Oil Riggers

Wednesday 3rd June 8.00pm

This gripping documentary series follows life on the oil rigs of west Texas. In the last episode of the series, Justin makes a decision about Derek’s future on the Big Dog rig. A couple of mistakes on the rig floor cost Josh dear. And Wayne makes his bosses very happy with a remarkable find.

The 50-day window to drill three wells is closing and Big Dog remains in last place. The rig has yet to complete its second well and driller Justin is fed up with Derek’s constant arguing and backchat. Justin is especially frustrated by Derek’s failure to remember simple procedures. He has resisted firing the wayward worm because hands can be hard to find in the middle of a boom period. But it looks like Derek’s luck has run out after yet another fight. “You’re fired,” Justin tells him.

A bemused Derek cannot think why he has been given his marching orders, but Justin insists that the inexperienced hand has pushed him too far. “I’ve given you chance after chance after chance,” he says. “I hope he rots in hell,” is Derek’s response. A new man takes Derek’s place and morale on the team immediately improves. There is no chance of Big Dog finishing its second well in the time remaining, but rig owner Autry Stephens is prepared to hand Justin another chance. “The driller’s shown some progress so we’re going to give him another shot,” he says.

Over at Longhorn, young driller Josh is desperate to finish his second well in the five days remaining. But a safety inspection almost ends in disaster when Josh starts up the machinery before realising the inspector is hanging from the derrick. The next day, Josh further damages his team’s faith in him when he pulls the wrong lever and sends a 500lb tong smashing into worm J-Rod’s side. A battered J-Rod bravely vows to work through his pain. “I can’t breathe so good, I think I might have cracked some of my ribs,” he says.

This latest accident only confirms rig owner Mike LaMonica’s fears about using an inexperienced crew. “He’s not seen enough things go wrong to watch out after his hands,” is Mike’s verdict on 24- year-old Josh. After consulting with his business partner, Mike decides to let Josh and his team go. A combination of potentially deadly mishaps has proven Josh’s undoing. “Small things have a tendency to build up out here,” says Longhorn supervisor Chris.

Viking, meanwhile, is the only rig to dig its three wells in 50 days. Driller Wayne is so pleased with his boys’ hard work that he even allows his best hand, Steve, to have a go on the controls. “Make Papa proud,” he jokes. “I’m not gonna live forever – I gotta teach these guys to take up my slack when I get old.”

Even with his 27 years of experience on the oilfield, Wayne is surprised when the Viking strikes oil 4,000ft from total depth. The boys whoop with delight as black gold spills over the rig floor. “We don’t see this every day!” cries Steve. Mike LaMonica is equally stunned to learn that Viking has found oil at such a shallow depth. As the excited rig owners swoop on the platform to see the find for themselves, all the signs are that Viking has tapped a huge well. “This is a once-in-a- lifetime deal for me,” says Mike.

Wednesday 27th May 8.00pm

This gripping documentary series follows life on the oil rigs of west Texas. In the last episode of the series, Justin makes a decision about Derek’s future on the Big Dog rig. A couple of mistakes on the rig floor cost Josh dear. And Wayne makes his bosses very happy with a remarkable find.

The 50-day window to drill three wells is closing and Big Dog remains in last place. The rig has yet to complete its second well and driller Justin is fed up with Derek’s constant arguing and backchat. Justin is especially frustrated by Derek’s failure to remember simple procedures. He has resisted firing the wayward worm because hands can be hard to find in the middle of a boom period. But it looks like Derek’s luck has run out after yet another fight. “You’re fired,” Justin tells him.

A bemused Derek cannot think why he has been given his marching orders, but Justin insists that the inexperienced hand has pushed him too far. “I’ve given you chance after chance after chance,” he says. “I hope he rots in hell,” is Derek’s response. A new man takes Derek’s place and morale on the team immediately improves. There is no chance of Big Dog finishing its second well in the time remaining, but rig owner Autry Stephens is prepared to hand Justin another chance. “The driller’s shown some progress so we’re going to give him another shot,” he says.

Over at Longhorn, young driller Josh is desperate to finish his second well in the five days remaining. But a safety inspection almost ends in disaster when Josh starts up the machinery before realising the inspector is hanging from the derrick. The next day, Josh further damages his team’s faith in him when he pulls the wrong lever and sends a 500lb tong smashing into worm J-Rod’s side. A battered J-Rod bravely vows to work through his pain. “I can’t breathe so good, I think I might have cracked some of my ribs,” he says.

This latest accident only confirms rig owner Mike LaMonica’s fears about using an inexperienced crew. “He’s not seen enough things go wrong to watch out after his hands,” is Mike’s verdict on 24- year-old Josh. After consulting with his business partner, Mike decides to let Josh and his team go. A combination of potentially deadly mishaps has proven Josh’s undoing. “Small things have a tendency to build up out here,” says Longhorn supervisor Chris.

Viking, meanwhile, is the only rig to dig its three wells in 50 days. Driller Wayne is so pleased with his boys’ hard work that he even allows his best hand, Steve, to have a go on the controls. “Make Papa proud,” he jokes. “I’m not gonna live forever – I gotta teach these guys to take up my slack when I get old.”

Even with his 27 years of experience on the oilfield, Wayne is surprised when the Viking strikes oil 4,000ft from total depth. The boys whoop with delight as black gold spills over the rig floor. “We don’t see this every day!” cries Steve. Mike LaMonica is equally stunned to learn that Viking has found oil at such a shallow depth. As the excited rig owners swoop on the platform to see the find for themselves, all the signs are that Viking has tapped a huge well. “This is a once-in-a- lifetime deal for me,” says Mike.

Wednesday 20th May 8.00pm

This gripping documentary series follows life on the oil rigs of west Texas. In this episode, Viking’s third well is put in jeopardy when poisonous water spews out of the ground. The Longhorn hits a pocket of potentially explosive gas. And Big Dog driller Justin loses patience with underling Derek once again.

As the 50-day window to drill three wells draws to a close, the Viking rig leads the pack. The platform is making excellent progress on its third well, and veteran driller Wayne hopes that his hard-working boys will be promoted from the evening shift to the daylight slot. Of the three eight-hour shifts that comprise an oil rig’s working day, the daylight stint is the most prestigious.

Wayne and his lads are none too impressed with the current daytime team. Arriving at work, they discover their colleagues have accidentally flooded the rig with flammable diesel fuel. “Definitely a dangerous situation right there – we could burn the whole damn rig down!” Wayne says. “As far as I’m concerned, we deserve the daylight job.”

Wayne’s crew prove themselves worthy of the promotion when they work an eight-hour shift in a raging electrical storm. Alarming as this is, an even greater challenge is in store when the rig then drills into an underground stream and water comes gushing out of the well. The torrent could wreck the well completely and, to make matters worse, sensors show the water is contaminated with hydrogen sulphide (H2S). The workers are banned from the platform and only Wayne and rig owner Mike LaMonica are allowed to stay.

Mike fears that the outpouring of water is too great for the well to support. “We’re screwed,” he says. A confident Wayne insists the flow is less severe than first thought, and is keen to keep on drilling. After risking his health to examine the poisonous water up close, Wayne reports that the flow is within safe limits. The veteran roughneck is proven right and the crew is permitted to continue drilling. Mike is impressed by what he has seen of Wayne’s work. “He’s a good driller. Wayne and his guys definitely have daylight potential,” he says. Days later, Wayne’s team is awarded the coveted daylight shift.

Over at the Longhorn rig, Josh’s hands pick up the pace to get their second well finished. The least experienced member of the team is Michael, Josh’s half-brother. Michael endures two sobering incidents this week. First, he almost loses his fingers when a chain whips back on him. Later, he is high up on the derrick performing cleaning duties when the alarm sounds, alerting hands to an outburst of toxic H2S gas. Josh suspends operations until the gas has vented, but poor Michael is left in a precarious position until the danger has passed.

Meanwhile, at the Big Dog platform, worm Derek is wearing out his colleagues’ patience once more. His inability to grasp straightforward tasks after weeks of training frustrates his boss, Justin, and experienced roughneck, Brian. Cocky Derek, however, has his own take on the situation. “They’re intimidated. They know if I learn too much, I’ll take over,” he says, with a grin.

However, Derek’s lack of focus means he sometimes puts himself in harm’s way. While Brian is repairing a piece of heavy kit on the tower, Derek blithely stands beneath him. “He’s off on another world,” says Justin, despairingly. “I can’t never get him to focus on what we’re doing.” “He knows his days are numbered,” adds Brian. But with the Big Dog stuck in last place in the race to strike oil, the pressure is on the entire team to pull together and get the job done.

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?

 

Wednesday 6th May 8.00pm

This gripping documentary series follows life on the oil rigs of west Texas. In this episode, Gerald’s boys threaten to walk out on their tough-talking boss. Justin finds himself under more pressure as Derek fails to show for work. And the Viking rig moves to its second well.

