Episode 3/8

Wednesday 22nd April 8.00pm

This gripping documentary series follows life on the oil rigs of west Texas. In this episode, Wayne’s best rigger lets him down. The Big Dog’s worm, Justin, learns to scale the heights. And the Longhorn crew races to be the first to tap oil.

The bleak landscape of west Texas is enjoying a massive boom in oil exploration. For the hardy souls that work the oil rigs, there is big money to be made. Roughnecks perform one of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs in the world, putting their lives on the line in the hunt for black gold. This series follows three competing rigs as they race to tap oil two miles below the ground in just 50 days.

This week, the Viking rig is just 500 feet behind the Longhorn platform in the battle to strike oil. Wayne’s crew is working flat out – including 22- year-old Junior, who has been a roughneck since he was 17. Wayne has a fatherly relationship with Junior, who even calls him ‘dad’. “Old Junior there, he’s looking for a family and I think he feels like he’s found it out here on this rig,” says Wayne.

However, Viking hits a snag when the computer reports that the drill bit needs to be replaced. This means pulling nearly two miles of pipe out of the ground. In their haste to get the job done, Junior injures his back trying to lug too much weight. The next day, he fails to show up for work, slowing down the rig’s progress and piling the pressure on his boss. “It puts my job on the line too,” Wayne says.

Junior returns the following day and gives his boss a wide berth. Wayne still faces the dilemma of what to do with his errant roughneck. “Just because Junior came back today don’t necessarily mean that he’s got a secure job,” he says. Wayne decides to cut his best hand some slack and is soon rewarded with an outstanding display of hard work from Junior.

Over at the Big Dog rig, work has been halted for the last week as the hole collapsed around the drill bit. Drilling has now restarted and boss Justin finds time to send his worm, Derek, on a trip up the derrick to do a spot of cleaning. It is essential that the platform be kept in good shape – and that means the derrick gets a thorough scrubbing.

Dangling from a cable to clean the metal, Derek is in danger of being caught up in the drilling machinery. He manages to stay out of harm’s way, but admits that his scrubbing leaves a lot to be desired. “It looks okay,” he says. “I wouldn’t eat off of it.” As penance for not finishing the job on time, Derek is forced to buy his boss drinks in the bar that night. But Justin and Derek also manage to recruit a few of the waitresses to join them at a pool party the next day.

Elsewhere, the Longhorn rig faces another slowdown when driller Gerald decides that his drill bit also needs replacing. But after spending the day pulling pipes out of the earth, he is stunned to discover that the bit is still in good shape. The crew replaces the drill tip and re-inserts the pipes. The Longhorn is within just a few hundred feet of TD – Total Depth – and Gerald should be able to use his veteran nose to test for signs of oil.

Grabbing a handful of mud that has emerged from the bottom of the hole, Gerald gives his initial verdict. “Smells like dirt. Looks like dirt. Damn – it must be dirt!” he says. Nonetheless, the Longhorn is the first team to tap the oilfield – news that comes as a blow to their rivals at Viking. Wayne knows, however, that each rig has to drill three holes in 50 days – which means he will have another chance to beat Longhorn. “They won this battle… but we can win the bigger war,” he says. The next day, owner Mike LaMonica arrives to conduct tests on the Longhorn’s well. Have they struck black gold?

About the author

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1