Alberta Oil RoughnecksOil Worker

A Day in the Life of a Service Roughneck

In this guide we talk about the life of a roughneck on a service rig, what your life will be like, the pay, your job duties, and what to expect while working in the Alberta oil fields.
Before we talk about a roughneck’s life first let me explain to you what a service rig is. When most people hear the term “oil rig” they typically think of a drilling rig operation which drills new wells and installs casing pipe.

Service rigs are different than drilling rigs in many aspects; for starters they do different things to a well. While drilling rigs are used to drill a new well service rigs perform services on wells that have already been made. Service rigs performs such tasks as completing wells that have just been drilled, fixed wells that do not produce oil, and abandoning old wells that have stopped producing.

Service rig operations are much smaller then drilling rig operations and are usually manned by a crew of 4-6 people. A service rig crew generally consists of a tool push (the boss), a driller (second in command), a derrickhand, and 1-2 roughnecks. If you are new to the oil patch (e.g. have no experiences in the oil patch [green]) you will start out on a crew as a roughneck.

In the chain of command the roughneck is on the bottom rung, or in other words is the lowest man on the totem pole, but hey, we all start out somewhere right? The service rig crew’s roughneck(s) is responsible for all of the menial and unskilled tasks the other crew members don’t have time to do (or want to do).

A roughneck on a service rig is responsible for everything from making the coffee in the morning to greasing the axels on the rig. On a typical morning the roughneck will wake up between 5 am and 6am (depending on how far away from the jobsite you are), prepare for work, and wait in the crew truck. The roughneck should always be the first person in the crew truck; this will show the tool push and driller you are ready for a hard days work. Once the tool push, driller, and derrickhand make their way to the crew truck you are off to work.

Once at work the roughneck should be the first one in the doghouse (crew quarters) and making coffee and turning on the heat. Once you have the coffee brewed and the heat cranked the roughneck should get his work gear on which includes coveralls, hard hat, steel toed boots, and work gloves. When you are dressed you should go out to the rig and get all the tools ready for the day. It is important that the roughneck be the first one out of the doghouse every morning, again this shows your boss you are a hard worker.

Once all of the tools are ready you wait outside for your driller to come and tell you what to do. When you are outside you do anything and everything your driller tells you to do, and if he is not around you do whatever the derrickhand tells you to do. They may ask you to do anything from making them coffee to cleaning out the restroom, and if they don’t have anything for you to do then you find something to clean. A roughneck should always be doing something and should never be doing nothing unless told to take a break.

The job description of a roughneck may not sound pleasant but their current pay rates are more then that. A typical roughneck’s salary right now in Alberta ranges from $22 to $28 per hour depending on what company you decide to work for plus you are able to make certain bonuses such as danger pay, out of town allowances, overtime, and holiday pay which can add up to quite a bit of money on top of your regular wage.

Here are some articles regarding oil rig jobs: