Boring Bit Conglomerated

Drilling Bit Companies Becoming Fewer?

Some background

When I first joined the oilpatch as a mudlogger for Gearhart Geodata, there was a vast mob of companies. Bit companies. Wireline companies. Mud, coring, drilling, tools, directional drilling and surveying companies. Logging, casing, cementing seismic, transport, oil and gas exploration companies. Mobs and mobs of them and they are constantly re-conglomerating, from what I see by reading Wiki* histories, remixing same old companies in new combinations. And Pan-Galactic-Gargle-Blasters…

Via news items and Wikipedia, the world and my old field of expertise is getting smaller and the field is faster, like a spinning ice skater. Some people have tried to describe the patch, and badly too in my opinion. I have a few mates still doing stuff all over the world, and always good to catch up.

This is my view on some of it, companies, conglomerates, people and stuff.

Three decades, Bit and Mudlogging companies, and now

Starting out

A few giant companies own most of the little fish now. My company was a not a big fish compared to some. Large enough for a Texan to have bought a small UK oil field service company that was expanding to Oz from Europe and SE Asia. The owner Marvin actually visited the Adelaide office once. [I missed meeting him. I was on the rig]. I had came across the job through a small ad in a national newspaper, the first ad for ages since I had graduated.

My first interview revealed that I could get to travel Oz and maybe the world, free. Although, the money was pretty poor for work-time away from home! Afterward I went to the local AIMM office in The Big Smoke [as a new member] to seek advice about this job and the money. The answer was, “Ah well, join, there is not too much out there at the moment!” Okay then, so I left the temporary job as a high-school laboratory technician. Onward and upward, and joined this company as an “engineering” geologist.

The  week after an Australian yacht won the America’s Cup, I crossed the country by motorbike with my brother, then an airliner. North West Shelf bound, starting a broken eighteen year career. Travelling the country and some of the extreme localities available overseas. Thanks, Howard Smith. Tarn joined me in the West after 6 months, and I [had to] forgot about getting a K1000 BMW m’bike. Sorry Dave Newton, SE Asia did not interest me at that time… Now though…

As a newbie on a drilling rig and offshore at that, I was curious about the whole thing. Machines, computers and rocks was to be my job, it was great! Easily amused and amazed too I suppose, but oil drilling rigs had BIG machines and lots of stuff to look over, know and be aware of! And the Nomenclature, so full of TLAs! Rig floor expressions like Dog Fucker etc etc. Being asked to go ask the Senior Pusher for the long weight… “It’s the only career where the boss is a pusher, the dope comes in 30 pound buckets and the joints are 30 foot long….”

During a training period at the Adelaide office, I was introduced to to an Yorkshireman calling himself ‘Morton’,  and I thought a name for a TV character? And could not contain myself from ROFLOL in the kitchen, but then Wendy said, no, its Martin. Poms.

Mudlogging companies

When I started, CoreLab, Geoservices, ExLog and Geodata were some of the mudlogging companies that provided raw Formation Evaluation Data for the exploration companies. My company used DEC’s PDP-11 to analyse recorded digital data acquired while drilling, and provide data logs and analysis to the oil company. The Floppy Disks were 8 inches in diameter holding about 64 kilobytes of data, and floppy. The hard disk drive- 20mb? Now that was leading edge back then! By the 90’s, pc’s were in and the PDPs out.

I loved the life, the money, and especially the two weeks OFF. Tarn and I could do what ever we wanted. We lived in Crawley, on Park Avenue. Kings Park was the other side of the street. There was supposed to be a swimming pool and air conditioning, but my new and good Pommie mates Ian and Trev did not quite get that express condition I had made… We were near by to the river in anycase, a few minutes walk.  It was where I tried to sailboard. Steve’s on the river for cheap beer. A Mexican place nearby- oh Guacomole! Bus or bike into the CBD for a drink or two. Pan-Galactic-Gargle-Blasters were a hit then… Much better than the company flat out in the boondocks, it was too far out to travel on a bike pissed! Sorry Tim..

