Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Introduction to Petrophysics and the Science of Finding Oil

I am starting this post while out in the oilfield. This is not as strange as it sounds; I work in the oil industry! In this post I'd like to introduce you to petrophysics, one of the scientific disciplines within the oil industry. I hope by the end of the post you will have a better understanding of some of the science that goes into finding oil.

Before I was recruited into the oil industry, I didn’t know much (anything?) about oil production, and I had no idea these types of jobs even existed. Coming into the industry, I was amazed by how many people and how much time, money, and advanced science it takes to drill a well. Even after being in the industry for three years now, I am no less amazed than I was at the beginning. I am learning new things constantly, and there is STILL so much to learn!

I will introduce you to petrophysics in the context of exploration. Many oil companies have exploration teams that try to find and develop new oil accumulations that no one else has found/produced yet. Before petrophysics even comes into play, geological work is crucial for being able to identify areas that may have potential as oilfields. (I still have a lot to learn about this part of the process, so I won’t be elaborating on it at the moment.) Once the geologists identify a potential target, the team must justify pursuing the target by gathering any available data that may support the claims that the target will produce oil economically. The company won’t want to spend money on something that has a low chance of actually making a profit, just as you wouldn’t buy a stock that was unlikely to give you a good return on your investment. Some of this available data may include well logs. The team's petrophysicist would be the one to analyze these logs.

Well logging refers to recording information about the characteristics of the rocks and fluids under the earth’s surface. After an oil well is drilled, logging tools are lowered into the well to acquire this information and send it back up to the surface. Since we can’t see down into the ground, we have to rely on this type of secondhand information to figure out where the oil is and how much there is (or to figure out that there is actually none at all). We can infer the presence of oil and the feasibility of producing it by looking at a combination of different rock and fluid properties. The basic properties I'll cover here are natural radioactivity, resistivity, porosity, density, and permeability. I’ll explain how each property contributes to our understanding of whether or not there is easily producible oil in the well or the surrounding area.

Let’s start with natural radioactivity. This data helps us determine the difference between sand and shale. For now I’ll focus on conventional sandstone reservoirs. It is easier to produce oil out of sands than out of shales; shales make up much of the new “unconventional” exploration that you may have heard of. Think of sandstone as something similar to beach sand compacted into a hard rock, and think of shale as something more like a condensed and hardened mud. So, if we are looking for a conventional sandstone reservoir, we need to be able to tell the difference between these two. This is where radioactivity comes in. The naturally radioactive elements are mostly concentrated in shale and not in sand, so if we see low radioactivity, we can infer that the tool is likely responding to a sand. We measure this with a tool that counts gamma rays, a type of energy that radioactive elements emit when they decay.

Now that we have identified a sandstone, we next try to identify if it is filled with oil or water. We do this by measuring the resistivity. Resistivity is the opposite of conductivity, and conductivity is a measure of a material’s ability to allow electricity to flow through it. The water deep underground usually has other materials dissolved in it (e.g. salt), creating ions – particles or atoms that have an electric charge. These ions are free to move around, and if they are somehow stimulated to move in one direction, an electric current is born. So, the water in the ground is able to conduct electricity and therefore has a LOW resistivity. (There are a few exceptions to this, including that some oilfields are not deep enough underground to encounter the saltier water. In shallow fields, the water may not have as many ions and may be more resistive than the deeper water. This makes analysis even harder.) On the other hand, oil does not dissolve things the way water does, so it doesn’t have any free ions floating about, and the oil molecules themselves are not charged either. There are no free charges in oil that can move around to create a current, so oil cannot conduct electricity and therefore has a HIGH resistivity. We use resistivity information to figure out whether the fluid in the ground is water or oil. If it’s water, we have to go back and figure out why there isn’t oil where we thought there would be. If it’s oil, we look at other properties to decide whether or not we should try to produce it.

Next is porosity. Unfortunately, oil doesn’t exist in large lakes within cavernous spaces underground; it would be much easier to produce it if this were the case! Instead it is trapped in the microscopic spaces, or pores, between the grains of the rock. Porosity is the fraction of the rock that these pores occupy. 

