Lifting the Veil
By: John W. Wilson
One evening early in my career, I was at a trade show and found myself beside a hotel pool, talking to a drilling engineer about his work. I knew I was in an industry where people were dealing with big, complicated equipment, doing seemingly impossible things. My grandfather had built wooden rigs around Texas in the 20s, and a great uncle sold mud, but I was having a hard time wrapping my head around just how complicated the work really was.
He offered a simple explanation. “Imagine that pool is the earth. And at the bottom of it is a quarter and that quarter represents a reservoir of oil. Now imagine you’re on the surface pushing a strand of boiled spaghetti through the water and trying to hit that quarter. That’s what it like trying to drill for oil.” It fired my imagination for sure because he made it clear the spaghetti was boiled. It helped me understand very clearly, that while drill pipe seemed stiff and strong, under pressure and depth it became something else entirely.
For years I chased the beast from afar, doing stories on rigs, new discoveries, technological breakthroughs and the like. I sold books on the field, and helped put on conferences. I got close to the nitty gritty when I started editing a magazine called Subsea. We cataloged all of the world’s subsea completions. It was fun picking up the completion details and talking to folks about when and how they decided to pull the trigger on subsea or surface. But the big payoff came when I was picked to edit the completion procedures for a major project.