As a rule, there was not much fraternising with the opposition company people,  we just partied with the Ex-Pats, the Poms- English, Scottish and Irish people. I think Perth was pretty parochial back then, as soon as you said “from Melbourne” the shutters came down. The new friends organised a surprise for me one week. I got off the rig, and in the company flat, and Tarn and Nige had got tickets for a U2 concert- Under a Blood Red Sky.

Transferred to Adelaide, we found a nice flat and bought a car, and sold the bike [for possible scrap] after Tarn tried to stop but slowly rammed it while learning to drive the hatchback Laser when parking. Got a new boss. Tim. Bugger. Did a lot of desert work. Took long summer holidays to race new sailboards. Traveled to Darwin with board on the car for a 3 month haul but Tarn stayed to work… Got back from Darwin in 36 hours, but she heard me opening the door at 5.30am… Found Rockford Winery… The eighties were good for both of us. Asked if wanted to travel… With a promotion? Of Course!


Traveled the world. North Sea for a year. Ordeals of Helicopter Under Water Escape Training during an English winter at Lowestoft. Flying to the rig the first time from Aberdeen, swerving and seeing the only other moving object for a hundred miles also swerve, away from us. The Macallan, the Only Scotch. Maui on the way home. Ten glorious days, from pommical white to ozzie bronze. Bundy and Coke in Sydney Airport- 12 months is a long time! May have had Fosters in Scotland, but I think it was brewed there.

Elevated to Senior Field Staff. Married. Four more years around the big wide brown land with short stints offshore, and to Thailand and Philippines, with visits to Singapore and Kupang, West Timor, and a child. New career move (or shunted across to MWD) and hitches to Honkers & NZ, another kid. Five years into it and less than two years after buying a house that Tarn wanted during the late nineties, BOOM. I was laid off during an oilpatch downturn.

Eighteen months on I was given a chance at a job with fantastic opportunities.  Two days after I started there, Tarn rolled the car with all the kids in it. She died. After a nearly two year stint with Schlumberger’s D&M LWD division and all the politics and subterfuge on operability of MTBF of downhole tools as well as the sheer stress of leaving behind the kids for indefinite periods of time, I had to quit.


Nowadays, I look back at my life with fondness, awe, terror. I sure miss the money and people, but not the stress and responsibilties and the shams that go on in the Patch. Older and wiser. Dunno. Another friend was given a choice in the latest oilpatch belt-tightening: Siberia or the road… As for me? Winemaking and vineyard work was good. Being with my children, and watching them grow up is so much better than watching and listening to them growing up doing time on and off rigs. My little mercedes van and job will suffice for now.

The oilpatch names are still around. New names and old. CoreLab, BakerHughes, Halliburton. Even Weatherford, a casing company, has a formation evaluation service. Surface Data Logging Services or Systems or combinations of same. Bit companies are the same. Hughes, Smith, Baker. Eastman Christianson. There has been Smith mergers and demergers, and the Smith and  Geoservices acquisitioned intoSchlumberger. Looks like there are four biggies now. Schlumberger. Halliburton. Baker Hughes. Weatherford. I enjoy reading and seeing the new technologies coming on stream, just not quite quick enough upstairs to use it properly, I think.

My friend Pat asked me three years ago whether I would get back into it, and said I would probably walk straight into a directional training hitch no worries. He had recruited me into the last oilpatch job when he was the leading hand there, so knew me well enough. I said No, not yet. With the big five oh next month, I may miss that boat, and there is more to life than the rig. When the gels marry and move out though, maybe, maybe.

Wiki* history: I enjoy searching Wikipedia with the help of Google. Looking up all those companies has been an interesting tour of the patch for me and this was a great exercise.


About tone

Widowed exRigPigGeo 50yr old dad of 4 'teens', is doin' job raisin' kids, misses a lot of things. Family (close and extended) and Friends - an important part in our of life. Likes gadgets, speedsailing, reading (SF), geology/archeology, maps. Coffee monster- burnt out one espresso maker too many. Have to have plenty spare "moccona" in cupboard. Things I miss- Tarn. The rig life and income. A lot of sailing. Tarn.
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