Gazpromneft Noyabrskneftegaz Oil and Gas Rig Crewman Yuri Sidelnikov came to the North 30 years ago, at a time when it was mainly young people that worked rig shifts. He quickly understood that a career as an oilman was tough, demanding tenacity and courage, but has never regretted his choice. Today, he passes on his knowledge.
‘I came to the North from Ukraine, at a time when working rig field shifts was all the rage. And in all the years I’ve been working I’ve never once regretted my decision.
Of course the romantic side of things is always romantic, but our work is pretty tough, I would even say demanding courage. Now everything seems simple, but I remember how things were when we came here as young people: stunning landscape, everything easy on the eye — even the overcast skies, the midges and the mosquitos. Only — no sooner had we got used to all this, thinking we could live with it than — along comes winter. The winter cold snaps were just crazy. It was very difficult to get used to such difficult climatic conditions. In our profession, generally, character is very important — we had to (and we continue to have to) live through many moments when you just had to push yourself, you just had to keep going. It’s like in sport — today you’ve got training, and that means you’ve simply got to go to training. Sport, incidentally, is the other side of my life — apart from work, what I do to relax. I play volleyball, always taking part in sports events.’
‘Our day-to-day work probably looks, from the outside, pretty normal. We come to work, we get our job-sheet. In the course of 24 hours something or other happens at the well and we, as the riggers, have to get to the bottom of what’s going on. We get our job-sheets, make our way out to location. For example, I’ve just been working on cluster-pad number seven (a multiple-well platform), changing the measuring equipment — the device that measures well flows.
That probably sounds like a boring description. But it’s actually a massive responsibility — operations like pressure sensing or starting up the well on a multiple-well platform demand intense concentration. You have to have not just knowledge and experience, but also nerves of steel — so that, in the event of an emergency, you can, in a matter of seconds, make the right decision. Of course, such situations are extremely rare, but you always have to be ready for them. Drilling is a never-ending, ongoing process, during which anything can happen. And, moreover, everything has to be fixed quickly — you can’t just shut down a well, particularly during the winter season.
We work closely with several services. The geological surveying service tracks sub-soil resources — what fluid is flowing into what strata, from what source, and under what pressure. The technological service obtains information, processes this and, on that basis, selects the specific types and volumes of pumps and other equipment appropriate for these wells. We all depend on one another in our work. And our responsibility as operators — you don’t even need to discuss it, really, it’s already in your blood, a state of mind. Everything I’ve done today, I answer for in both my head and my heart. It’s all hands on deck — everything comes around, indeed, it’s not possible to interrupt some or other process in the middle: whatever I haven’t finished today will have an impact on everybody tomorrow.
Now, when I’ve been through a good deal in my own working life, when I’ve built up a reasonably good level of knowledge, I want to pass it on. And what’s important for me is to share my experience, so that those guys who are now coming to us with eyes wide open after completing their education have a somewhat faster route down the long path to knowledge. They still bring a certain something of their own, if it means they understand the subtleties of our production methods that little bit faster. Each of them adds something, fleshes things out — and it’s precisely through this that the company develops.
But experience is experience, and I’ll never stop being curious. I’m very keen to get to grips with those new technologies that are being used on new fields. We hear about these but, so far, they have passed us by. But I’d like to see, to take part in, to work out, what it all looks like — how much farther the process has got, so far, in comparison with what we’re doing.
Yuri Sidelnikov was born in Donetsk in 1953. He started work at the company as a rig crewman assistant, working on major well work-overs, subsequently becoming a drill operator himself. Since 1990 he has been a grade five Oil and Gas Rig Crewman (drill operator, oil and gas production unit No. 1) at Gazpromneft Noyabrskneftegaz. He enjoys fishing and volleyball, and is a frequent participant in sporting events.