroll of OGDC) who were busy and were frantically making thick mud of barite and filling the well. But the fear and gloom of a possible blowout was clearly visible on their faces. Soon after that we were relieved to see that my supervisor had managed to bring about fifteen people with him and told me that others would also be joining him shortly. And to our pleasant surprise we were able to have another thirty people who worked hard all night and by sunrise the next day, we were able to successfully control the gas pressure and the danger of blowout was averted.

Moral Lesson

Sometimes I wonder how the hearts can be won by small favours.  I was new to this place but my positive gestures of being friendly with them and telling them that I was also a villager like them, and giving them the liberty and ease of doing their work, had paid dividends for me. Love begets love and courtesy always pays. The master driller was happy and thanked me for the help. He must have learnt the lesson of his life that stick is not the only way to be a good administrator, and that there are other easy methods also. Spread love and be part of them, and they will love you too

Oil field

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