I am a flowback operator. My job consists of several stages. First we show up when they start frac and set up equipment. Then we work with the coil tubing or pulling unit. Then they leave and we stay and control how much fluid is flowing out of the hole until they hook it up to a tank.

I did an AMA a couple of weeks ago and it garnered some attention, and now I have hours to kill so I figured I'd do it again. Proof pic will be in the comments.

Cool video of a blowout, excitement really starts at around the 32 second mark.


A lot of questions about the pay. It varies, but my job is a salary around $40,000 and 12 hour bonuses ranging $200-$600 sometimes you will be out there 96 hours straight.

Comments: 560 • Responses: 99  • Date: 

irishdave129 karma

What is your opinion on Fracking and do you believe it should be permitted to continue?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF29 karma

Necessary evil. I'm not fond of how much water is used by them seeing as I can only water my grass 2 times a fucking week due to the drought.

VirtualSting10 karma

Have you ever experienced a gusher? If so, what was that like?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF123 karma

Delicious. I like the cherry flavored ones the best.

VirtualSting8 karma

I see what you did there. :P

DownvoteMe_IDGAF18 karma

Yeah, I assume you meant have I been on site when oil came flying out of the hole, which I have not. They try to avoid that these days.

There are what we call blow outs, which pretty much means some piece of equipment gets blown the fuck off the well. Maybe a nipple came loose and it blew the pipe off the tree, or sometimes it can actually blow the pipe out of the hole. The following link is an example. Obviously it isn't common, but it can happen. The real excitement starts around 33 seconds in. The black stuff snaking out is the pipe.


VirtualSting4 karma

That's so scary!

DownvoteMe_IDGAF13 karma

Yeah, I'd be fucking gone. There would be no running 20 feet and turning back around. I'm hopping in my truck and getting the fuck out of there.

shalafi713 karma

Dumb question, but hey it's an AMA right? What exactly is so dangerous? Falling pipe, pressure explosion, fire?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF7 karma

Falling pipe, equipment blowing from too much pressure, and H2S gas.

Geauxtoguy4 karma

My dad worked offshore for a few years ages ago and he's experienced that first hand. Said it was the scariest thing he's ever seen. And for him, there was no hopping into a truck.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Yeah, fuck that. It would take a shit ton of money to get me out there.

I_Know_Knot4 karma

I've worked in the oilfield 15 years now. That guy, and all the guys with him, are idiots. You don't hang around during a blowout. You GTFO and let a well control company handle it.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF4 karma

Yeah, it blows my fucking mind that they were so dumb.

FentanylFreak9 karma

Do you feel the well leaking in the gulf will effect your work on land?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF10 karma

No, BP's incident didn't even affect us. The only thing that will affect this area is when oil goes down. Which with the world wide demand being what it is, probably won't be for awhile.

I_Hate_3 karma

Before everyone down votes this. You work on service rig correct? His rig not drilling the wells it runs tubing, swabs wells and other things correct?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

I don't work on the rig at all. I just control the pressure coming out of the hole.

legaleyez8 karma

you in midland?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF21 karma


486_808829 karma

I've spent a few days there, you have my condolences

DownvoteMe_IDGAF10 karma

You get used to it.

xSGAx2 karma


*Friday night lights

DownvoteMe_IDGAF6 karma

One of my only regrets was not playing football in high school. I'm about to start playing rugby this winter so that'll make up for it a bit.

jamesjunk3 karma


DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Yeah. The mad dogs. I'm not sure how good they are now, but they used to be pretty decent. Had a guy named zee that played for them and now plays for a French team.

diegojones47 karma

Say hi to Odessa for me and enjoy some Taco Villa

DownvoteMe_IDGAF13 karma

It's all about that jumburito.

Ajrichey22 karma

If you ever want good Chinese food in Odessa give china-mex a try. It's on Grant Ave.

Dasphatness4 karma

Try the Golden Dragon on Linda near the west side walmart. They do Chinese and mexican food. Its pretty new and decent.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Ugh I hated that place.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Eh. I'm not a fan.

LegoStaircase1 karma


DownvoteMe_IDGAF2 karma

And cheese motherfucker!

gutspuken7 karma

Make sure that wellhead flange is tighter than a 12 year old back injury- I don't wanna see any incidents today; everybody on lease be aware, 5 by 5 assessments on everything. Watch your hand placement at all times especially when climbing or up on that rig floor- no slips trips or falls alright?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF12 karma

Instructions not clear, dick stuck in chain.

fisticuffs327 karma

How's the pay?

