Wellsite Tips and Tricks

This section has some ideas and helpful hints for my colleagues in the field, from sample preparation to keeping thawed out in the winter months. I hope these ideas make the job a bit more pleasant...they sure helped me! Click on the links below to see what McGyver came up with.

Sample Preparation

Gas Detector Care and Feeding

How to remove metal shavings from dried samples

Invert Mud, or how to cope with the Big Stink

Combatting diesel that condenses in polyflow

 Begin with a good microscope...your eyes are your living!

Sample Preparation

 I don't cook samples. We aren't here to analyze neometamorphism! I am convinced that the number of "black shale" descriptions are because the shale, with its high carbon content, was cooked in a frying pan over a propane flame while the geologist was distracted. The only black shale I seem to find is the Fernie Poker Chip Member. The rest are brown, buff, grey, anything but black. Besides, there is nothing more fragrant than slightly simmered heavy oil! I use a 4-gallon shop vac and a dryer stand cobbled together from readily-available plumbing materials. It works faster than frying pans, and if noise is a problem, you can just hang the vacuum outside. I just use a bit of coathanger and a wood screw. Weather isn't a problem.

 The components of vacuum dryer stand, made of 4-inch ABS drain parts and adapters to step down to 1 1/4-inch vacuum cleaner hose. The orange extension cord behind has a switch built in to turn on the vacuum. The margarine is for breakfast.

 The assembled unit, by the sink, with vacuum hose coming in through outside wall of lab shack. Rag is for wiping excess water from the rim of the screen, fork is for fluffing up the sample to help it dry. Vacuum cleaner is hung outside to combat the jet-like scream you would otherwise have to live with if the unit was in the lab. Not to mention the disgruntled engineer, whose screaming may be anything but jet-like.

Wash the sample in hot water, and it takes this system about one minute to dry it. If you have a set of screens, you can wash more while the sample drys. No hot frying pans, waiting for cooling, or smelly oil smoke. And, your show evaluation will improve because you haven't converted light crude into smelly gunk...having driven it soundly through the thermal window for oil generation...

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Frozen Gas Detectors and How To Avoid Them

You've been there, Zama Lake, January, 3 AM, wind howling, and furnace going continuously to keep it barely comfy in the shack. Your gas detector is beeping constantly, because the flow is 0.2 SCFH and you can't seem to keep it thawed out. And, the top of the Slave Point is imminent, and the engineer is getting suspicious of the gas detector's function, or, at least more suspicious than normal. You have been outside ten times today, tearing the system apart and thawing out another big hunk of frost in the condenser hose. Now, there is frost in the polyflo tubing. You have been up for 36 hours, eyelids puffy from fatigue, and all you want to do is sleep. Sleep? Ironically, you thank the oil company for not sending you to Helmet, where your polyflo is 500 feet long, and you just remembered that you taped it to every handrail post on the rig. More on THAT later.

Condenser Hose Bubbler

This is one of my inventions that has done more to save freeze-up headaches than any other device. It has allowed me to relax in cold weather and concentrate on the job at hand. This one might be the best 15 minutes you'll spend when it's 40 below. I know, I know, there are better ways to spend 15 minutes when it's that cold!


Roll of electrical tape.

Alcohol lamp.


Utility Knife.

2 inches of Polyflo.

 First, ignite the end of the polyflo tube and melt it nicely. Watch out, it drips! Molten polypropylene is HOT!!

 Then, close the end of the tube with the melted material. I do it by rapidly pinching it with my calloused fingertips, but you can use a probe.

 Heat your probe slightly and make two passes at right angles through the sealed tubing...4 holes. Be careful not to make the holes too big! The diameter of the probe needle is sufficient.

 With electrical tape, make a rolled cylinder of tape on the open end of the tube, about one tape-thickness larger than the inside diameter of the condenser hose. Insert the assembly melted end up into condenser hose. With sample pump running, insert condenser hose into some glycol and draw up about 8 inches of glycol into hose. The small holes prevent the glycol from running back out, while admitting sufficient sample bubbles into condenser hose.