The pores are filled with fluid (oil or water) or gas. Even if this fluid is oil, there won’t be a large amount of oil to produce if there isn’t much space in the rock to begin with. It’s not only about the mere presence of oil but also about the amount of oil that can be recovered – the total amount of return on the investment. In the diagram below, the brown squares represent solid rock grains, and the blue squares represent the pores, which could be filled with oil or water. You can see that 5 squares out of 25 squares are blue, which means that the pores make up 1/5 (or 20%) of the total area (or volume, in the three dimensions of a real piece of rock). So, this rock has 20% porosity. This also means that the other 80% is solid rock, so Volume of rock = 1 – porosity.  

One of the ways to calculate porosity is by first looking at the density. This is the same “density”  you probably learned about in school at some point. Density is the weight of a material in a given volume. Imagine that you have a pair of dice. You already know that the two dice are the same size and shape. Now imagine that they are made of two different materials (with different densities). The die made of the higher density material will be the heavier one. For oilfield applications, there is a tool that measures the total density of the rock-plus-fluid underground. Water and oil have similar known densities, and different types of rock have known densities as well. So, if you have the total density measured by the tool, and you already know the density of the rock (assuming you know what kind of rock is down there) and the density of the fluid, you can figure out how much fluid there is, i.e. the porosity.

We also need to worry about the permeability, which is a measure of how connected the pores are. If the pores are all connected, the oil will be able to flow out of the reservoir easily. If the pores are not connected, the oil will be trapped in the rock and will have no path to flow out. So even if the porosity is high, there’s no guarantee that the pores are well-connected or that the oil will actually flow. Below are examples of "rock" with similar porosities but different permeabilities. Again, the brown represents rock grains and the blue represents fluid-filled space between the grains. 
This rock has no permeability - the fluid is stuck in its original location and has no path to flow.

This rock has low permeability - there are connections between the pores, but they are small. The fluid will probably flow, but it will not flow easily or efficiently.

This rock has high permeability - the connections between the pores (called the pore throats) are large and will allow the fluid to flow quickly and easily.
Permeability is one of the hardest properties to measure. There are some tools that try to estimate or calculate it, but it is better to do some tests on a sample of the actual rock (more on this below). 

So, now we know the basic petrophysical parameters of the reservoir. We know if it is a sandstone, we know if it is filled with oil or water, and we know how much fluid the rock holds. However, for all but the most established and most perfect reservoirs, things are not as straightforward as this idealistic case, and a much more detailed analysis needs to be performed. This is true of the recently targeted “unconventional” reservoirs that you may be hearing a lot about these days. As part of this necessary advanced analysis, there are tools that can tell us about the mineral composition of the rock, the amount of fluid that’s free to flow versus the amount that is “stuck” in the rock, the mechanical properties of the rock (how the rock will deform and/or break), the way the different layers of rock are arranged, and the direction of the forces and stresses at work underground.
In addition to these advanced logging techniques, it is important to core the reservoir. This means that we put a tool into the well that takes physical samples of the rock and brings them back up to the surface. Then we can do tests on the samples in a lab and verify some of the things we have inferred from the logs – or learn things that are different from what we originally inferred! In that case we have to re-interpret the data to make sense of everything.

All of these data-gathering and analysis techniques are important to finding oil and to optimizing production of the oil. We want to produce the oil in the most efficient and economic way possible, and we can do so by understanding exactly how the reservoir is arranged and how it acts.

As I mentioned earlier, there is so much science and engineering that goes into producing oil. This just barely scratches the surface! I hope it has given you an understanding of some of the science, and I hope you will be interested in learning more! Please let me know if parts of this are unclear, and I will write some follow-up explanations.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Physics and Food - Part 2

I've been baking a lot lately, as usual. The other day I made something called Slices of Sin, a chocolate dessert that my mom used to make. It's hard to describe, but it's kind of similar to a very very thick mousse or a cakey fudge. It is baked in a glass loaf pan lined with foil. The recipe says to put the loaf pan directly into a larger pan filled with cool water after taking it out of the oven. I followed these directions, and after letting it sit in the water for a few minutes, I decided to check on it and maybe change the water; I figured that the water would have gotten hot by that point, and I wanted to replace it with cool water again. But when I felt the water, it was still cool, and so was the loaf pan! I realized that this is because water has a high specific heat capacity.

