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What's Up At Chesapeake/Nomac With The Armed Forces?

Changes At Nomac DrillingNov. 16th

Many of you might have noticed Chesapeake Energy Corporation in the news lately as investors have asked that Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon step down under allegations of corporate misconduct. It seems investors found improprieties with McClendon selling Chesapeake his "antique map collection" for $12.1 million while accepting a bonus of $75 million dollars the same year his company lost  60% of its stock value.

The latest outrage had to do with the Founder Well Participation Program in which McClendon was allowed a personal stake in each well drilled and operating a $200 million hedge fund that traded in natural gas.

Although McClendon remains CEO at Chesapeake Energy and controls operations at it's wholly owned subsidiary  "Nomac Drilling", many changes have taken place within both companies with Chesapeake selling off assets to reduce debt and Nomac Drilling taking rigs out of operation due to low natural gas demand.

Talking with a long time Nomac Drilling employee yesterday I was told of some strange decisions by McClendon and management at some Nomac drilling locations.

In an industry that has been criticized for high accident rates while being in too big of a hurry during operations to lower costs, some Nomac rigs have moved towards a 24/7 rig move policy that involves rigging down and up throughout the night. Mobile light plants are installed on location and rig moves continue during the dark hours with 2 crews alternating 12 hour tours.

With rig moves being one of the more dangerous aspects of drilling a well, one has to wonder if this is actually in the best interest of safety or just another move to cut costs and increase profits?

What's even more bizarre I am told is that Nomac has hired men fresh from the armed forces with no prior drilling or rig move experience to oversee the rig move operations! My source explained that 3 men with no prior drilling rig experience hold meetings in which they sit and move "puzzle pieces" representing parts of the rig as they devise their strategy for the move. Several of these brain-storming meetings are held before the rig is actually dismantled & moved.

A troubling side note to our conversation was with rigs being taken out of operation due to low natural gas prices, roughnecks who have been with the rig for 4 & 5 years or more are being laid off while the new armed forces workers who have been there as little as a month are being kept on.

I believe we owe a debt to our armed forces members and I am proud when I see a drilling contractor take the time to train them as roughnecks and give them an opportunity on the rigs, but I'm not sure I like it if it's coming at the expense of long-term seasoned employees.I am told from my source that Nomac believes they can train an armed forces new hire to go from "Worm's Corner" to Rig Manager in 5 years. If this is true or not remains to be seen.

I have noticed a trend over the last 5 years with some companies preferring to train "new hires" while rejecting applications from those with a lifetime of drilling rig experience. My theory has always been something along the lines of  "You can't teach an old dog new tricks"with concerns to safety.

Many times I have left safety meetings where unsafe practices were discussed at length and it was made clear to all present that these unsafe practices must stop, even at the expense of our jobs if we committed them. Everyone confirmed they understood and agreed. When returning to work I would witness these same guys go right back to the same unsafe practices discussed in the meeting!

I can understand the frustration of drilling contractors and think they must believe it's easier to train someone from the start to follow safety procedures than to use experienced guys that are set in their ways and refuse to change. I think possibly in the case of Nomac they are taking it a step further in hiring men with military type discipline.

That's just my personal opinion, but I am wondering what you guys think or are seeing in the field? Is this a trend happening at other companies? Are old school oilfield workers being phased out in favor of new inexperienced workers that have a background in discipline?

Please let me know your thoughts below.

Views: 4304

Tags: armed, chesapeake, forces, military, nomac, training

Comment by Tami Ham on November 16, 2012 at 6:57am
It is true...
Comment by J C on November 16, 2012 at 8:37am
The reason the troops are hired is because they are trainable! I am the one who wen from worms corner on up to drilling. I didn't take a pushing job because I went to directional work. As a matter of fact everyone on my crew was military we were all in the marine corps together out of that crew we have 2 directional drillers 2 pushers 1 working at corporate for Patterson and a company man so I think Chesapeake is right on with there decision to hire the troops they always show up to work on time they don't make excuses they can always pass a drug test! None of them are FELONS! And they all have a education. And they follow the rules. So sure lets hire some guy with "experience" and a drug problem, a felon record and has sued another drilling contractor. That's the obvious hire. Lets be real for a minute what we do isn't rocket science. All it takes to do this job is a strong back and the ability to listen and learn. Bi if the tables were turned 85% of the patch couldn't make it in the military. Because they all have attitude problems!
Comment by william stanford on November 16, 2012 at 9:05am

in hiring inexperienced hands, drilling companies impose upon those hands conditions and policies that experienced oilfield hands would not accept. once these new hands get schooled up on the real world of oil and gas they twist. no doubt there is the exception of a few that stick hard to the leg of the company that broke them out, but its the exception. patterson is a perfect example: promote from within has turned into a ship jump en masse. there is a medical issue involved as well, and in hiring younger people the drilling companies avoid expenses related to aging workers. and again, although such actions may look good on paper, the reality of it ends up as a bite in their arse.