Do you have a spouse or kids?

What do you like/hate most?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF11 karma

We get a salary (average of the guys I work with would be about $40,000) and a bonus for every 12 hours we am in the field. The bonus now ranges from $200-$600 every 12 depending on what equipment we are running.

I have a wife. She hates me being gone but can't complain about the money.

I love the money, working with my hands, and generally not having worries. There isn't a deadline I have to meet on a report or a sales quota to fill. I just go out and work.

The hours are what I dislike the most. Sometimes you will go 2-3 days without any real sleep, and it gets miserable. But by the end of the 2nd day you go into a zombie like state where you don't really care anymore.

CountryBoy062606 karma

So IF you only worked 48 hours a week you'd make between $41600 and $124800 in bonuses + your salary? That's crazy.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF7 karma

There was a guy that I worked with who was making about $20,000 a month at another company until they got bought out and rescheduled the pay.

iambinksy4 karma

That lack of sleep must be dangerous. Hope you stay safe man. Not a dig at you but at the system/management.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF6 karma

Oh it definitely is. They try to keep it from happening, but if there aren't any crews that can relieve you it's just too bad.

Demono3 karma


DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Not really. It's all about the money.

honeybadger214 karma

Ok I hate to be that guy, but how would a 23 year old CA guy get into doing this?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF6 karma

Just get any oilfield job, and network like hell. That's how I got it. I worked in a shop 60 hours a week for a few months and someone I knew in the office told me about a job opening. There are a lot of good jobs in the oilfield.

jleeblaze4 karma

Worked for a pulling rig oustide of Abilene one day,Never again.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF8 karma

Ahahaha. Yeah, I'm sitting in my truck right now and the pulling unit guys are just slaving away in the heat and FR's. They probably have one of the most miserable jobs.

jleeblaze3 karma


DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Hell yeah.

amgrulz4 karma

The temperature in west Texas is too damn high. I'm not looking forward to rigging up today. How do you manage to not die of heat stroke?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF6 karma

Yesterday was rough, I thought I was going to drop. We were rigging up at around 4 p.m. and they require FR uniforms at this location so I was burning up.

Lots of water man. I poured a whole bottle of water on my head and down my back yesterday straight from the cooler, and the cool lasted maybe 10 seconds.

verifiablyinane3 karma

How hot is it on average during summer? Any idea how much water you have to consume?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF11 karma

It got up to 112 the other day. And the safest bet is just drink water pretty steadily. If you feel thirsty, get some water. Not thirsty? Get some water.

ScottageCheese84 karma

Go buy yourself a platypus. Keep it in your truck and put some ice in it. Yeah, that'll do reeeeeeeeeeeeal nice. I used to live right near Fort Hood in Copperas Cove, and I miss Texas so much man. You hate the heat 'till you're gone.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Yeah I was based in Great Lakes for awhile, and then Pensacola. Holy fuck I missed the nice dry heat.

chelsmjlv4 karma


DownvoteMe_IDGAF4 karma

Correct. I still don't exactly understand what the fuck the entire process is. And nobody I ask really knows, most people just know their specific part in the process.

But by the time I get out here the drilling rig is long gone.

chelsmjlv6 karma


DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Yeah, it can be rough. It topped 110 the other day out on location.

TacBeezy5 karma

I work as a drilling and measurements engineer on deepwater rigs in the Gulf of Mexico... If you have questions about drilling specifics, I can almost definitely answer them.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF5 karma

If you could just give me a basic outline of the process from beginning to end it would be spectacular.

nomad54113 karma

1st of all great AMA so far. 2nd I was hearing around town that some of the Company Men are starting to ban/disapprove of energy drinks out on site. Have you heard this as well? Being things like Red Bull and the like are major cause of dehydration. Also man its fucking hot already Big 2 said the high today is goin hit like 105. Stay cool man.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Shit I hope not. I finally found a drink that actually tastes ok (the monster rehab favors. They have pink lemonade, lemonade, and tea).

htxpanda3 karma

My friend is a flowhand for his dad's company in the panhandle every summer. Makes thousands. He wrote an amazing play while on the job.

My question is: How have experiences on the field changed the way you look at the world? It's crazy being out there, where really nothing happens, except for money flowing from the ground.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF5 karma

I'm horribly spoiled. When the boom slows down it will be a rude awakening. Until then I just have to try to bang out online college classes and save.

