Atchafalaya Swamp

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Price of Oil and Blogging

I apologize to visitors that have come to my site –only to be disappointed –or sometimes relieved (ha-ha) that no new posts are in the offing. This has to do with the price of oil. Seriously. As a driller I’ve been busy as hell. In my two decades of being in the oil patch there’s never been a time like the present –rig utilization at an all time high, with every Tom, Dick and Harry Company, drilling. Shortage of equipment and trained manpower are common themes pervading through oil companies (operators) and of course, us service companies too that serve the oil operators.

I’m supposed to work on a “6 x 3 rotation”, meaning six weeks to be spent on the field and three off. And it used to be that I am assigned to one project or rig only. Now I’m juggling two rigs and my rotations have gone haywire. This means more time on the rig and less time off. With US$100 per barrel oil, the oil companies are in a hurry to get it out of the ground. We in the “’bidness” don’t know how long this gravy train will last. So grab it while you can is our mantra. It’s no wonder then that ExxonMobil is not only the largest oil company in the world but also the world’s largest. Closer to home is the unprecedented record profits of Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS). And calls by the common folks for PETRONAS to share its largesse to maintain subsidies so there won’t be another fuel hike.

To be frightfully honest, there’s no better time to be in the oil patch. For eight years I never saw a salary increase. This year alone we had two salary adjustments. This is to ensure loyalty. In my line of work I could easily don some competitor’s coveralls at a moments notice. I see myself no different than being a hooker; we sell our bodies and soul to the highest bidder. A non-oilfield friend once suggested that drilling professionals are like football players. Although flattering, I’m not about to kid myself. To be a football star you need skills. As drilling guys, we just know how to make holes. Even you can do it. I mean, come on –how much skill do you need to wield a cangkol to dig a hole in your backyard? The mechanics are the same only the scale differs.

Not only are we drilling more wells but we’re drilling it faster too, employing all kinds of snake-oil technologies. It used to be that in a six week period in the swamp, I can perhaps manage one to two 4000 meter wells. Now, three or four wells are increasingly common. Which means everything goes at a higher pace. So our recent salary adjustments do not really commensurate with the workload that has doubled or even tripled.

So that’s my excuse for not updating my blog. Not only that, being on a “floating prison cum rust bucket” we are at the mercy of our fragile satellite internet link. It’s a bit like your Astro dish. When there’s cloud cover, and there’s plenty of that this rainy season, there goes the link. And drilling faster wells also means the rig needs to be towed often. The last move was 96 kilometers and took a few days while I stewed and simmered in my bunk. But on arrival the modem went kaput and I had to wait for a replacement part. It’s not a regular modem mind you but something that looks like your Astro decoder. But now we have it back on. But this also means I have to cut back on my precious sleep since I’m not of the fairer sex, who I’m told are masters of multi-tasking. I can’t drill and blog at the same time. So I do it after hours. This means at odd hours in the night.

But these days I just prefer to go blog-hopping –tons of stuff out there. What more with recent events back home—what, two rallies in a space of a month? Whoa…

Do I hear change a’ comin’?


Anonymous said...

I laughed outloud at the "prostitute" thing. And kinda of mad with you for not writing any sooner.

Then again, you are in the swamp... come back soon, you got tonnes to catch up

Oh, I enjoy this "drilling hole" post thoroughly

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

6 x 3. at the last count, you should be back in what, a couple of weeks time? but since it has gone haywire, better not get your brain all screwed up some more. but like El, looking forward for your return.

*bro, ada convenient store ke atas the oil rig?

Pak Zawi said...

This definitely ends my daily frustrations of not seeing anything new on your blog. Definitely an enjoyable piece of news about the oil drilling business. Often wonder how they managed to manipulate the price of oil to go up so fast and never to come down. Hopefully your income wont be tied up or pegged to the price of oil on the world market, otherwise it may become a yo yo. As it is I dont see any chance of the oil price to come down.
Make hay while the sun shines bro.

cakapaje said...

Salam bro,

Alhamdulillah, its great to see you at it. Whenever you get to come back, give me a tinkle. Otherwise, take care there :)

ps...No Myanmar ladies to assist you in the drilling? :)

Bergen said...

Thank you for visiting, sir. This frentic haste to drill is beginning to look a lot like the height of the Spindletop rush. As to the snake oil, LOL, you've painted a very vivid picture of the era where Drake and Rockefeller ruled the industry. LOL, keep blogging about this, sir.

Sleep well in your bunk. Eat well. Drink all the orange juice. LOL.