Driller Gerald pushes his team to the limit this week. Every morning at 5 o’clock he waits at a gas station to pick up his crew. “I baby-sit them like they’re my children,” he says. “These kids have no work ethic anymore.” Unfortunately, once at the Longhorn, they face another day of frustrations. A pin has worked its way loose on one of the heavy metal blocks hanging over the rig and drilling shuts down for four hours while a welder is called in.

Once the problem is fixed, Gerald works his boys hard to make up for lost time. By the end of their shift, the exhausted roughnecks are desperate to let off steam. “I’m gonna go drink a beer,” says Henry. “I won’t stay out 30 minutes.” However, Henry and Paul are still carousing past 2am – despite their 5am start. The next day, an unsympathetic Gerald yells at the lethargic pair to pull their act together.

The constant shouting and abuse begins to wear Henry down. “I’ve never had nobody ever talk to me like that before,” he complains. Failing machinery on the battered old Longhorn rig only adds to the pressure. The breaking point comes when Henry clashes with Gerald over more repairs to the blocks. Henry almost comes a cropper while descending from the derrick and blames Gerald for not getting out of the way. Gerald, meanwhile, takes exception to Henry’s angry tone.

At 5am the following day, none of Gerald’s team members show up for work. Another crew is drafted in at short notice and Gerald is dispatched to town to look for new hands. It seems his tough approach has driven his roughnecks to mutiny. “Too much fighting and fussing on that rig,” is Peanut’s explanation for why he quit. The roughnecks’ decision has serious consequences for Gerald. “When a driller can’t keep hands, that tells the company, well, this ain’t a very good driller,” says Chris, his boss. Is Gerald also out of a job?

Over at Big Dog, ‘worm’ Derek continues to infuriate his colleagues by slacking off. “He’s not pulling his own weight. He does what he wants to do, when he wants to,” says Brian. Boss Justin has a perfect excuse to fire Derek when the worm fails to show for work. However, hands of any kind are hard to find in a boom, so Justin decides to give his rookie one more chance.

Big Dog has yet to complete its first well and the delays have attracted the attention of company boss Autry Stephens, an oil magnate and Texas legend. Justin has to make a good impression when Autry arrives to inspect the site personally. But no sooner has the boss gone than an alarm sounds – explosive natural gas is venting from the well.

Despite the potential for a huge explosion, Justin makes the decision to continue drilling. At long last, Big Dog finishes its well and Autry returns to see if they have struck black gold. He is delighted when crude oil streams out of the pipe. “Man, that’s some good-looking Texas crude!” he says. “I think we’ve got a good one.”

Also this week, the Viking rig executes its move to a new location. Wayne’s crew joins forces with the other two shifts to get the job done. Among the men on site is roughneck Tim, who was fired from Big Dog a few weeks earlier. Tim is desperate to earn himself a second shot as a driller, but his dedication to the cause is rewarded with a nasty injury. When Viking finally begins its second well, it makes quick progress through the soft earth. “We’re really kicking ass on this new well,” Wayne declares. Can Viking overtake the troubled Longhorn and seize first place in the 50-day race for oil?

Wednesday 29th April 8.00pm

This gripping documentary series follows life on the oil rigs of west Texas. In this episode, Gerald’s men are pushed to breaking point as they dismantle and move the Longhorn rig; more delays put Wayne’s job on the line; and Derek lets his boss down once again.

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.

Of the three teams, the Longhorn crew is the first to reach total depth (TD) and hit oil. The boys are rewarded with one of the toughest jobs a roughneck can do – a rig move. “Today’s a dangerous day,” says driller Gerald. With so much equipment to break down and move, there is a good chance of someone getting injured. To make a stressful situation a hellish one, the extra hands called upon for the job have failed to turn up.

For Gerald, the brutal rig move is a constant struggle to satisfy the health and safety officers on the one side and the rig owners on the other. “These guys are saying, ‘slow down, be safe’. These guys are saying, ‘hurry up, make money’,” he reflects. “You’re kinda screwed in between the two of them.”

In his haste to free a piece of equipment, roughneck Paul receives a nasty gash on the arm from a shard of steel. He is back on site 20 minutes later, however, to help complete the move by nightfall. A brutal 16-hour day is at an end, but the next day is little better. The exhausted riggers make constant mistakes as they dig the new well. Moreover, slip- ups by the other crew manning the Longhorn leave Gerald’s team in the firing line from company bosses. For all their hard work, Gerald’s lads know they could be sacked at a moment’s notice.

