Multi-skilled workers and dynamic services can help shape your business into a well-oiled machine.
The dictionary defines roustabout as an unskilled laborer, and though it’s a term used for one of the most common services in the gas and oil industry, it doesn’t exactly define the wide range of work they do. Though not as colorful, “oilfield construction worker” might be a more accurate title, says Michael Romines, president of Acme Oilfield Services in East Texas.
“The job is a different animal every day,” he says. “Crew leaders have to be knowledgeable about a lot of areas and fluid about what they are doing. A roustabout can be running a weed eater for 10 hours one day and then putting in a two-tank battery and laying flow lines and swinging a sledge hammer for the next two weeks.”
Considering the long list of services Acme’s six crews provide, he focused on three general areas that successful roustabout businesses offer.
1. General lease maintenance throughout production facilities — This is where weed eating comes in and overall cleanup of everything from weeds and tall grass to minor spills and valves that need changing. Though a maintained site doesn’t result in more production, it is required by regulatory agencies. And, they are checking, Romines adds.
The cost for not complying is being shut down, and in Texas, for example, there is a $750 severance penalty. In addition to regulators, he’s noticed that private landowners have become more vocal and demanding to oil and gas companies about keeping the production facility well maintained. Often one timely visit during “weed” season is enough, but some contracts are set up for additional cleanup sessions.
2. New production construction — Roustabout jobs for this service are booming in new drilling regions such as the Bakken in North Dakota and the Haynesville Shale in Acme’s service area.
“With new wells comes the need for entire production facilities,” Romines says. “Roustabouts can be busy building locations with their bulldozers and trackhoes, and then hopefully they’re back in four weeks to lay flow lines and set tank batteries and flare stacks, separators and other equipment.”
Setting up a new site gives roustabouts opportunities to use a variety of skills and provide many services.
3. Production equipment maintenance and modification — After production facilities have been in place for a couple of decades, it’s important they are properly maintained efficiently to produce maximum income. Much of Acme’s roustabout work involves maintenance of equipment installed decades ago in Texas.
Because liquids and contaminants are corrosive, workers focus on cleaning the inside of equipment. Though the equipment filters much of it out, there is still BS&W (Basic Sediment and Waste) in separators, heat treaters, tanks and other equipment. As they clean, roustabouts can see cracks or defects that need to be addressed.
Often that can be accomplished by a sandblasting and repair crew — a service that has really taken off at Acme. But sometimes the maintenance work reveals serious problems that indicate equipment should be replaced.
“For example, we just had a tank that was installed in 1965 and had a hole beyond repair,” Romines says. The tank needs to be replaced, but because of roustabout maintenance services, the owner can take care of it before the problem gets worse.
Whether offering proactive maintenance services or building for a new site, there are a wide variety of jobs to keep hardworking roustabout crews busy for a long time.
Learn more about Acme at www.gomcmag.com/editorial/2014/05/a_one_stop_shop.
Want to know more about sandblasting? Check out Storage Tank Sandblasting 101.