In the oil and gas sector, the job of mud loggers is one of the most misunderstood. Firstly, it is often mixed up with the job of the mud engineer and the MWD technician. Second, the hiring requirements often vary widely by company. Third, while the core job scope is pretty clear, a mud logger often has to perform other supporting duties and this can not only vary by company but by the equipment used and the worksite as well.
What Does Mudlogging/Mud Logger Mean?
“Mudlogging” is usually written as one word but “mud logger” is usually written as two words. In Geology, mudlogging is actually a field of study called lithography, which is a branch of petrology. Lithology/Mudlogging is the representation of geological formations using a graph. The graph is called a mud log and the data fed into it comes from the analysis of the materials that come out of the drill.
What Is The Difference Between A Mud Logger, Mud Engineer And MWD Technician?
There are three different oil rig jobs which are often mistaken for one another. These are the mud logger, the MWD technician and the mud engineer.
A mud logger analyzes the drilling fluids that come out of the oil drill. In the oil industry, this fluid is called mud. Despite its name, “mud” is actually a complex formula of different chemicals. The best formula for a drilling fluid depends on the type of drill being used, the type of drilling being done, and the composition of the rock formation which is being drilled.
The mud logger’s job is to retrieve and process the rock samples out of the mud and then analyze them. After that, he needs to plot his findings in the mud log. In most modern drilling operations, the data is entered into a computer which then plots the graph. This graph is used by the oil company’s geologists.
A Measurement While Drilling (MWD) technician produces much the same data as a mud logger. However, rather than extracting samples of drilling fluid and then running a chemical analysis on the bits of rock suspended inside, his data comes straight from electronic analysis equipment attached to the drill bit. Because of this, his job is simpler and less messy. He can also produce his data and analysis much faster than a mud logger. However, MWD equipment is very expensive which is why they are mainly used for directional drilling.
The mud engineer makes sure the drilling fluids work as specified. These fluids (or mud) are used to cool the drill bit during operations as well as remove the rock being drilled through. Since there is no single best fluid for the whole drilling operation (when drilling very deep into the ground), it is his duty to figure out what is best used at each stage of drilling for oil. Normally, the mud engineer (or drilling fluids engineer) is not only a college graduate, he also worked his way up the ranks through the position of derrick hand or pump man. He also has to go through a special training course called “mud school” and in many cases has serve an apprenticeship under a senior mud engineer to gain experience. In some places, the mud engineer is also called the “mud man”. He usually works closely with the mud logger (and MWD technician when present). Sometimes, he also supervises the mudlogging operation, i.e. in some cases he is the mud logger’s boss.
What Does A Mud Logger Do?
Earlier, we said that a mud logger analyzes the trailings (in the mud) that come out of the drill. That is his main job, which is somewhat similar to that of a lab technician. The difference is that he needs to do this continuously during his shift of 12 hours everyday. In general, he will work the same tour as the rest of the oil rig crew, which is usually two weeks on and two weeks off.
What creates confusion is that some mudlogging jobs require chemical analysis of the samples, monitoring of gas levels in the bore and/or monitoring the state of the drilling mud. Some of these additional duties actually cross over with that of a mud engineer or even a petroleum geologist.
Something else that creates confusion is that different companies and different oil rigs use different types of equipment and gather their samples and data differently. In some cases, the drilling fluid comes out of the drill into a holding tank, and the mud logger than extracts samples from this tank for analysis. He will then have to analyze the samples. This analysis can be as simple as looking at the sample and then recording the depth at which it was taken and whether it is sand, shale, rock and if it is fluorescent. On some rigs, there is a lot of automation and his job becomes very similar to that of an MWD technician, mainly recording data returned by his instruments.
Mud loggers usually work in a lab that is set up on or near the oil rig. On offshore oil rigs, they sleep in the crew compartments with the rest of the oil rig crew.
What Qualifications Or Experience Does A Mud Logger Need?
This varies by company. Large companies which provide more varied mudlogging services often require geology degrees (or something else comparable). However, in some smaller companies it is an entry level job and they are willing to take in high school graduates as apprentices. Familiarity with electronic and/or computers is usually required with modern mudlogging operations.
Mudlogging on deep water offshore oil rigs usually requires men with more experience and better (academic) qualifications. On the other extreme, mudlogging on an oil rig sited on a mature oil field on dry land may only need a high school graduate with a few weeks or months of on-the-job training.
Beyond academics or job experience, a mud logger usually has to be a bit of a lone wolf. He usually comes from different company than the rest of the normal oil drilling crew. He works alone and usually does not see any other mud loggers except at shift change. He is often treated as an outsider on the oil rig and does not share in the camaraderie of the rest of the crew working on the oil rig.
Where Can One Find A Mudlogging Job?
Normally, mudlogging is not performed by the oil drilling contractor but is conducted by a separate company. The three biggest mudlogging companies are divisions of Baker Hughes, Halliburton and Schlumberger. However, there are many more smaller companies, some of which survive by providing very highly skilled and specialized mudlogging personnel.
An important point to note is that even when both the drilling and mudlogging are hired out to the same company (e.g. Schlumberger), the tasks are normally performed by two different divisions.
Finding oil rig vacancies for mud loggers is not so easy. The job seeker must match his experience and qualifications to what a mudlogging services company is looking for. If he has no previous experience and no college education, he must find a smaller company which normally works on land and is willing to train him from scratch. If he has a relevant college education (e.g. a Geology degree), he can look for advertisements from the larger companies.
How Much Can A Mud Logger Earn?
This depends on the company and the exact type of services offered. When more work is done (requiring more experience), the pay can go up to $80,000 a year. On older oil fields on dry land, the work is easier and safer and pays much less, maybe around $50,000 a year. That said, many mudlogging companies pay their mud loggers daily, so a mud logger who does more work will get earn a higher salary. Daily rates vary from $150 to $300 and may include additional payments for expenses.
However, money is not everything. There is a lot of pressure in this job, much more than many other jobs on the oil rig. Especially on offshore oil rigs, many mud loggers burn out after just one or two years. In some cases, the mud logger directly reports to the big boss on the oil rig, which can be the company man, the toolpusher and/or the driller.
Jobs in oil and gas for mud loggers are not as easy to find as other entry level rig jobs (e.g. roustabouts). Partly, this is because the task is performed by a third party company so the job seeker cannot just visit an oil rig to enquire for a vacancy. Partly, the difficulty is because to some companies, mudlogging is a job which requires a great deal of skill, experience and qualification.
Be it mudlogging, MWD or mud engineering, a college degree in geology and/or chemistry will not automatically give you the experience to do the job. In most cases, you still need additional training or apprenticeship. It helps a lot to do some background research on your own before you go job hunting. Talk to your lecturers and instructors, and hunt down your graduated seniors to pick their brains. This kind of secondhand and third-hand knowledge is no substitute for real experience. But it demonstrates a good attitude to your future boss when you show up at the interview. To learn more about getting a clue, read this related article, How To Become An Offshore Oil Rig Insider – 7 Tips For New Starts To Get Hired Fast.
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