Wellsite geologists supervise every stage of the drilling process for extracting gas and oil. They study and analyse rocks from the oil and gas wells in order to direct the drilling, and identify the rock formation into which they are drilling. They use specialised tests, rock-cutting data, wireline data, core samples and other measures to do this, analysing and evaluating this to inform the drilling process.
It’s a high-pressure role, and wellsite geologists are responsible for liaising with mudloggers and drilling engineers to ensure the drilling goes off without a hitch, as well as making sure that it follows the correct health and safety procedures.
Ultimately, it’s the wellsite geologist’s responsibility to decide when drilling should be suspended or stopped. They also compile reports and logs of the drilling process, as well as a final well report.
It’s a tough job. Wellsite geologists work in some of the remotest parts of the world, and their careers can be very disruptive on their home and personal life. However, it’s a very well paid profession and it isn’t your typical nine-to-five office job.
Salary & benefits
Starting salaries are very tidy indeed, ranging from around £28,000 to £40,000.
At senior level, this salary can reach as high as £120,000+. Wellsite geologists tend to be paid by the day and they are only employed as long as drilling activity continues.
So, while they might earn a lot per day (new consultant wellsite geologists might earn between £350 and £450, and more experienced geologists are looking at around £750 to £1,000 a day), there is little job security, and a wellsite geologist might only work 150 days a year or even less.
You can’t exactly work from home as a wellsite geologist. Work is dominated by where the gas and oil is and, unfortunately, that is often in incredibly remote locations. In the UK, it’s mainly off the east coast of England and Scotland.
In the North Sea, a typical working day might be 12 hours on, 12 hours off, for three weeks, followed by a break onshore for another three weeks. Conditions on offshore rigs can be trying, with bad weather, plenty of noise and dirt.
To become a wellsite geologist, you’ll probably need a degree in geology or a similar subject. Those with degrees in chemistry, geochemistry, geophysics and physics might also be able to gain entry into the profession, with some doing an MSc in geology to bolster their chances.
You can’t just swan into a wellsite geologist position straight after university: most people will work for several years as a mudlogger or with a drilling company beforehand.
A wellsite geologist will need top notch analytical and critical-thinking skills, oral and written communication skills, leadership and supervisory skills, and the ability to work well under pressure. Technical and practical knowhow, such as experience handling sophisticated technology and IT competency, are needed, as is the ability to quickly make decisions.
Training & progression
There is no formal wellsite geologist qualification, but before they start, no self-respecting geologist would be without training in areas such as wellsite and offshore safety management, wellsite operations, formation evaluation of wireline, FEMWD logs, and risk assessment. Gaining a chartered geologist status will also be beneficial for career progression.
As most wellsite geologists work as independent consultants and are employed on a contracting basis, it’s up to them to handle their own career progression. Most wellsite geologists look to establish good relationships with one or two oil companies and go on from there.
With experience, they might go on to become operations geologists, or train to become petrophysicists or reservoir engineers for oil companies.