The Woodward News

January 9, 2014

Oil, gas industry continues to produce jobs across area

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — In a recent study, Woodward ranked number two in the state for places to find a job, purchase an affordable home and live a quality lifestyle.

Turns out, a good many of those coming to the area move here to get jobs working in the oil field, Concha Herrera, workforce service specialist with Workforce Oklahoma, said.

According to Baker Hughes Inc., in the last four years, the number of wells being drilled in Oklahoma has primarily increased since 2009, when it suffered a low of 69 rigs during one month that year.

Since then, through 2011, the average number of rigs in the state increased rather sharply to a high of 220 at one point. From 2012 through 2013, the rig count number jumped around from the 170s to more than 200, according to Emil Ferenz of Baker Hughes. Many of those changes in active rig numbers were probably indicative of rigs being down for maintenance or moving and other factors, Ferenz said.  Baker Hughes has been providing rotary drilling rig data for the industry since 1944.

But that’s all just background. The real story lives in the people who find their way into the industry and why they came.

Go to any oil field job site and talk to just one or two of the hands working on the site and more than likely you will run into someone who has moved to Oklahoma or has come to the oilfield from past careers that had nothing to do with the industry.

Consider Laverne native Scotty Lujan, who has been working for Oilfield service company General Inc., of Laverne for two years now.

Wednesday, Lujan and his fellow crew members, Manuel Rivera, Tracy Mulberry and foreman Iram Cueto worked as a team building a new flow line for a more than 30 year old well that still produces gas.

Lujan has only been in the oil industry for the two years he has worked for General. He came to the industry after leaving a fairly lucrative but very stressful job in car sales in Edmond.

If you press Lujan a little, he will admit that he misses the highly social nature of car sales.

“I just miss all the different people you meet. But car sales, it’s pretty stressful,” he said. “This can get pretty stressful to though, but if I had to choose between this stress and that stress, I would pick this job.”

Lujan, like a lot of people who come to the oilfield from other unrelated career paths, find that working in the oil industry might have its stress, but at the end of the day, you can leave it and really be at home.

“At that job in car sales, I look my work home a lot,” he said.

While drilling may go up and down depending on a lot of factors, the existing wells that still produce create another kind a reality for those who want to get into the industry for the good paying jobs, Cueto said.

Those existing wells that need service as well as the new drilling that is happening here is what keeps General owner Dwight Freeman able to keep so many people in an otherwise small town gainfully employed.

“I wouldn’t say we have been covered up, but it has been steady and that is a good thing,” Freeman said.

Cueto has worked for Freeman for 10 years now and he makes no bones about his preference for this industry and company over his former job as a fence builder.

“I like this because every day is a different day,” he said. “You are never in the same place and it’s never boring and the money is good.”

While Cueto said he had never thought about moving a long distance just for a job, he also admitted that he has never been forced to consider that since he has lived here and this is where the industry was available.

Cueto said he could understand how someone, even someone states away, such as James Meredith who came all the way from Tucson, Ariz., to work for Crescent Services, Inc., might make that long move to come here for one of these jobs.

According to Cueto, someone just starting as a roustabout can figure on making anywhere from $14 per hour to $18 per hour if they have experience.

Wednesday was a nice winter day for the crew as they quickly wrapped up work on the location and planned for their next job. But it’s no secret that the job, even though it pays well, can get tough when the wind is blowing 50 miles per hour and the wind chill is 30 below. He said when things go wrong, the hours can go long.

So Cueto encourages people who take a longing glance at the jobs in the oilfield, to do so carefully, knowing that they may be good paying jobs, but it is still an industry that involves hard work.

“It’s a good job, but it’s not for everyone,” he said.