Pi Bani said...

Buatlah macam cerita Beverly Hillbillies tu... tembak aje and the oil comes splurting out! *chuckle*

Anonymous said...

I miss ur mildly acidic posts so much man. Wot to do? U gali lubang for a living.

Speakin of prostitutes, here, I am one. Have to bend over all the time to please my client. Duit banyak, but bodoh gila. Sons of #@$#@%&^ the lot of them.

By the time i'm done with advertising, I think i'd be a contortionist. Why do u think i've started to blog so much in the past month.

Purging my commercial sins brother!

Welcome Back!

Mat Salo said...

Elviza: Kind of mad at me for "not writing sooner?". Well, don't get mad, get even! And you have by the looks of it with your BEAUTIFUL 'Sleepless in Setiawangsa' post... :) As for prostitute, that just about sums me up, eh?

Kerpie: Eh, lu ingat apa? Ada Tesco atas rig? No laa bro' only the galley and you mentadaghah whatever the cooks decides.. Two most important items that you need to bring to the rig - rokok and pre-paid cards. Yang ni ada some enteprising guy like the catering stuff or room boy, but it'll cost ya' mate. So... got around to downloading Grace yet?. My faves: Last Goodbye, Lover You Should've Come Over & Forget Her...

Bang Zawi: Actually my income in the past has been yo-yo. I remember in '99 during the crises, we a pay cut and it took years to get it back to pre-'99, 'in '02 I think. SO if the price dive downs then the same thing will probably happen. To me right now is just a bonus and I cannot begin to make fanciful dreams like an E-Class Merc f'rinstance.. ha-ha. So like you said, I'm making hay while the sun burns overhead, Pak!

Shah: Apa nih, Myanmar ladies? :) Actually we've had quite a few Int'l trainees, and one of 'em hails from Mongolia. She's still in the office waiting for me to give the go-ahead. She's got double degrees in Chemistry and Economics and a MSc in Math from the prestigious Beijing U. We haven't talked yet, but she sure as hell knows about Altantuya. Dunno what I'm ever gonna saty to he if the subject is broached...

Berge: Thanks for visiting. You're right tho' bro', nuthin' much has changed since they shortchanged 'em Injuns in Pennsylvania. Sometimes it's a stupid business to be in but it's too late in the day to complain, eh Berge? I just I should just count my lucky stars...

Actually Pi.. that Bev Hillbillys ada some truth to it. About 100 years ago the same thing happened in Canada Hill in Miri. Oil actually seeped from the side of the hill and Anglo-Dutch made their fortunes there to become Shell. Did you know the Shell 'kerang' logo, was actually mooted by a Shell geologist at around the same time, when he stumbled upon some 'pectens' while walking the beach in Miri? And that logo eventually became synonymous with Shell.

Mat Salo said...

Galadriel! A-la-mak... Just missed you. Ya lah, the things we do to please the client. He... If you believe in Dante's Inferno looks like we have to spend in that bottom-most level for a loooooong time. Itu laa, blogging ni boleh la reduce stress sket. Ini belum masuk cerita Hindraf lagi...hai..

Bergen said...

You are on derrick barge, sir?

jaflam said...

MS, as you said the high crude price really drive the oil & gas industry crazy. But many did not realized that the cost of exploration & production have also rocketed sky high. The good news is pro like you is finally being accordingly rewarded - otherwise thy will lose you to the higher bidder.

In fact in PETRONAS the greatest challenge now is to keep our engineers and professionals onboard by all means and stop them from moving to the Gulf States that offering US$ and 4 to 8 times their earnings here. Like you, those who stay back are now receiving all sorts of incentives as recognition of their loyalty.

To maintain its high performance & vision to be among Global Champions PETRONAS is now focusing on its final elements - that is first class leaders & workers - Leaders with professionalism, right attitude, high integrity and global mindset.
For old timers like me our job is to develop new leaders in a fast track manner to carry out PETRONAS challenge for the coming decades. It’s a National service with reasonable reward ….... maybe enough for Honda Accord not Merc E240 like you.

Mat Salo said...

Berge: Ha-ha, how right you are mate. Yup, derrick barge. A floater, over here they call it a swamp barge since it not qualified to drill in the open seas.

Bang Jaflam: Alaa bang, the E240 was just a joke, I should not get that into my head, ha-ha. Lest the gravy train stops...