The specific heat capacity of a material is the amount of heat it takes to raise the temperature of one gram of that material by one degree Celcius. In other words it's a measure of how much heat something can absorb before actually getting hotter. So, when I say that water has a high specific heat capacity, I mean that you can put a lot of heat into it without it getting much hotter. That's why the pool is still cold at the beginning of the summer! The sun starts putting heat into it, but the temperature doesn't change much. Heat capacity also has to do with why you would choose to sit on a plastic bench instead of a metal one after both of them have been in the sun. You intuitively know that the metal one will be hotter; it's because metals have low specific heat capacity and therefore get hot even with a small heat input.

Let's address temperature itself first. Temperature can be described as a measure of the amount of kinetic energy in a substance, or how much the molecules are moving around. These molecules can move in different ways: the whole molecule can move, the whole molecule can rotate, or the molecule can vibrate (along the connections or bonds between the atoms that make up the molecule). As you put heat into the substance, the heat gets divided up between these different "modes" of movement, and the temperature is a reflection of the average movement within the substance. However, some substances have more modes than others. For example, if a substance were to consist of single atoms not connected to one another, there would be no opportunity for vibration, as vibration only happens along bonds (like a spring with a ball on each end). In a minute I'll mention another important characteristic that supplies more modes, but for now, consider two substances, one of which has more modes than the other. If you put the same amount of heat into each one, what happens? In each case, the heat will be divided up between the modes. But in the substance that has more modes, the heat will be divided into more portions, and therefore each portion will be smaller. So, the resulting average motion (averaged across more modes), will be smaller than the average motion in the substance with fewer modes. This will result in a smaller temperature increase in the substance with more modes. Let me reiterate that by "modes" I mean the different types of motion that may be available within a substance (translational, rotational, vibrational).

Now let's talk about the structure of water. A molecule of water has one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms, and it is a bent molecule, as shown below.

As you can see, the hydrogens are bound to the oxygen, but what you can't see from my simple little image is that the oxygen also has some free electrons, or electrons that aren't part of a bond with another atom. The electrons and the two bonds can't be too close to one another, so the electrons hang out on one side of the oxygen, and the hydrogens hang out on the other. This is what causes the bent shape. Electrons have a negative charge, so the water molecule is negative on the free electron side and positive on the hydrogen side. This allows it to loosely bond with itself. The negative part of one water molecule is weakly attracted to the positive part of another water molecule in what is called hydrogen bonding. This extra bond is another mode that can absorb heat! Therefore, any heat that is put in will be divided up into more portions than it would be in other materials because of this extra place it can be stored. So, hydrogen bonding plays an important role in water's high specific heat capacity.

The other contributing factor is not quite as exciting. Some other substances have similar properties, but water is one of the most effective by weight. The water molecule is small and light, so more of them can fit into, say, one gram. This packs even more of each mode into a given weight. Some of the things I've read use this fact to support a claim that water's high specific heat capacity is nothing special. But the truth remains that water's specific heat capacity IS high, which I think is pretty remarkable no matter what.

Let's also briefly consider the cooling of water. It's just the opposite of what I explained above. A lot of heat will have to leave the water before it actually gets cooler. That's why the pool stays warm at night long after the air cools off!

To summarize, water is one of the best materials at absorbing large amounts of heat but undergoing only a small increase in temperature. This is due to both the hydrogen bonding that takes place and the low weight of the water molecule. Water's high specific heat capacity is one of the many unique properties that make it a useful and interesting material!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Rear-View Mirror

Ah the rear-view mirror... such an unassuming but useful object.

I have recently been using the night position a lot, due to the fact that I am driving on sparsely travelled roads in the middle of the Kern County oilfields. We usually travel slower than many cars on the road because our truck (the "logger" not the pickup) is large and sometimes a bit unwieldy. I drive behind the logger in my pickup. This means that people end up following me way too closely on the two-lane roads before getting the opportunity to pass! So at night, flipping the rear-view mirror really comes in handy when these bright lights are right behind me.

