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How To Get A Job As A Mud Engineer In The Oilfield

The job of a mud engineer or "drilling fluids engineer" on the oil drilling rig is complex and never ending as the drill bit bores down through layers of rock in the earth in search of petroleum. Drilling fluid is typically a mixture of the minerals barite and bentonite with other components added in. Barite gives the fluid weight and bentonite clay helps build up a "wall cake" that seals the earth as the oil rigs drill bit has bored through it. Different weights of mud are needed as the hole in the earth becomes deeper and higher pressures of oil and gas are encountered.

The mud engineer will work closely with the geologist, company man, mud loggers and driller to determine how heavy (how much barite to add) to make the mud to prevent a blowout. If the mud is out of balance, or too heavy, it will push out into the porous rock formations it encounters and cause a "lost circulation" situation to happen where the mud is no longer making the round trip up to the surface and over the shakers in to the mud pit to be pumped back down the hole again. It is this balancing act, keeping the mud heavy enough but not too heavy that is a 24-7 job. As layers of earth where oil and gas have already been extracted are encountered the mud engineer may have to add LCM or lost circulation material to seal up the well bore. This may include chopped up paper or wood fibers, etc. Large companies such as Baroid an smaller ones such as Newpark Drilling Fluids hire mud engineers to work on offshore and onshore drilling rigs.

The "mud man" or (or woman), or mud engineer may reside in a mobile home or travel trailer at the oil drilling rig's location on land or work out of a portable skid unit (lab) that is transported to an offshore oil rig. In some cases where the drilling situation does not require as much constant attention to the mud the engineer may work as a "drive By" using portable instruments set up on their pickup tailgate.


The mud engineer will get a sample of the mud from the mud pit closest to the line returning from the well bore and check it for weight using a portable scale and funnel viscosity using a Marsh Funnel. Instrument will tell him how much wall cake, or coating on the inside of the drilled wellbore, is being laid down and yield point, which indicates how much solids the mud can carry up and out of the drilled hole to the surface. He will test for other variables such as salinity and dissolved solids. How fast the well is changing due to the different rock formations being drilled and what kind of gas or oil is expected at certain depths determine how often he has to check the fluid.
His or her duties will include checking on the mud shakers and screens that separate the drilled cuttings from the mud, ordering more sacks of drilling mud components and producing daily mud reports to deliver to the company man and oil company offices. The engineer will also be responsible, along with help from the rig crew, in checking the level of the mud pits. If a pocket of pressurized gas has been drilled into a "kick" can occur. This can precede a blowout of the engineer does not notice the level of the mud increasing rapidly in the pits as a gas bubble is forcing its way to the surface.

The engineer is also responsible for pumping cement down the well bore as needed to seal off certain formations it a lost circulation situation is occurring. If the mud engineer in staying on the oil drilling rig 24-7 then his job hours are the same, napping when he can until the well is done. Work hours are long, conditions dirty and at times stressful and it can be days or weeks before his is home again. Some larger companies rotate engineers after so many days but smaller companies leave one engineer only at the oil drilling rig to do the job until the well is done.

If long hours, time away from home and sometimes stressful situations are something you can handle in exchange for $100,000 or more a year then the first step, if you have no prior oilfield experience, is to attend a community college (in an area where there is a lot of oil production) and take courses in oil and gas drilling. Another alternative to college would be to obtain a position working on the rig, as a laborer or as a mud logger trainee to learn the industry.

You might want to enroll in a school such as Oklahoma Mud School or pay for a three month Halliburton Mud School course in Houston at your own expense. It will cost several thousand but you stand a chance of getting a job making many times that.
Once the engineer has worked for a year or more in the industry, usually starting out on the most basic types of onshore oil and gas wells, he has the ability to move up with the company and possibly work offshore and overseas where pay is significantly higher. Companies that hire mud engineers include Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Newpark, Strata and more.
For more oilfield employment resources and job postings see the sites in the resource section below.

Texas Oilfield Jobs

 

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