Oil Riggers: Episode 6/8

Wednesday 13th May 8.00pm

This gripping documentary series follows life on the oil rigs of west Texas. In this episode, a young and inexperienced crew takes over the Longhorn rig. The Big Dog moves to its second well. And Wayne’s team works hard to put Viking ahead in the race for oil.

Gerald’s shift on the Longhorn rig has been replaced by a fresh crew, led by baby-faced 24-year- old driller Josh. The new hands’ inexperience is causing rig owner Mike LaMonica some concern, so he arrives at the Longhorn to take a look at the youngsters running his well. During boom years, it is normal for inexperienced roughnecks to find work, but Mike is worried by the way in which Josh’s crew is wearing out expensive drill bits. “I want those inexperienced guys to be on other people’s property and not on mine,” he says.

The rig supervisor is charged with keeping a close eye on Josh and the team. The young driller soon has a chance to prove his worth when he is called upon to fix the Blowout Preventer (BOP) valve beneath the platform. Josh impresses his boss by using his truck to winch the 20-ton piece of kit into place.

But the good impression Josh has made is undone when he arrives the next day with a terrible hangover. His roughnecks cover for him while he slopes off to take a nap in the cabin. Under Josh’s watch, the Longhorn has slipped behind in the race to drill a second well, and further delays ensue when the BOP springs a leak. Josh’s crew wastes four hours tightening the bolts on the valve – and the driller makes it clear he does not care if it is fixed or not. “It’s easy money for us,” he says. “I got four more hours… and I’m going home!”

Big Dog, meanwhile, is finally ready to move to its second location. One last job remains at the first well – to insert thick metal pipes called ‘casing’ into the ground. A special team of ‘casers’ arrives to assist Justin’s crew, and both sides must learn to work with each other. “Even though we don’t know each other, we gotta get a rhythm,” says Justin. Once the casing is complete, the Big Dog team must endure a gruelling 16-hour day to move the rig to its new site.

Elsewhere, the Viking lads face a rather different challenge. Their site is infested by rattlesnakes, which have been drawn by the vibrations of the drilling. “Any step you take could be your very last one!” says Wayne. Wildlife aside, Viking is making excellent progress with its second well. After trailing behind for so long, Viking finally overtakes the Longhorn in the 50-day race to drill three wells.

A key factor in Viking’s success is the loyalty that Wayne’s boys feel towards him. As a veteran of the oilfield, Wayne knows his job inside and out. “This is very important because this is what I do for a living,” he says. “The younger guys – maybe they don’t take the job as seriously as I do.” Wayne, for one, would never be caught napping. “You could never come up here to the rig floor and catch me sleeping on the job,” he affirms.

Wayne chooses to overlook minor misdemeanours on his team, such as Junior showing up with a hangover, and takes care of Steve when he almost loses his hand in an accident. The roughneck’s glove becomes caught in the chain and his arm is wrenched back. “It’s a scary feeling,” says Junior, who has suffered similar mishaps in the past. “You feel like your arm is gonna get pulled off.” Wayne’s nurturing of his team pays dividends when Viking becomes the first rig to complete its second well. Mike LaMonica arrives to test for the all-important signs of oil. Have they struck black gold once again?


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