I used not to understand how this worked, but it is a simple principle. The mirror has two layers. The outer layer is mostly transparent but partially reflective. The inner layer is reflective and is pointed toward your eyes in the day position. In the bright light of the day, it reflects like a normal mirror, because the outer layer lets most of the light through. The outer layer is set at an angle to the inner layer, the same angle that the mirror rotates when you flip it. In the night position, the light from the car behind you gets mostly transmitted through the outer layer to the inner layer and is reflected away from you toward the ceiling. But because the outer layer is slightly reflective, it reflects just a little of the light back to your eyes, making it much easier to see in front of you but still keep tabs on what's behind you.

If you flip the mirror during the day, you'll notice that all you get is a reflection of the ceiling. This reflection is so bright that it obscures any dimmer reflection coming from the outer layer.

This is the same principle used for two-way mirrors. The two-way mirror both transmits and reflects light. The room on one side is kept very bright, so the people in this room only see the light being reflected from the mirror, which obscures anything being transmitted from the other side. The other side is kept dark so that the people on this side can see the light being transmitted through the mirror without it being obscured by any reflections.

So next time you're driving at night, take a second to appreciate your rear-view mirror!

Welcoming a new addition to my family of Apple products

I am currently writing from a coffeeshop in San Francisco. I have quite a few days off/vacation days, so I drove up here to visit a college friend. I am also writing from my new iPad!! I really like it so far. There are a few things about it that are not ideal, but I still have my old laptop too. Using the iPad all the time makes me think about the physics of touchscreens, so I will give a very brief explanation here. Circuits and E&M were not my strongest parts of physics, so it really will be brief.

From what I have read, the iPhone and iPad use something called capacitive sensing. In the screen there is a layer of conductive material covered by a layer of insulating material. A voltage is applied to the conductive material, creating a static electric field inside the insulating material. When you touch the screen with your finger, your body's ability to conduct electricity will change this electric field. This is why touching the screen with your fingernail or a stylus doesn't work. They are not conductive and therefore cannot alter the field that has been created in the screen. The iPhone and iPad screens are broken up into a grid that can sense touches at multiple points. The changes in the electric fields can be processed to figure out exactly where you are touching and what motions you are making with your fingers.

Thank you Apple for making such good use of this technology!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Physics and Food - Two of my favorite things!

After an extremely long break from writing, I am finally back. I've been busy with work, and when I'm not working, I'm "busy" recharging from my days on duty. Christine mentioned recently in her blog that she doesn't know how people with "real lives" have time to blog. I guess I'd qualify as one of these people, and she is absolutely right that blogging is hard to fit in to "real life" sometimes!

One day recently when I wasn't out on a job, I had some of the other engineers over for dinner. I made my family's favorite pasta sauce with angel hair pasta, and I made creme brulee for dessert. While I was waiting for the water to boil for the pasta, my friend Will and I were discussing the physics of boiling water.

For water to boil, the liquid on the bottom of the pot must get hot enough to change into gas and form a bubble, and this bubble must stay hot enough to float to the surface of the water without popping under the pressure on its way up and without cooling down enough to turn back into liquid. This means that the pressure inside the little air bubble has to balance the pressure of the surrounding water, which depends upon the pressure being put on the surface of the water. And the temperature of all of the water has to be high enough to keep the bubble from cooling down, (not just the water on the bottom).

I hope some of you will remember the ideal gas law from high school chemistry or physics:

PV = nRT

where P is the pressure of the gas, V is the volume, n is the number of moles (related to the number of grams of the substance), R is a known constant, and T is the temperature. Technically this equation only applies to gases that are under perfect conditions, but we can approximate our boiling water situation to one that can be explained by it for simplicity.

The question that Will and I were discussing is whether or not putting the lid on the pot helps the water to boil faster. You probably realize that putting the lid on will keep more heat in that would otherwise escape into the air, right? But does putting the lid on also increase the pressure on the top of the water? If this were the case, looking at the ideal gas law, the increase in pressure and temperature would balance out, meaning that the water would not boil any faster. However, putting the lid on does not increase the pressure because the lid does not seal tightly enough; air can still escape fairly easily. So the answer: putting the lid on the pot does help the water to boil faster because it traps the heat but doesn't increase the pressure.

