Drilling technologies decrease danger for oil rig workers


Shiloh Sellers

Diagram of an automated drilling rig and its parts.

The extraction of gas and oil ranks fifth on the nation’s most dangerous jobs list but new technology leaves prospective engineers confident in their career choice.
For many students entering the Petroleum Engineering field, reward outweighs the risk associated with their dream job. Many students say that new drilling technology is making oil rigs a much safer place.
Last month Quinton, Oklahoma suffered great tragedy when Patterson-UTI’s rig 219 exploded due to a well fire according to a report by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, killing five workers.
Although rig 219 was a newer model rig, students believe new technology such as automated rigs and horizontal drilling are increasing safety on oil rigs.
“The newest drilling rigs use a lot more automated technology so there’s a lot more automation and it is controlled more so with joysticks from a control center,” said Sarah Zink, a Petroleum Engineer major and president of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Meaning that there are less workers near the well, one of the most dangerous positions on a rig to be in.
Adding to safety are horizontal drilling technology paired with fracking. Horizontal rigs allow for the extraction of oil using fewer wells. Instead of having to drill three one-mile long wells, drillers now can drill one three-mile well said a hydraulic fracturing field engineer at a large oilfield services company.
The decrease of wells being drilled greatly lowers the chances of accidents taking place on oil rigs.