It's good that Petronas is making efforts to curb the brain drain. My contemporaries in both Petronas and Esso have long flown the coup with only a smattering left behind. They couldn't resist the temptations of Qatar, Dubai etc., quadrupling their salaries with all the perks. It mainly affects those that have more than ten years experience so the newer hires will now benefit. I thought they (the companies) were a bit slow to react, but glad they've finally come to their senses.

I appreciate someone like you who decides to stay and do 'national service', Bang. Got to look at the big picture. Somebody's got to mentor these new hires or else there'll be a huge gap. Me I'm just a bit player, a highly-paid blue collar goon that's all. It's too late to go for a management job, because I admit I've been "corrupted". But nowhere near enough for an E240. :)

tokasid said...

Salam Pak MS:

Mat Salo re-surfaced from the swamp.

Hang tau ka bropa lama aku tunggu entry baru hang? 18 hari tau!!

Good to have you back bro.

The Ancient Mariner said...

I suppose we can all expect you home for Raya Haji? See you then.

Mat Salo said...

Tokasid - Ancient Mariner Tag Team.. Man, somebody's been countin' ya Pak Doc? Like all buayas, need lah to resurface once in a while. And AM, Insya'Allah we'd be crossing swords, er I mean--paths soon.

Unknown said...

Bro...Salam. yang ditunggu akhirnya tiba juga...Great to hear from you.

Take it easy with the modem and internet link... (takleh pasang parabola ke atas rig ke? hehehehe...

Hmmm...not evryone can dig a hole you...I'm telling you, I cannot! Muahahahaha....

Got to meet you. So make sure you ada cuti lagi year end ni okay?

Unknown said...

Do I hear change a’ comin’?

I think the only change would be bloggers abandoning their keyboards for a cangkul and and idiot guide on how to drill a hole. Do I qualify? I know all there is to know about holes and have been drillin them for quite sometime now. It sure as hell pay better than being a ckg right?

Well, whatever, I guess its 'make hay while the sunshines' right? Keep on blogging man.

Mat Salo said...

RG.. kowe isi boso jowo? Hehee.. Posted a comment the other day at jowopinter.. Ada gaks warga jowo di Meshia ya?

Heh, saper kata u x leh dig a hole. Coba you gi shopping spend gila2. Sure nanti Mambang Hijau kata, "eh, sayang.. nanti you dig a hole --in my pocket lah!" ;)

Kan bisa tu, ya 'Bu?

Chegu KTN - Chegu pun ada drill holes ka? I don't doubt it Chegu. Like Jaflam kata, sure can make more money, but you are here to fulfill a higher calling Chegu, again in the immortal words of Jaflam --"National Service". Your contributions, no one needs to tell you is priceless. Only society these days, dah kabur mata, and don't recognize it as such... Salaam.

gram.kong said...

Mat salo,
Nice to see you back after the long silence.Wondering what happened to you.That's a nice piece of life on the rig.Looks like you are back to the oil-rush of bygone days.Never imagine the price of oil could reach US$100 a barrel and the world economy hasn't collapse yet.I remember in 1973 when the Arabs countries placed an embargo on oil export to the West, the price quadrupled, the world went into recession.Guess what! the price increase was only to about US$3.60 a barrel and US$12.00 a year later.It shocked the world's economy.It went into a recession and dragged on for 3 years and many businesses folded up.

Well,I guess the economy are more resilient now.

Take care.Have a good day.

Pak Zawi said...

Concurr with Jaff on the exodus of Petronas staff to other higher bidders. It seems not only it occurs at Managers and Engineers level alone but also at Technician levels where experienced staff are being lured away with renumerations and perks they can never dream of. Soon Brunei's gas industry will come onstream and this will be an even bigger threat as it is only just next door.
Petronas need not make too much profit for its stake holder at the moment as any such profit will only be squandered away to bail out such fiascos as PKFZ. Just reward the staff as much as they can so that they can fall back on their saving when the oil and gas eventually dry out. At the moment a stint at the Gulf States can earn them more than what they can accumulate working a lifetime at home. Can we blame them?

tokasid said...

Salam pak MS:

saya mahu nyambung dari pak zawi dong pak.

Bener apa yg di perkatakan oleh Pak Zawi. Gue ngenali beberapa warga Petronas Penapisan di Melaka, yang udah di tawarkan gaji lumayan di Gilf States pak. Katanya 6 kali ganda dari apa yang dia dapat di Malaysia pak. Jadi bila pulang selepas 3 tahun, dia bisa saja selesei utang perumahan dan mobil dan bisa membeli sedikit tanah pak!!