As I was writing this, I wondered to myself: if the temperature of the water and the water vapor is increasing, why does this not in turn increase the pressure anyway? I think the answer to this is that the lid will still allow the volume to increase instead of the pressure. The water vapor will transfer its heat back to the water, increasing the temperature even further, but it is still allowed to escape from under the lid.

Once water comes to a boil, the temperature of the water will not increase any further. All of the heat coming from the stove will go into converting the liquid into gas. This means that whatever you're cooking in the water can't get any hotter than 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the boiling point of water. Now a pressure cooker is a different story. The lid on a pressure cooker seals tightly and keeps the vapor from escaping. This increases the pressure on the surface of the water, so it has to get even hotter before those bubbles on the bottom can form and rise. This means that the boiling point of the water is higher in a pressure cooker, so whatever you're cooking can be cooked at a higher temperature.

What about a double boiler, what's the purpose of that? A double boiler consists of two pots; the first is filled part way with water and sits on the stove, and the second sits on top of the first. The water should not be high enough to touch the top pot. The water is brought to a boil. Whatever you're cooking in the top pot is heated indirectly by the steam from the boiling water. This is a way of cooking the food more slowly and evenly. It's used to do things like melt chocolate; doing this in a pot sitting directly on the burner can heat the chocolate too fast, causing it to burn. It's also used to make custards and sauces for the same reason. I actually used mine recently to make the custard for a banana pudding.

It's interesting to write about the connections between two of my favorite things. Maybe I'll write some other physics of cooking posts soon. As always, let me know if there's anything specific you'd like me to write about, food related or not!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

California, Here I Am

I have finally arrived in Bakersfield!

My friend Beth flew into Tulsa to keep me company on my trip. We left last Saturday and spent Saturday night in Albuquerque. The drive went pretty smoothly except that somehow I almost ran out of gas on the highway. I think I had a few gallons left, but the empty light was on, and we were somewhere out in the middle of no where desert (Texas I think) with no civilization in sight. I had enough gas when we passed the last gas station that I didn't even think to fill up again, but apparently they are really spaced out. When the empty light came on I started freaking out, and Beth suggested turning off the AC to make the gas last longer... not the most comfortable thing to do in the middle of the desert. We told my GPS to look for a gas station, and luckily it said there was one coming up in a few miles. We made it! It was a tiny place, but it did the job. Also there was a Dairy Queen next door, and we figured we each deserved a blizzard after that ordeal.

The only unplanned thing that happened on Sunday was the traffic at the Hoover Dam, which is right on the way into Las Vegas. We stopped to take a few pictures and then just kept creeping along in the traffic. The dam was really interesting though. I wish we'd had time to go on a tour. I'd love to go back sometime. We were going to stay in Vegas on Sunday night and continue to Bakersfield on Monday, but we decided to stay an extra night in Vegas. It was my first time there, and it was a lot of fun. We wanted to stay at the Luxor, but we didn't reserve a room ahead of time, and they were booked by the time we got there. So were Excalibur and Mandalay Bay, and we were eventually told that it was because of a huge conference going on. We finally found a room at the MGM Grand. Once we got settled in our room, we met an old friend of mine for dinner at the Paris buffet. On Monday we walked from the MGM (almost at the end of the strip) all the way to the Stratosphere (the other end of the strip). It was so hot, so we stopped in a lot of the casinos along the way. Strangely enough, I think we had the most fun at Circus Circus in the "AdventureDome," basically a huge enclosure with rides and carnival games. We also shopped for quite a while. I wanted to look for some nice sunglasses because it's really hard to find ones that actually fit my face, so I knew I'd be struggling to find a pair whenever my current ones get lost or broken. I decided I wanted a pair of designer sunglasses, so we went around to all the designer stores trying on different pairs. I ended up going back to the very first pair I had tried on - black Armani sunglasses with a GA on each side at the hinge. I love them!! My first real designer item and my only splurge in Vegas. Then we decided to eat a late lunch at the Bellagio buffet, which was amazing. I highly recommend it. There was a lot of seafood, really good meat, a lot of interesting condiments (I tried apple dill mayo and spicy mango ketchup), and a huge dessert selection. Beth and I got seven desserts to share. Each portion is pretty small... we almost finished them. That night we were planning on riding the roller coaster at New York, New York, but it started raining! I didn't know it ever rained that hard in Vegas. So that was unlucky. We went back to the MGM and looked for a blackjack table with a low minimum, but there was nothing open. We checked Excalibur too; same story there. We finally found a $5 table at the Tropicana. I put down $60 and lost it all, unfortunately. First time playing though! It was really fun. But I'm glad I limited myself. I really wanted to see a Cirque du Soliel show, but non of them were playing on Monday nights. I'll just have to go back!!

