New Series Premiere

This gripping new documentary series follows life on the oil rigs of west Texas. Teams of men work long hours in tough conditions to carry out one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. In the first episode, three neighbouring rigs have 50 days to find oil. A rookie faces a trial by fire; a veteran is put under intense pressure; and a driller makes a major error of judgment.

The bleak landscape of west Texas is enjoying a massive boom in oil exploration. Dozens of companies are seeking to tap the rich deposits of oil buried two miles below the earth – and for the hardy souls who work the rigs, there is big money to be made. Oil riggers perform one of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs in the world, putting their lives on the line in the hunt for black gold.

In one corner of Texas, three very different rigs compete for the same prize – a new oil well. The three-man teams of the rigs have just 50 days to drill 10,000 feet into the earth. In the last year, over 100 riggers have been killed on US oilfields, and workers must be on guard against numerous hazards. Dangers include being slammed by the 400lb tongs used to grip the drill pieces; whipped by steel chains; flattened by ten-ton blocks; and crushed by enormous pipes.

Driller Gerald is a 32-year veteran of the oilfields. He is in charge of the Longhorn rig, a 64-year-old platform that has been brought out of retirement to cope with demand during the boom. Gerald’s team of three includes rookie ‘Peanut’ – so-named for his diminutive stature. “He doesn’t have a lot of experience but he’s got a big heart,” says Gerald. One of Peanut’s jobs is to help screw one drill pipe into the next. These 30ft pipes are joined together one by one until they reach a depth of 10,000 feet, where they can tap the oil. The pipes are screwed into each other and tightened using a taut chain. “The chain is a fast, efficient way to screw pipes together,” says Gerald. Being struck by a swinging chain is also the fastest way to be killed on a rig. Peanut receives a shock when one chain slips free of his co-worker’s hands and cracks him on the head. Only his helmet prevents a certain fatality.

A short distance from the Longhorn is the Viking rig. In contrast to its neighbour, the Viking is a brand-new platform with all the latest in computer technology. Unfortunately, teething problems put the rig out of action for two days. With the oil company losing $50,000 for each day Viking is shut down, veteran driller Wayne is under enormous pressure to fix the problem. But when the rig loses pump pressure, it suddenly looks as if the whole complex might explode. “She’s gonna blow!” yells Wayne. Can he avert disaster or will his men have to evacuate?

The third platform racing to tap the oilfield is the huge Big Dog rig. At a height of 15 storeys, Big Dog is 25 per cent more powerful than its rivals. But a shortage of seasoned hands during the boom means that it lacks an experienced driller to run the operation. Instead, seven-year veteran Tim is in charge – but his apparent lack of concentration is earning him little respect from his crew. A sloppy mistake by the driller sees his team drenched in muddy water. Worse still, the floor of the platform becomes slippery and dangerous underfoot.

After three days of drilling, Tim’s crew sits in second place in the race for oil – thanks in part to the delays at the Viking plant. Tim decides to invite his riggers out for drinks to celebrate his 31st birthday. Unfortunately, he has a little too much to drink and turns aggressive. He has to be taken home by his lads – and fails to show up for work the next day. Has Tim’s lack of professionalism cost him a shot at the big time?

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