Gas patch lingo fun, interesting
I’ve always enjoyed the language that has evolved with certain areas of human endeavor. Take sailing galleons of hundreds of years ago. They might have over 20 individual fabric sails, each with its own name, like “Mizen Topgallant” or “Spanker.” Brewing beer has been done for a couple thousand years and is littered with gems like “sparging the wort” or “pitching yeast.” But drilling for natural gas or oil has a much shorter history – something like 150 years. Yet, I’m amazed by the number of unusual and interesting terms you hear in the industry.
Take a modern drill rig. Some of it is pretty logical, such as the area below the rig being called the cellar. But the structure that holds drill pipe that has been “tripped” (extracted from the well bore) is called the “monkey board.” The hole in the drill platform where drill pipe is moved to the platform is called the “mouse hole.” The manly studs who used to “throw chain at the Kelly,” known as roughnecks, have been replaced by the “iron roughneck,” a machine that now does this dangerous job. I always imagine the poly-metal alloy robot from “Terminator II,” but it is much less glamorous.
The top dog on the rig is the “tool pusher,” and he actually spends lots of time in the “doghouse,” as the drilling control room is known. At the bottom of the chain you find the “worm” – the one with lowest seniority on the drilling crew. The agitator where drilling mud is tested for hydrocarbons is called the “possum belly.”
You don’t excavate the area where the rig will drill, you “push the pad.” A drill rig that isn’t setup is known to be “stacked out.” When you connect a pressure gauge to the “Christmas Tree” to measure its pressure, you are “stabbing your gauge.” Releasing pressure from something is called “blowing it down.” When a well stops producing for some reason, it becomes “shut in.” The large tubing that protects surface water down 1,000 feet or so is called the “conductor.” Initial drilling done on a pad is called “spudding.”
I work with a bunch of gas patch automation techs. They drive hundreds of miles a day, typically visiting different pads in the “play,” as an area where oil and gas can be extracted is known. When they get super busy, they don’t say “my schedule is overloaded,” they say “I’m bowed-up wicked bad!” Then comes the overtime hours.
I love words and language, even though I can’t spell worth a hoot. I notice them everywhere, but when you are working professionally in an industry, you really need to know what everything is called. “Wellhead automation” is easily the most challenging among all the words I’ve had to learn at my advanced age. I just happen to enjoy the fun and unusual ones.
Mike “Hank” Berry lives and works in the natural gas field of Western Garfield County.
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