World Oilfield Forum
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.