Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Seasons in the Oil Patch

We definitely don't have the traditional seasons in the oil patch. Every once in a while Mother Nature can show her capricious side and you'll get a wintry mix all the way down to Laredo. You may see snow flurries, but I've never seen a coating of snow. Suffice it to say that, even in deep winter, we rarely use the big on board propane heater-space heaters work fine. Having heat pumps on board and/or electric heater strips in your air conditioner can also be a plus. Since electricity is part of our pay package it's a no-brainer. You should; however, make space for a winter outfit or two. A long, cold night on a gate in the rain and sleet will quickly convince you of that. More common are the thunderstorms that normally signify the onslaught of hell; or the South Texas summer, and the break of the grip of the heat, usually in mid September. Unfortunately, we are in the confluence of several weather factors in South Texas, so anything can and will happen. We have Gulf moisture, the winds off the mountains just South of the border, the Pacific Ocean and Baja California weather, whatever the Rocky mountains can throw at us, plus the jet stream! What that all means is that we can and do get thunderstorms, heavy rain and extreme wind events. Tornados are rare, but straight line winds of over 70 mph are a fairly common occurrence. A few gate guards have had their rigs damaged and even totaled from these events. Some brave souls strap their awnings down and ride out most of the weather. The rest of us rarely put our awnings out and, instead, buy a cheap pop up like an EZ Up. If you're a winter Texan, it makes your packing fairly easy. As I said previously, a couple of full winter outfits will get you through the winter. Some long underwear and hoodies or sweatshirts should cover the rest of the time. Although it can be difficult, even I have to occasionally give up my clogs for the winter. A pair of boots and mud boots are also a great idea. Don't forget a light pair of gloves to keep those fingers warm!
The other seasons we have in the oil patch are of man's doing. After you spend a little time down here, you will notice a rhythm in regards to how things are done. January though April the drilling and fracking plod along, picking up speed and quantity when the budgets start pouring money in for the fiscal year. May through August things are pretty busy which also coincides with a shortage of guards since the Winter Texans are gone. However, the seemingly unorganized chaos of a few years ago has eased quite a bit, lessening the demand for guards in the summer. September; especially Labor Day, signals the return of the winter Texans. Every year the best time to arrive for winter work seems to slide back. While school starting and other obligations dictate arrival times, it is always better to be early. The last couple of years have been challenging for winter gate guards (and gate guards in general) in regards to gate placement. The demand just isn't there and the end of the fiscal year budget constraints have a direct impact on contractors. Add in the hunting season and you inevitably end up having folks sitting around. And, yes, they do shut down drilling and fracking for hunting season. Traffic is also restricted and some gates are even shut down. If ever there was an impetus to do a professional job and make a good impression, it is winter in the oil patch. Quality guards are coveted and rarely find themselves without work. Keep all this in mind and come prepared and you can have a pretty uneventful time in the oil patch.

1 comment:

  1. August 28, 2014

    Hi Mark
    Good analysis on the weather. Yes we came back to south Texas early for the reasons you bring up in this post, plane old supply and demand. You never really know if you are one of the coveted ones, so we decided to be early. We have been back on gate since the eighteenth, and the company had two gates that we could take. This was bust for that week and now what are we going but logging oil and water trucks along with the gager and a few maintenance pickup trucks.