This little detail puts antifreeze right at the most critical condensation point, just outside the warm gas trap body. If there are also loops filled with antifreeze in the condenser hose, this arrangement can run for several days in very cold weather. You can change the antifreeze by disconnecting the polyflo from the back of the gas detector during a survey. The spent glycol will drain through the holes as soon as sample flow ceases. Draw fresh glycol in before circulation starts again.

I also have a new-and-improved version, a bit more techie in nature, which works well to combat Invert Scum.

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Modifying the Calcium Chloride Dryer bottle

Normally, the flow direction through the calcium chloride dryer is down the tube inserted into the calcium chloride and up through the chloride. There is a distinct physical disadvantage with this flow direction: The dehydration point is right at the base of the tube where the humid sample meets the chloride...forming a solid clump of chloride which eventually blocks the flow. This is aggravated if the chloride gets up into the tube when you reassemble it after changing out the last clump...

Solution: Reverse the flow direction! Do this by flipping the entry and exit hardware. The first advantage is that you suddenly present a huge increase in reaction surface area to the humid sample, effectively dehumidifying it more efficiently. Next, as further insurance, cut a two inch square of Scotchbrite (plastic pot scrubber material) and cover the end of the outlet tube (formerly the inlet tube immersed in chloride). Tape the folded Scotchbrite over the tube end (I use a piece of bicycle inner tube like an elastic band), or, you can roll up a small wad of it and insert it into the tube. Step two to ending freezing headaches.

When and if a crust forms on the top of the calcium chloride, it usually doesn't constrict flow. The crust can be disrupted by swatting or jiggling the dryer bottle. The chloride lasts a whole lot longer this way.

Rig-up Tip

A few suggestions here. Remember, you have to rig it down again, so don't make it difficult to do so! With the advent of Pason or Chimo electronic geolograph systems, the usual rigup involves stringing the polyflo line from the rig to your shack.

Polyflo has a tensile strength of about 400 pounds in cold weather, somewhat less in summer heat. This means you can stretch a long span with only two main supports, one at the rig and one at your shack. The rest of the rigup can be routed so as to avoid interfering with rig operations. I have found the best route for the polyflo is from the trap and around the V-door end of the rig. String it so it passes under the V-door slide and to the roof of the doghouse. The brass ferrule connection at the trap can sustain some tension, so snug the tubing up under the slide and rig floor once you gain the roof of the doghouse.

This routing avoids the cumbersome task of taping (and later untaping) the polyflow to handrails (where they are vulnerable to roughneck-pinching) or other rig hardware. Tip: When stringing polyflo, unravel about twenty feet at a time, and then tape the spool up again. You can then fling the taped-up spool, like a lifebuoy, through brackets and over hoses and cables on the rig. If you have ever dealt with a roll of polyflo that has sproinged into a snarl of entangled spaghetti, you'll understand the taping trick. With time you can become adept at flinging your lifebuoy from below the V-door on the matting, over the doghouse, and lassoing the Motorhand having a smoke by the water truck.

 To tether the polyflow, obtain two wire tensioner clips from a drilling recorder service hand. These clips use a wedging action to grip a cable or tube, and can apply considerable tension to a cable to pull out the sag over large spans between anchor points. Use one on the doghouse roof, and one on your shack post. I also use one to relieve strain on my Yagi antenna cable. You may wish to protect the tubing by slipping a piece of 1/4" ID rubber tubing over it and wedging the rubber tube in the wire clip, but I have found that is optional. When it comes time for tear-out, disconnect from the trap, disconnect from the doghouse roof, and the whole shooting match will extract from the rig with one long tug.

 Wire tensioners supporting polyflo gas line and Yagi antenna coaxial cable on shack pole. A few winters ago in B.C. I had a span of 450 feet with only about ten feet of sag. I had to really haul on the polyflo to attain it, but it held, sagging downwind during chinooks.

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