Friday, June 24, 2011

Where the Frac has Jeff been?

Well its been over 9 months since my last post. A lot has happened recently. I'm sure that most of you know this by now, I no longer work for Wal-Mart. I now work for an oil field company called Frac Tech. Man does this job keep me busy. My lack of any real FB activity reflects that. I don't have time to sleep much less post on here. I am on my weekend off and wanted to take a moment to update my friends on whats been going on.

Back in February after another pass over on entering the Management program at Wal-Mart I began searching for something else. I had heard about the oil field boom in the area and decided to go check one of the local companies. I was pretty much hired on the spot, as they were hiring anyone who could breathe. I had to go through two background checks, two physicals, and whats called a "stress test". The background checks and physicals went fine. The stress test however had me....well...stressed. It turned out to be fairly simple. It was a series of physical activities and they monitor your heart rate. The big thing that had me worried was that you had to dead lift 120lbs. I wasn't sure if I could do it. I was able to do it. It took some effort, but I got it done. And in March I was officially hired on as an Equipment Operator.

During the interview I thought I was going to be hired on as a Hot Shot Driver. At least that is what I was told, but they were only hiring current CDL carriers as drivers. The gentleman who was interviewing laid it on the line. "Being an EO is hard work, long hours (80-100 hours a week), and not many can do it". I almost walked away. Almost. He did not explain the details of the job, and I see now why. If he had...I probably would've walked. I thought I should give it a shot so I went through the hiring process, was hired, and was sent to Orientation. After that class in Aledo, TX I was sent to the field.

My schedule is 7/2 7/2 7/3. (days on/off) The three is always Fri, Sat, Sun. That is what I am on now. My weekend off. Those 7 days I am away from home. They put us up in a hotel in Laredo. We move around the area to different well sites. Weve had locations in Catarina, Encinal, Crystal City, Valley Wells, and Tilden,  For the closer jobs, like Tilden, We come home every night. Right now our location is in Artesia Wells.

My day usually begins around 2am. Lobby time. We make a store stop to get breakfast, snacks and ice for the coolers of water. We are on location usually by 4-430am. Turn on equipment and are Frac-ing by 530. Each frac runs about an hour and a half. Separated by a process called Wire Line, which takes about an hour. We do about 4 a day. Usually leave location from 6-7pm and at hotel by 9. Shower, eat dinner and go to bed around 10pm. Then sleep for three and a half hours only to wake up and do it all over again. This process can be interrupted by any number of issues: more than two pumps going down (we use 18 pumps for frac-ing), Wire Line misfire, or other equipment failure. This happens quite a bit. I cant tell you how many times we've gotten back to hotel at 10pm and had a 2am lobby time. I am averaging between 90 - 105 hours a week.

Frac-ing is the process of preparing a pre drilled well for extraction. Injecting the well with sand and chemicals and then using a charge to fracture the walls of the well to release the deposits. There are many positions involved. Lineboss, Blender Tender, Hydration, Chemicals, Sand King/ Dual Belt Operators and Greasers. I started off as a Greaser. Which means I filled reservoirs on each pump with grease and maintained them. I did that for two months. Then I moved over to a Dual Belt operator. The Dual Belt is a conveyor belt that takes the sand from the Sand King to the Blenders. After learning that I moved to a Sand King operator, which is where I am now. Greasing was pretty easy. I liked working the Dual Belt. The Sand King is pretty simple. Requires a lot of head work, but easy. The hardest part of it is strapping. (looking in container and determining how much is left). I am still learning to strap, other than that I have got the hang of it.

All in all the job is fairly simple. Like the interviewer said, long hours, but most of the hours are spent waiting. During a Frac job, there is only really six hours of work. Unless you are helping to fix a pump, lining out chemicals, or cleaning up site during the Wire Line. If nothing needs done, then we cab up and sleep or eat. That is one thing I learned with this job. You sleep when you can and you eat when you can. They have no issue with us taking naps. But if we are rigging up or rigging down, the work is constant. The worst part of the job....well then there is the heat.

The weather plays a big part in how much we get done. Not necessarily we stop work, quite the opposite. We work no matter how hot it is or how wet it gets. Day before yesterday we had rain, and some of you may have seen my post "Frac-ing in the rain." The only thing that could stop us would be lightning. Or perhaps a very heavy rain. The heat is the worst. When its 95 in Pleasanton its easily 10 degrees warmer where we are at. Then you factor in the humidity and it becomes almost unbearable. I drink 10-12 bottled waters a day, 2 Powerades, and one or two electrolyte drinks. You don't hydrate, it can mess you up.

In addition to the weather the process can hurt. We work with over 9000 pounds of pressure. If an iron line ruptures the sand that is being pushed though can do some lethal damage. Many dangers loom. Slips, Trips, and Falls are dangers in themselves. One fall almost critically injured one of my crew members. He fell off the back of a pump and deeply cut his thigh. 2 inches from his femoral artery. 2 inches and he would not have made it to the hospital. Another guy lost the tip of his finger when two pieces of iron pinched it. Dangerous stuff. I've never prayed so much for safety.

This job is a like/hate type of job. There are days when I just want to give up and go home, others I can tolerate it, and almost like it. What keeps me going is the goals Carolyn and I laid out: Get out of debt, start the process to buy our house, get a new car, and start saving for college for the kids. Ive learned that this job is not forever. If you don't have a plan getting in, you wont make it. Nearly every guy on my crew has a plan on what they do with their pay. My goals get me out of bed in the morning.

After three months in this job I have grown almost used to it. Which is what I was told when I started. "Give it three months and you'll be used to it". There were days when I wanted to quit so bad that I almost gave up. In fact I think I did give up a time or two. Then I heard a song by Matthew West. "Strong Enough" gets me through my weak days. Philippians 4:13 has always been a staple in my life. No matter what the odds I can get through it with Gods help. When Matthew West came out with that song it reminded me of that. I first heard that song on KLOVE on my way to Praise Wave..where in fact Matthew West was performing that night. He sang that song and it made me cry. ...."Maybe that's the point, to reach the point of giving up. Cause when I'm finally at rock bottom, that's when I start looking up, and reaching out". I was trying to do this job on my own strength. Now I remind myself that it is God who gives me the endurance I need to make it.

I don't know how long I will be doing this. Two years is my target. I would like to eventually learn all the positions. I know I do NOT want to be a Supervisor. I see their job and responsibilities...I don't want them. To much of a headache and to little pay. (they are salary). I thank God for this opportunity. Its a weird, yet good, feeling not to live paycheck to paycheck anymore. And Carolyn gets to stay home with the kids. She has gotten used to the idea of being a stay at home mom. Shes good at it!! Keep us in your prayers. Its not easy me being a way a week at a time. I miss my family. God has us here for a reason. I know he will get us through it. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. And I know I don't have to be strong enough for the both God and myself.

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