On Tuesday morning we started driving toward Bakersfield. When we got here, I got settled in my temporary apartment and then went into the shop to meet my manager. I also met some of the other engineers, and everyone seems really nice. My manager gave me time off until this Tuesday, but I ended up going in yesterday to get some paperwork out of the way, and I'll also go in for a little while on Monday to do a commentary drive with the driving guy.

Since I arrived I have been searching for an apartment and shopping for furniture. I finally found an apartment close to work in a new gated complex. I will be the first person to live in my apartment. It is a two-bedroom (I don't think a one-bedroom has enough storage space for all my stuff) with a small but cozy kitchen and a nice master bedroom with a huge walk-in closet. I have spent about 10 hours shopping for furniture so far. Yesterday I finally decided on a sofa, coffee table (plus end tables), lamps, chair, dining set, and mattress. I move into the apartment on August 1st, and a lot of the furniture will arrive the 2nd, so I'll try to post a picture as soon as everything gets there. But I'm worried that I won't have time to get fully situated for a while because my work schedule might be pretty hectic.

I still have a lot to do, but I'm well on my way to getting comfortable here. I hope I'll like it. It's really hot here, but at least it's not as humid as Tulsa.

Come visit me!!

Skidding and Spinning

Before leaving Tulsa I had to complete Schlumberger's Light Vehicle Training (LVT). Most of this was kind of boring: sitting in the classroom or doing commentary drives. For a commentary drive, you drive around town and tell the driving instructor whatever you see going on around you and why you are driving the way you are driving. You're supposed to be showing that you are using the techniques taught in class and that you are a safe, defensive driver. For example, "There's some oncoming traffic so the right lane is safest at the moment, I see a red signal light up ahead, I'm checking my mirrors before braking to make sure no one is following too closely... light is green, I'm scanning the intersection before proceeding, I'm leaving a safe follwing distance in front of me" and so on, as a fairly constant stream of speaking. Actually, after doing it for a while it feels weird to not talk when the instructor says you can rest your voice. But anyway, there was actually an exciting part to the driver training. It was called Advanced Skill Maneuvers, where we learned to avoid head-on collisions and control skids. The training center has a driving course with a big pad that's covered in something that makes the surface really slippery when it gets wet. We each got in a pick-up specially rigged for this, and we got to feel what it's like to go into a rear wheel skid and a front wheel skid. On the rear wheel skid, the instructor said to cut the wheel hard to the side to make the truck spin around. It was actually a little scary even in that controled environment, but it was really cool. Then on the next pass we had to control the skid by gently steering in the direction of the skid to keep the vehicle facing forward. It was good practice because although I've driven in the snow, I've never been in a skid that serious. The Schlumberger trucks normally have antilock brakes, but they were disabled on these trucks so that the wheels would lock up for the skidding. We also learned how to avoid a head-on collision in a non-ABS truck, where steering and braking have to be separate actions. We were taught to brake hard, then turn the wheel quickly while letting up on the brake. We drove through a course where something would pop up in the road for us to avoid. It was really fun, and definitely a good thing to be comfortable with, although I'm still not sure if I'd be able to do it in a panic situation.

Overall, LVT was pretty fun, and it was especially nice to not have homework! It was a relaxing end to my time in Tulsa. The only bad thing is that my roommate Carla had to leave early because she dislocated her elbow and couldn't do the driving! So the apartment was a little lonely for a few days. But we all promised to meet up again at some point, so hopefully it won't be too long before I see her.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tulsa Training

I have barely even had time to think in these past few weeks, much less post!!

