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Working in the Canadian oil sands: 6 figures in 6 months!
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komatiite Offline
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RE: Working in the Canadian oil sands: 6 figures in 6 months!
Seismic: Data Sheet

I don't think anyone in this thread has mentioned seismic until I mentioned it in the post regarding pilot jobs. As someone who had their first oil-related job in seismic exploration which has led to a life-long career in the patch, I thought it may be good to at least explain the industry to the forum to people new to the whole petroleum business as to what role it plays and whether to consider it as an option. Note that this post applies to American guys too, so if you are struggling to get work in Canada, this is always an option Stateside.

So what is Seismic?

Check out these video, easier to visualize this process with videos instead of a complex explanation:

Note that this video simply focuses on "Vibe Trucks" as the primary source of energy. Often times, you will see large trucks with drills on them that drill holes about 100 feet deep underground. Then, they drop in dynamite and plug the hole with bentonite clay. Either way, the surface environment dictates which process will be used. Cannot use vibe trucks in muskeg in northern Alberta or swampy Louisiana for example, only dynamite drilling.

So What Jobs Are Available?

First, understand the process. An oil company (ie, Chevron) will have rights to drill in a tract of land, but may not have confidence on where exactly the oil may be trapped underground. So they will hire a geophysical company (ie CGGVeritas) to run seismic on this land.

Permit agent: These guys are seismic's version of landmen. They get paid well. Their job is to convince landowners to let the seismic process happen on their land as cheaply as possible. They generally have tons of knowledge on landowner law and mineral rights law. Great job for guys with the gift of gab, and are invaluable in places with very complex landowner laws such as in the USA that vary state to state. In Canada, the laws are much more oil-company friendly and people are generally easier to deal with than redneck ranchers in the US, so they are less important in Canada. Usually a third party company.

Surveyor: This is the first step in the geophysical process. These guys are generally employed through a third party company that focuses solely on surveying/geomatics. The oil company rep (generally a geophysicist) plans out a survey model on the land surface. For 3D seismic (the most accurate method), this entails of creating a grid over the tract of land. The vertical lines of the grid may be the 'receiver line' where they lay out geophones, and the horizontal gridlines will be where they plan to have shot points where the vibe truck or dynamite drill will provide the energy source. Surveyors go in with GPS technology and will first map the area for hazards, roads, houses, powerlines, etc, and then mark these source and receiver points along this proposed grid. It often requires a lot of thinking when you are encountered with hazards and how to properly skid points out of the way. You will either do this job on foot, on boats, or quads.
Jobs: Surveyor, surveyor assistant, brush cutter (they cut lines through forests to make it easier for subsequent crews to follow these lines) and flaggers (just marking points and lines with flagging and spraypaint to help subesequent crews follow the grid lines). Surveying is a great job, it pays very well. You often see guys with SAIT diplomas in GIS or Geomatics Technology running these crews, and reporting to geomatics engineers.

Linemen/Jughounds: These guys follow the receiver lines and place the geophones in the surveyed receiver locations. The geophones are connected via extension cords to the doghouse/recorder truck, so the job is pretty physically intensive- tons of stuff to carry around. Employed by the seismic company.

Energy Source: The guys who operate the vibe trucks are generally a one man show, but drilling trucks require a couple of assistants to help jab that dynamite in the holes, and subsequently plug them Employed by the seismic company.

Powder man: This is the dude who transports the dynamite and keeps it under locks in a magazine on site. Very important on dynamite jobs that are near civilization- can't have dynamite accessible to the public! Employed by either a seismic company or is third party.

Teardown Crew: These guys rehabilitate the surface land that has been affected by the process. They clean up flagging, plant trees if the landowner requests it, etc. Employed by the seismic company, these guys often also work as jughounds.

Recorders: Guys who sit in the recorder truck all day and gather the geophysical data. Employed by the seismic company.

Safety: Obviously, a key part on any crew. Generally employed by the seismic company or individual safety companies.

Project Manager: These guys are generally just grizzled veterans of the seismic company with no formal education.

Geophysicist: The top dog, and generally a huge nerd- very math intensive job! You need a Bachelor of Science degree at the minimum to do this job. You are paid big bucks to process and interpret that seismic data. Employed by both the seismic company (processing) and the oil company (interpret the resulting data).

Job Search
The biggest company is CGGVeritas, they are worldwide. But in Canada, you may find work with smaller outfits such as Eagle/TGC or Polaris. However, the best bet may be via contractors. Survey jobs are the best, so look up smaller companies that are involved with surveying, geomatics or GIS. I won't rattle off a bunch of companies because I don't want to piss people off if they aren't hiring, but a search like this:
or things like "surveyor jobs alberta" reveals a decent amount of work. It is a much chiller side of the industry when compared to working on rigs, so if you like being outside but don't want to lose your fingers, it's a good bet!

Anyways, even if you don't have any intentions of working in this side of the oil business then at the very least you may have learned something new today! I just noticed that it had not been covered much on the forum so figured I would add in my two cents. I worked in the surveyor side in my younger days and really enjoyed the experience.

EDIT: just want to add this process is for DEEP hydrocarbon reserves, and is generally not part of the oil sands. It is a global industry though, and used in your more conventional oil zones such as NE BC, Sask and the rest of Alberta...
(This post was last modified: 03-01-2014 10:10 PM by komatiite.)
03-01-2014 10:02 PM
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Messages In This Thread
Risks, opportunities, import/export - OSL - 03-16-2013, 06:58 AM
RE: Working in the Canadian oil sands: 6 figures in 6 months! - komatiite - 03-01-2014 10:02 PM