The Viking rig, meanwhile, is hit by a costly delay when the drill bit has to be replaced. This entails pulling two miles of pipes out of the ground, changing the bit and putting everything back in again. Having started the process, Wayne is stunned to return the next day and find that he needs to do it all over again. The replacement drill bit has been worn out in just one day after a stray bottle cap fouled up the machinery.

Wayne’s boys attach yet another $50,000 drill bit and re-insert the pipes into the ground. For this job, derrick man Bryson has to dangle from a wire at the top of the tower and feed the pipes into the ground. But Bryson makes a dangerous mistake when one of the pipes gets away from him and swings loose inside the derrick. Wayne must keep a calm head in order to avert disaster. “If they see me panic, then they’re gonna panic,” he says. The stray pipe is pushed back into the ground and Viking finally reaches TD – but is there black gold at the bottom of the well?

Over at Big Dog, worm Derek continues to rub his colleagues up the wrong way. Roughneck Brian does not believe the college boy is cut out for work in the oilfield. “He just doesn’t do what you tell him because he already thinks he knows it all,” he says. Boss Justin has shown a willingness to take Derek under his wing, but is left disappointed when the worm makes a careless mistake and ends up flooding the rig site with water. “I had a little faith in somebody and that faith is gone now,” he says. Has Derek worn out Justin’s patience? And, as yet more delays pile up, will the Big Dog rig ever finish its well?

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?

Wednesday 15th April 8.00pm

This gripping documentary series follows life on the oil rigs of west Texas. In the second episode, new boss Justin is put through a baptism of fire when the Big Dog platform runs into problems. Peanut risks his job again while the Longhorn rig grinds to a halt. And Wayne sees light at the end of the tunnel after a series of delays.

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.

The massive Big Dog rig is under the command of a new boss – rigger Justin. Only one hand remains from the previous crew – college boy Derek, who, as the least experienced man on the platform, is known as ‘the worm’. Justin is working Derek hard to ensure the new man learns to take his job seriously. “You’re not gonna get much rest with Justin,” Derek admits.

Drilling is proceeding smoothly under Justin’s watchful eye when the hole suddenly starts to collapse around the drill bit. With pressure building up, Justin is forced to flush out the well and pull the pipe back up – losing a whole day’s work. Since it costs around $50,000 a day to run a rig, any delay is hugely expensive and exerts massive pressure on the crew. Justin must now insert the pipes back into the ground – a tricky procedure that sees him dangling from a rope 90 feet in the air. “It’s what we call ‘a well from hell’,” he remarks.

The Longhorn platform has difficulties of its own this week. To begin with, the rig’s worm, Peanut, angers boss Gerald by showing up late for the second time in just a few days. His absence means more work for the other roughnecks, who would be quite happy to see Peanut fired. But when the young lad arrives, he explains that he has just found out he is having a baby boy, and went out the night before to celebrate. Peanut’s tale is enough to melt Gerald’s stern heart. “I don’t wanna lose Peanut,” he says. “But the best man in the world ain’t worth a damn if he ain’t here.”

Gerald grants Peanut a reprieve, but he is soon faced with a much more serious problem when the drill bill gets stuck 7,000 feet underground. Gerald’s solution is to drop a 5,000lb weight onto the pipe to dislodge it. After ten hours of hammering, the drill bit is freed and the rig can get back to work.

However, it is not long before Peanut is causing trouble again – when he foolishly tries to lift four pipes on a cable designed for only three. The pipes come crashing back to earth and Gerald directs more of his ire on the rookie. “They tried to pick up too many pipes at one time,” he says of his underlings. “Could have killed everybody big enough to die.” Is Peanut on his last life as a rigger?

The Viking plant, meanwhile, has been plagued by problems from the beginning. It is a big concern for rig owner Mike LaMonica, whose company has paid a staggering $1million just for the rights to drill in the area for 50 days. Mike takes a trip to Viking to check up on veteran driller Wayne.

Viking’s luck soon starts to turn, however, when one of Wayne’s roughnecks announces that he has found the source of their misfortune – the Texan flag is hanging upside down. “We’re pretty proud of our state,” says Steve. “That kinda makes us all look like a bunch of idiots!” “That’s a disgrace to the oilfield!” Wayne adds. The flag is corrected and Viking’s pace picks up. Wayne’s crew pulls a double shift and before long Viking is back on track in the race for black gold. To celebrate, Wayne and the boys enjoy a day off shooting clay pigeons and chugging beer.

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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