I am currently in Tulsa, OK, training for my job. I was supposed to be in Bakersfield, CA, by now for some on-the-job training. I was going to come back to Tulsa for school/training in a few months, but my segment's schedule got changed so that we are doing our "on-the-job" training AND school here, although we won't actually be going out on real jobs. I think we'll be here for another 14 weeks or so. Right now we're still living in a hotel because they haven't had room to move us into the apartments. I guess the late schedule change meant that they had to put us where ever they could find room on short notice.

I am really enjoying it so far. It's certainly not easy, but I like what we're learning, and I like the people. Our first class ended on Friday, and we start the next (harder) class tomorrow. Let me see if I can explain what my job will actually be. First of all, Schlumberger is an oilfield services company; they don't actually own any oil. So the oil companies are out clients. I am in the Wireline segment of Schlumberger, and we come in to the life of an oil well right after it has been drilled. Wireline lowers tools into the well and collects data from them (this is called logging a well) to help the client make decisions about how to produce the oil . This might sound straightforward, but there is a lot that goes into this process. In the last few weeks we've been doing a lot of classroom work. We learned about some of the different tools and how they work (physics!), and we learned the basics of the software that we'll be using to prepare the data for our clients. It's completely different from any other software we've ever used, so it took some time to figure it out. We've also had a little bit of practice out in the field, although just at the training rigs and not actually at a real site. But it was still really cool. We worked in groups of five under the supervision of an instructor, and we practiced connecting all the tools, lowering them into the well on the cable, controlling them from a truck on the surface, and monitoring the data being sent back from them. Then we went inside to put all the data together in a package for the "client" (our instructors). The whole process took about seven or eight hours, but I'm sure it will be quicker once we practice more and get down the rhythm of what we're doing.

I haven't had much time to explore Tulsa, but it seems cooler than I thought it would. Some of us have been to a country bar called Caravan a couple times, where there's a big dance floor and line dancing. We've been out to dinner a lot because we don't have kitchens at the Best Western, and a few of us walked along the river yesterday, which was nice. The weather has been weird, but I guess I'm used to that from Ithaca. Since I've been here we've had a few hot days (in the 80s), a day with about six inches of snow, a few heavy thunderstorms, a tornado watch, and pretty much everything in between. I'm hoping it will get warmer soon and stay that way.

I really miss my friends, but I've definitely found people here who I get along with really well. The sad part is that we'll all be going our separate ways after training is over (though that is still a few months away). The company is huge, with locations all over the world, but I do have a feeling that, just like the rest of the world, it is small in a way. I'll probably end up working with some of these people at some point because we will likely be advancing in the company at a similar rate. Good thing I like them!

I need to get some sleep for the first day of my next class tomorrow! I got 10 hours of sleep last night, but I still don't think I'm caught up, and this week will be just as bad as the last few!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day One at Schlumberger!

As most of you know, I am in Houston for orientation/training for my new job as a field engineer with Schlumberger, an oilfield services company (pronounced shlum-ber-zhay). Today was my first day! It was long, but I am really excited about the job. There are about 45 of us here for the training (10 females). Most everyone seems nice so far, and I've already started to get to know some people, especially people who will be working in my segment of the company, even though they won't necessarily be in my location. Today we got laptops and steel toe boots, and we got fitted for our two pairs of blue Schlumberger coveralls.

I'll write more later about what my job will be, but right now I am so tired and have to get some sleep for another long day tomorrow!

Blacksburg to Houston: Day Three

The morning of Day Three was fairly relaxed. I woke up earlyish again and spent some time filling out forms for work. Vincent and friends were enjoying the porch as I packed up my car.

The sun can be both a curse and a blessing when driving west. It made driving in the evening really frustrating at times, but it gave me a lot of opportunities for good pictures!

I finally made it to Houston after another long day. Driving in/around Houston was a little scary - I don't like big city driving! The picture below is of my stuffed cat named Peaches sitting on my hotel room (king size!) bed. We all get our own rooms, which is really nice. I took Peaches with me on my trips to Europe when I was younger, and for some reason we have pictures of me and Peaches at various places, mostly when waiting at a train station or something like that. So I decided to take a picture of her here too!

I stayed up way too late finishing things for my first day that ended up not even mattering, but that's okay. I got some sleep and got up on time in the morning!

So ends my trip from Blacksburg to Houston. But the traveling is not over yet!