A directional driller (DD) is a contract professional working on behalf of the E&P or directional drilling company who oversees all aspects of the directional drilling of a well. The directional driller is responsible for ensuring the well is drilled according to the directional plan designated by the drilling engineer and directional drilling provider.
What does a directional driller do? The directional driller position includes managing equipment such as a bent sub and a mud motor as well as providing a consultation service. These consultants are responsible for making sure equipment is on location and in working order to be run when needed as well as ensuring proper utilization of the technology and machinery.
Responsibilities of directional drillers include supervising and assisting the rig crew in attaching the directional tools to the drill pipe, steering the drillbit into the target zone, and monitoring and assisting with function and use of the directional tools during drilling. The DD is also responsible for troubleshooting any mud motor or tool problems that arise during operations and coordinating drilling techniques such as rotating and sliding to effectively drill the wellbore as required, especially when diverting the well.
What is the required experience or career path for a directional driller? Though it is possible to train someone with no experience to perform this role, experience on a rig is usually required to become a directional driller. This could mean working one’s way from a lower position such as rig hand, derrickhand, roughneck, etc. up to a directional driller. Previous experience as a directional drilling consultant or other work on a drilling rig is preferred, especially if this experience was with particularly challenging rigs such as those with unique rock formations or where obstacles during drilling had to be overcome. Another career path leading to this position is through working as a MWD engineer or operator on drilling operations. This position is often held by someone with a technical or undergraduate degree.
Where does a directional driller work? Directional drillers spend about 99% of their time on location, only leaving for necessary groceries or errands during lulls in drilling operation.
What is a directional driller's schedule? Directional drillers’ schedules vary depending on the schedule run by the service company, but common schedules for this position are (days on site/days off):
Directional drillers, or directional consultants, typically work 12 hours per day. Most often, there is one day shift consultant and one night shift consultant. Some companies, though, only run one directional driller who is responsible for 24-hour operations. Short term jobs of around 45 days or less, for example, may operate without ever making a directional consultant change.
Who does a directional driller report to? The directional drilling consultant reports to the drilling consultant on location.
Who reports to a directional driller? Though there may be no direct report to the directional driller, this professional oversees all aspects of a directional drilling operation including the machinery and execution. In some circumstances the MWD engineer or operator will report to the directional driller.
How much does a directional driller make? The average base pay for directional drillers is $125,000 per year. However, a directional driller with significant experience has potential to make around $200,000. They may make between $500 and $1,200 per day depending on experience, specialties, location, and category of well. Directional consultants, behind the drilling consultants and drilling engineers, are some of the highest paid who work on location in the oil and gas industry.
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