TrafficSucks3 karma


DownvoteMe_IDGAF11 karma

I would rather not just because of the hellish conditions that have been described to me, but if I got offered enough money and a nice hotel room I would consider it.

Salary ranges in the $40,000 area, and bonuses for every 12 hours in the field ranging from $200-$600. And that's if you are only working one location a day. There was a guy I worked with who had been making $20,000 a month at a previous job before they got bought out and restructured the pay. Apparently there was a problem with field hands making more than upper management.

Neurosquashology13 karma


DownvoteMe_IDGAF11 karma

It was to the regional manager apparently lol.

An_Island3 karma


DownvoteMe_IDGAF15 karma

Cold weather and man rape.

synapsesynopsis19 karma

I'd hate to have to live through cold weather.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF7 karma

If you are accustomed to below freezing just a few times a year, then yeah you would fucking hate it.

Edit: I suck at detecting jokes.

thestupidlowlife3 karma

Are you a native of that area? I drove through West Texas recently and it was kind of sad to see all the fields filled with machinery, natural gas burnoffs, and work trailers in what used to be just land.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

I'm a native. Lived here most of my life.

ShotgunZen3 karma

Hey flowback, get off the damn phone and gimme the wellhead pressure and return rate! Lol. Odds are that we have worked together. Coil tubing here.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

You son of a bitch. If you would just flow into the pit it would make both of our lives easier damn it. And whatever you are pumping is what you are getting. Drill those plugs motherfucker. And if you plug up my shit I'm going to complain behind your back like crazy.

I've worked with Halliburton, Coil Tubing Services, and Pro Petro. Any of those?

ShotgunZen3 karma

Thats b.s. and you know it! Those chokes are washed out and getting worse every minute! And I know its been years since that iron has been inspected! Plus after that kick we took on plug 5 I know the wellhead pressure is up, so kick that worm of yours who is sleeping in the pick up awake and have him watch returns! Lol! Yep. With Big Red right now working Oklahoma Texas and New Mexico. You will have to tell me your outfit, ill look for ya. You should come over to our side but looks like your bonuses are really nice!

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Shit we can talk when you get done rigging up.

Yeah the bonuses are nice and y'all are CONSTANTLY out on a job. One question though, what the FUCK do y'all do when y'all start going down hole. You motherfuckers all disappear for the whole job. Seriously, do y'all just chill in the trucks for most of the job or is there something behind the scenes I'm not seeing?

YOalejandro3 karma

What kind of career advancement can you expect given your lack of degree? Are any doors opened within your field after you attain your unrelated degree?

edit: Thanks for doing this AMA. It's something I've been very interested in pursuing for the past month or so.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF2 karma

I've been told by a family friend that if I get my computer programming degree he would set me up with an extremely good job at his company.

But if you don't have any friends in high places you could still look at working IT at a company making what I imagine is good money.

buttholestretcher2 karma

I live in west Texas and have been trying to get a job as an oilfield hand any tips?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Take any job you can get in the industry. Even if it is a shitty one, it can help you find a much better job through networking.

nolapgf2 karma

How did you initially get into this work? Any training or certs required beforehand?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF8 karma

A girl I knew worked in the office, and the boss told her he was in desperate need of hands. I applied on Thursday and started Monday. I had zero related experience and no training. It's all on the job training.

nolapgf1 karma

Are the companies that run the rigs out there the same companies we always hear aboue (BP, Shell, Exxon, etc...) or do smaller companies run the wells and sell to the bigger guys?

Can you say who you work for, or who is operating in the area?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF4 karma

Typically the bigger companies (Exxon, Chevron, etc.) will actually own the land or mineral rights, but will outsource all the work to other companies who specialize in that particular work.

zikor2 karma

What kind of skills do you need for your job?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF16 karma

Just being willing to work long hours and in rough weather. It isn't really a job of skill, just man shit.

josh08615 karma

I'm an 8 year vet who just got out of the military 2 weeks ago and am rapidly becoming disillusioned with the process of going back to school out here in Austin. How are the opportunities for prior service?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF2 karma

Amazing. You pretty much automatically get first choice. One of the perks of living in a patriotic area.

I_Ask_About_IceCream2 karma

Do you get good ice cream working in the oil industry?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF7 karma

Only for my butt.

Lylesanderson2 karma

Can you get me a job?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

We aren't hiring anyone without at least 2 years of experience. But most places in the area are hiring pretty much anyone.