Comment by Drilling Ahead on November 16, 2012 at 9:12am

Well as for Patterson-when I left drilling to do websites-Patterson had a record of having killed 1 man every 3 months for a 3 year period..with 3 Patterson hands getting killed in a single month last year i sure hope it's not the "all-knowing" attitude of the 5 year 'no rocket science" hands that's making it happen. As for FELONS if they have paid their dues and want to start a new then they should also have the same chance as the military guys-I have been around a lot of years and I have worked men with military backgrounds and felons and I have had both show up late for work, fail drug test and cry like babies when it was time to pump a slug

Comment by Evan on November 16, 2012 at 9:14am

I happen to be one of those nomac employees that came out of the armed forces to work in the oilfield for NOMAC. (NOT AS ONE OF THE WORRMY ASS RIG MOVE MASTERMINDS) First off i'll talk about the new rig move they are doing from the perspective of a Nomac daylights hand. I will also add that they keep track of these moves and time them from the minute the rig is released to the minute we spud in. I happen to be on the rig that currently holds the record for the fastest move at 2.1 days. This new style move is heavily dependent on daylights crews to basically make all progress during the day while morning tour basically cleans up, inspects loads on trucks, and rig down and up the back yard. As for the transition to military employees there are positives and negatives to both sides of the story. Yes it is a fact that drilling contractors everywhere are phasing out (as harsh as it is whether you like it or not) the "old school rough neck." It is my personal belief that the old school mentality was a necessary and legitimate state of mind and way of getting things done in the past when the industry relied on "them hands to get it done or we will find someone who can" granted that mentality still exists in some companies it is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Now the industry is leaning toward "Slow is smooth, smooth is safe and fast."   Although it will take many years for the industry to come to terms with the reality that in order to achieve the safety that they want the industry will Have to slow down SIGNIFICANTLY! And no one is ready to accept that yet.

They want you to instead substitute paper work and safety meetings without slowing down operations which is ridiculous. We now stop operations at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock to have a refocus meeting. but at the same time they tell us none of this should slow down or hinder operations what so ever. I do believe they are on the right track with hiring military personelle to  train to do the job the way they want it done and eventually phasing out the old school mentality but it will never be what they want until they come to terms with the fact that pressure will need to be taken off rig hands and drillers and operations will need to slow down to achieve the safe work place that they want to mimic like plants and factories. My personal and final opinion is since day one i have fallen in love with the oilfield culture and this aint a DUPONT plant out here this is the patch and s*** happens better keep lookin up! keep your escape routes clear because were slinging some iron around here!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 


Comment by william stanford on November 16, 2012 at 9:16am

that's what i'm talkin' about, boss man! thank you.

Comment by Drilling Ahead on November 16, 2012 at 9:18am

Stop watches and rig moves in 2.1 days but they want you to slow down and be safe...Sorry but that's the same old oilfield. They are probably still making you wear a harness and 12 ft safety lanyard when you are working 6 ft in the air...little has changed

Comment by Oreo Alex on November 16, 2012 at 9:42am
Your source is probably one of those who may be laid off. Nomac isn't the only one going to two shifts. I have spoken to workers in the field who are working the same shift.
Comment by Evan on November 16, 2012 at 9:46am

Everyone has a valid point the military is not the oilfield and the oilfield is not the military. doesnt matter what you did or what you have done or what you do now all that matters is are you going to be there when I have to throw 5 palets of bar and have it done yesterday. I was trained by alot of those old school "FELONS" and let me tell you i was a self made special operations marine and i did well just to keep up with them. I owe my career and my family being fed every day to alot of those felons. everyone needs a day off here or there weather it be a court date or a childs birthday and everyone no matter who you are is going to be late to work. I consider myself a "new school hand" but call me a worm and we will have issues! attitude and a survivors mentality is completely necessary on a rig. and RMEMBER WE ALL HAD ATTITUDE ISSUES when we joined the military if we didnt BOOT CAMP WOULDNT EXIST. They either beat, ran, or scared the attitude out of you. No one is better than the other Military hand or Felon hand. Hell i know some that are BOTH LOL. If you have the drive, the experience and the knowlege I will learn all i can from you. No matter what the companies want to transition to, old school or new school, Im here to work and work the way you want me to until you stop passing that green into my checking account!



Comment by Eddie G. on November 16, 2012 at 9:55am

Well all that is good, Iron is going to sling, BUT it can be done safe and efficient. I was involved with the night time rig move idea, from conception to implementation. Is it safe? It is only as safe as the roughnecks who are working. I think that the movement of not permitted loads can be moved at night.     The thing of the military being involved with this operation is that a company who employees these ex-military personnel were hired by Nomac to come up with an idea to become more efficient on rig moves. This company came up with the night time rig move. Now, these guys are ex-military pilots who have never worked on a drilling rig. Their idea worked, and the incidents and near misses on these night moves, are again, due to employees not doing the right thing.

I have investigated many incidents in the past year. Several have been prior military, and some not, but the more server incidents have been prior military. I did not connect the dots until today. Is it that they are not getting trained correctly? Or is it the “invincibility” that the military instills in the personnel?   I don’t want to be negative towards the military; I think that our fellow military brothers and sisters should have good paying oil field jobs.  The oil field is either you can or you can’t.  if you can, you stay, if you can’t, kick rocks.


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