By Linda Hsieh, assistant managing editor
Dwayne McClelland is a fourth-generation oilfield worker. His father worked on the service side with Weatherford for many years, eventually owning his own company as an oilfield manufacturer’s agent. His grandfather was a driller and toolpusher in southwestern Louisiana. And more than 100 years ago, his great-grandfather ran a team of mule-drawn wooden wagons that delivered tools to drilling rigs. You might say that drilling is in his blood.
Mr McClelland, senior drilling advisor for Chevron Pacific Indonesia, said that he had already developed an interest in drilling from going out to rigs with his father in Germany, Austria and North Africa while growing up. During his senior year in high school, a three-day orientation sponsored by Texaco sealed the deal.
“They flew us offshore in a helicopter to spend time on a production platform, then took us to LSU and explained to us what petroleum engineers did. For a 17-year-old kid, it was fascinating. I fell in love with the industry, and I left that orientation knowing I was going to be a petroleum engineer,” he said.
After graduating from the University of Southwestern Louisiana with a petroleum engineering degree, Mr McClelland joined Chevron as a drill site manager. He got stationed offshore in the Gulf of Mexico on a jackup, running high-technology equipment and having some of the “best times of my life,” he said.
Since then, he has been stationed around the world with Chevron in Saudi Arabia, California, Houston, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria and the North Sea. One assignment included a stint in production, which Mr McClelland was initially anxious about but ended up appreciating.
“Ultimately, my passion was drilling, but those few years in production made me a better drilling man. From the drilling side, we want to get the well to TD and complete it. From the production perspective, if you don’t have good production from the well, it’s just an expensive hole in the ground,” he said.
Since 2006, he has been stationed in Duri, Indonesia, where Chevron has the world’s largest steam-flood operation for heavy oil. The Duri field recently produced its 2 billionth bbl of oil, and the Chevron team plans to drill about 550 wells this year, Mr McClelland said. “We’ve made significant improvements in reducing the cycle time of our wells by about 30% by applying a tech limit approach in the last year.”
The challenges they’re facing, though, are much like challenges seen worldwide: Finding mechanically sound, available rigs and competent rig crews. And the personnel problem has him particularly concerned. “We’re moving up rig crews fairly quickly – taking roughnecks to derrickmen to assistant drillers to drillers in a 4- or 5-year time frame. There’s not enough time to train people in the progressive manner we used to, and there are inherent risks in that. It’s a necessary evil, simply because of the demand for new personnel, but it’s something that does concern me.”
He also cautioned the industry to not get too relaxed with safety just because industry statistics show we’re doing a good job so far: “The great crew change is just now really beginning. The big wave has yet to hit us.”