Stepheddit2 karma

How often are the BOP's tested?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

I haven't the slightest idea. Hopefully often.

fkncatalinawinemixer2 karma

Is it really easy to tell if someone is going to make it in the industry, or only last "a week"

DownvoteMe_IDGAF5 karma

Sometimes. If they are just absolutely lazy you can usually tell. But sometimes they really surprise you.

JerkasaurousRexx2 karma

I have a few friends that have done this but can never last long. They always described as the most stressful and physically demanding job they have had (besides military). How do you deal with it? And if they hired more people do you think that would give you more sleep and prevent on site accidents?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF2 karma

I just look at it like a good workout, and don't constantly worry about the dangers. As far as sleep, if they hired more guys we would probably get more sleep but then you are working less and make less money. Most of us would prefer that extra bonus than the extra sleep.

xpluralx2 karma

Yall hiring geologists?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

My company isn't, but I would be willing to bet you could find a nice cushy job out here with someone.

Probably try monster and other similar career sites. Just send in applications to everyone, whether they say they are looking for one or not. Eventually you will find something.

stormindorman2 karma

Just got a contracting job in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio doing the same thing, but ill be on the production side only. Just left casing and laydown to come to this piece of cake job lol. Be careful brother stay safe

DownvoteMe_IDGAF5 karma

You motherfucker. I'm pretty jealous. The wife would hate it though.

YOalejandro2 karma

What are the big differences between working where you do and working offshore? Duties/pay/hours/etc.?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF4 karma

Offshore is disgustingly good money, but also absurdly dangerous.

stillyman452 karma

Who do u work for? I'm a frac hand/ mechanic out in Texas

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

I'd rather not say.

Neveticus2 karma

ever visited Texas Tech University?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF6 karma

Nope. Had to avoid that raider rash.

sonofarex2 karma

Our sister company is in Texas, I love when I get to call down there and bullshit with them and appreciate their accents.

I don't have a question, just wanted to say hi from Canada's version of Texas (Alberta)

DownvoteMe_IDGAF4 karma

What's the sister company?

funkefresh821 karma

I'm an oil field worker in NJ myself!.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Do you work with the Jersey Shore crew?

homegrown3031 karma

who do you work for? i have a friend who is a wireline field engineer for schlumberger.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

I'd rather not say. I put too much stuff on Reddit as it is.

Mountain-Matt1 karma

I see that your last post was about two hours ago, so I'm not sure if you're completely done or not, but I'm a 30-year-old man with an English degree in Tampa, Florida who is sick of the office. I'm on the edge of packing up my car and driving to North Dakota to grab a job as a roustabout. Is there anything besides a good set of boots that I should invest in before leaving?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF2 karma

Boots and jackets. And don't go unless you already have a job and place to stay worked out.

nicksumus1 karma

What is your favorite part of your job?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF4 karma

The money. And it is just nice to work with your hands. I dropped out of college to do this, and I have no regrets. I'll be taking online classes soon though, that way I have a backup plan.

nicksumus2 karma

What do you plan on studying?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF5 karma

Computer science

nicksumus2 karma

Awesome! That's what I am (supposed) to be doing right now! It's pretty fun sometimes.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF5 karma

I've dicked around a little with java and python. I got as far as writing a program the guys could use to calculate the barrels we are flowing per minute. It was real simple but I fucking loved finishing it.


Finishing a program is the most satisfying feeling.

What's the scariest thing you've experienced working there?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

When someone fucked up and closed a valve without opening one first. It blocked the pressure and I watched it start skyrocketing on the gauge. It was either fuck everyone else and start running in the hope I could outrun the damage if it blew, or jump on the equipment and start opening the valve and hope it doesn't blow before I get it open. Ended up jumping on the trailer and opening the valve, but if the pressure had been closer to the equipment's limit I would have probably chosen the first option.

It's an unspoken rule that if you see someone running, you haul ass in the same direction.

NinjaPW1 karma

In general. How much sleep do you get a night?

Do any Asians work in your industry or do you work with anyone who aren't white?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF6 karma

Sometimes I get a full night, and sometimes I won't sleep for 3 days. Luckily the pulling unit crew we are working with right now shuts down every night around 6:00 so I get to go home and sleep in my bed.

Lots of Mexicans who don't speak english and lots of white rednecks. I encountered what sounded like a French guy once, but I didn't ask.

WonderWeasel917 karma

Shit, that's Texas in general right there. (Mexicans and white rednecks.)

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Yeah, it's hard to keep myself from going full blown redneck.

Nabber863 karma

Guy speaking French was coonass.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF1 karma

Sadly, I didn't even think of that. He didn't really have that look to him though.

Kaslopis1 karma

I'm going to do a crash course on oil exploration and getting a certificate. What kind of advice would you give a soon to be worm, and what jobs in your opinion should I try and angle myself for a more suitable career? Can you give your opinion on the pay and job titles? Lastly, besides the locations, any big difference from going to North Dakota Vs Texas? I'm kinda leaning towards Texas.. Thanks for doing this. Cheers.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

Biggest thing is just finding a place to live. I've heard it is easier to find somewhere in Texas. Hotter weather here, colder up there.

As far as advice, don't be the guy that always has to one up people or be the alpha dog. That's some bullshit. Just make people laugh, and they won't mind helping you out. Avoid working on drilling rigs, that's where you have the guys who do the macho bullshit.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF1 karma

Biggest thing is just finding a place to live. I've heard it is easier to find somewhere in Texas. Hotter weather here, colder up there.

Retac1 karma

Hey! Good to see you're back again! Where does most of the oil that you guys mine end up? Domestically? Or do we end up exporting it to other nations?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF2 karma

I'm honestly not sure, a bit above my pay grade. From a little Internet research it looks like we actually send at least some of the oil overseas, but I would guess the natural gas would be kept domestic.

DaBeach1 karma

Such a conundrum, I am not anti- oil at all but the fact that we ship out our oil (because it pays more to export than to keep local,) is so backwards. Energy independence is the goal yet we ship it all for extra profit, yay.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF0 karma

Yeah, it makes zero sense to me.

fotolyfe1 karma

How do you and your fellow roughnecks see engineers that surveys the site? Friend or foe?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF3 karma

As long as you aren't a dick then it's cool.

stutekfee1 karma

I'm 18 and willing to work. If I take a chance and move down there, is it likely I'll get a job?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF2 karma

A large majority of places are hiring, but without experience it may take a couple of weeks to find a job. And finding a place to live can be extremely difficult.

Just warning you. There are many opportunities but it may be difficult for a little while.

You could definitely get a retail or food job within a day or two though to help you survive until finding a better job.

Nevermind041 karma

I bet you're in Odessa. I'm in San Angelo. Our oil rush just started. It's about to get really rough out here... We barely have enough water for people, much less for fracking.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF2 karma

Yeah it pisses me off watching how much water they use.

maxgroover1 karma

How dangerous is your work?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF2 karma

I could die pretty much any day that I'm in the field. H2S gas could kill me, I could get heat stroke, and if the equipment has a blow out I could pretty easily die.


That's an example of a blowout.

dubitabam1 karma

I was thinking about going back to school and getting a Petroleum Engineering degree - how do people with those sorts of degrees relate to what you do?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF2 karma

They are way before my part, and way above my pay grade.

MarlesBarkley1 karma

Is the fracking industry actively working to decrease any instance of water table contamination? If so, what specifically is being done?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF1 karma

I imagine they are somewhat, but I have no idea how much of a priority it really is for them.

Bathroomdestroyer1 karma

What does crude oil look like? What does it smell like? Can you dip your hand in some and lift it out so we can see the viscosity?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF4 karma

I rarely see it. I will see it at the very end of some jobs, but usually they don't keep us out here that long. It is first a brown foam if it is flowing hard, then it turns into a black liquid. The smell is just a gassy type smell. Imagine a gas station multiplied by ten. Getting a big whiff of the vapors can be pretty nauseating.

MattMakesMusic1 karma

Do you give a shit about the environment?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF1 karma

Yes. Do you?

Rude_Narwhal1 karma

How do you think OSHA has made the job these men do safer, and the flipside to that questions is do you think by proxy they've made it more dangerous? (Talking about Fire Resistant Gear) My Step Father has to wear certain gear working on the rigs in Northwest Colorado, and says the summer heat (and even some winter days) are enough to give him a Heat Stroke.

DownvoteMe_IDGAF2 karma

I hear about heat strokes a lot more often than I hear about fires on location.

Just saying.

thlayli_x-1 karma

Are you going to kill people the entire 8 hours or just kill someone right before time runs out?

DownvoteMe_IDGAF1 karma

I'm guessing you don't know what Flowback is.