Mungkin Petronas harus counter offers walau tak sehebat itu.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

yes i did bro. downloaded 'grace' as well as 'forget her' just to get the taste of his stuff. but with only an album under his belt he sure had alot of unreleased tracks. i wish he was still alive and perhaps he would be as big as, say, dave matthews?

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Abang Mat,

Haih...When I come everyday, all I see is 'Robbing Peter to Pay Paul'...When I don't, there lar you update ;)

Anyway, I wish I could come on your oil-rig...Would be a great experience! Just to see what it is like, and write a story or two! Haha...Opportunist me...=)

Tell us more of it...With photos too...Please?

Mat Salo said...

Kerpie.. Man, if you listen to 'Grace' you're gonna get hooked. Beleive me. This guy was such a gifted songwriter that even Elton John or somebody said that if he was thrown on a desert island and only 10 CD's to bring --THIS would be one of 'em. Not only that he plays a mean guitar and has a full 4-octave voice that just makes your hair stand on end.. Ngeri. But Grace is more than that.. if you listen to the songs there's some prophecies to his untimely death. Surreal.

Daph: Actually if you trawl my archives sometime back say earlier this year I did some postings with photos. But since I have some "requests" I might have to re-hash my stories, eh? Ha-ha. The truth is there really isn't much to it. Indah khabar dari rupa. Not glamor laa being covered in grease and shit. And noisy too! It's a far different environment than say, a pelantar minyak which is spotlessly clean and have nice facilities. A drilling rig is like an unwieldly crane and a tower (derrick) packed in a small "ship" with huge engines to power the drill. A lot visitors come and leave the rig gladly. It takes a special kind of idiot to work on drill rigs laa Daph. There's all there is to it. :)

Pak Zawi said...

mat salo,
I thought that bunk in your cabin is still empty? The one the Indonesian Girl used to sleep in. Why not give Daph the pleasure of having a holiday on your rig? It will be an experience of a lifetime for her.
Mountain climbers sleep in more precarious conditions that and eat even worse food. Compared to them, yours is a luxury and with internet connection to boot.

Mat Salo said...

Bang Zawi: What you said is true, life on rigs these days are quite good because of good catering and now internet communications. The only bad thing is not being able to walk 50 m or so in any direction because of space constraints.

Er.. Bang, you and Daph just gave me an idea for a post!

makdom said...

Dissatisfaction, anger and grievances. Just think of the good things 'God' has showered you in the past and you'll to be thankful and you'll have a peace of mind.

Pak Zawi said...

mat salo,
That should not only give you an idea on what next to blog but also the possibility of doing a small business..tourism business . If there is capacity during the flight in or out of the barge, sell it to a tourist who is adventurous enough to experience such a life.
People are willing to pay USD 30 million for a trip to ISS so definitely there are people willing to pay some money to have a few days experience on your rig. You charge them more if their trip is paid by their government like our Astro-not did.
Hey you already have Daph to be your first guinea pig. Just give it to her for free and she will blog about it and bring you many more tourists. Call it oil rig tourism.
Your workers will love to see fresh faces coming and going everyday. Just ensure that the workers get the drill in the right holes as faces like Daph can distract them.

Mat Salo said...

Ha.. Bang Zawi. There's more to it than that. I'll do a post soon.

Mak Dom: Ma'am appreciate you dropping boy and leave me with some very thoughtful words. Thanks. I'm coming over next, Maam, and congrats to your son who become the top foreign student at the University of Wolverhampton!

Salt N Turmeric said...

u lost me at, "its early in the morning". lol!

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Abang Mat,

Tumpang lalu to Abang Zawi, ya? Thank you...Oh, by the way, sorry about the deleted comment above...Tertinggal some stuff...

Hi Abang Zawi,

Me don't want to be guinea piggy (they're cute, but they stink)! Free trip sounds good, but looking at the next post, I will not make it to Abang Mat's oil rig in a million years! =(

Mat Salo said...

PJ: Hehee-- It really MUST be THAT early in the morning eh?

Unknown said...

oil price goes up. Overhere, steel bars also goes up.. now selling RM800.00 + govt control price per tonne. Must be crazy man.. steel millers making lots of profit now. Hei, we all should be geeting good bonus now, just like the Mayban employess...lol

gate valves said...

haha.. i read that prostitute thing as well. :P

Mat Salo said...

Brother gate valves:

Didn't realize that there's people still trawling thru' the back issues.

Thanks a million for your comments, man!

Prosti..Ha-ha. Still busy drilling man after taking a 20% pay cut back to 2006 levels... :(