Depending on the company, field production operators may be responsible for the field production of oil wells or gas wells, or both. They optimize production by:
- monitoring production and running diagnostics on well performance
- maintaining flow lines
- scheduling and supervising down hole wireline dewaxing programs on flowing oil wells
- monitoring down hole pump efficiency on artificial lift wells and reporting malfunctions
- identifying failed equipment and reporting which replacement parts are needed.
Senior production operators also may:
- identify safety hazards and issue safe work permits
- supervise work crews to ensure safe operating practices and compliance with legislated and corporate requirements
- monitor environmental issues and report any incidents to regulatory bodies.
Oil field production operators usually are responsible for a number of wells (the number depending on the size of the oil field, level of automation, production systems and company operating the wells). Specific duties vary from one position to another and from one company to another. For example, some oil field production operators, called pumpers, only are responsible for checking wellhead equipment. Other oil field production operators, called battery operators, work entirely at batteries (field stations that have treatment units, water disposal units and storage units). However, in most companies, oil field production operators are responsible for wellhead equipment, batteries and satellite facilities.
If enhanced recovery methods such as carbon dioxide or water injection are used, field production operators may operate either system. In the case of steam flood operations, operators must have additional power engineering certification.
In general, oil field production operators:
- take pressure and flow readings at oil wells
- compute and record well test data
- examine equipment on the wellhead to ensure it is running properly
- inspect flow lines from the oil well
- supervise hot oilers and pressure trucks
- examine oil lines for leaks, hydrates or wax plugging
- maintain equipment and troubleshoot problems
- isolate parts of systems for inspection, repair and cleaning
- report their findings, sometimes by mobile radio
- maintain good relations with land owners.
At treatment units in batteries, they may:
- obtain samples and readings
- input data to a computer program
- conduct basic tests on different substances
- add chemicals to the unit
- maintain equipment.
At water disposal units and oil storage tanks, they usually:
- measure pressures, temperatures and flow rates
- check storage capabilities
- measure levels in the tanks
- maintain equipment.
Depending on the level of automation of the field systems and processes, field production operators may have to manually close and open or adjust valves and pressures in an area. They also check the gathering systems that transport any unused gas from the battery to the gas plant or other markets.
In some fields, oil field production operators also may handle maintenance. Those who work with a helper are responsible for training the helper.
Gas field production operators are responsible for a number of gas wells depending on the level of automation, the processes and systems used, the size of the gas field and the employing organization. The amount of travel required depends on whether gas wells are near each other or scattered in isolated areas.
At each well, gas field production operators:
- check equipment that controls the flow and pressure of the well
- check valves, flowlines and hydrate suppression systems
- take readings of temperatures, pressures and flow rates
- take gas samples
- maintain equipment.
They also may bring on wells or shut in wells. Where there are no dehydration facilities near a gas well, operators must check the heaters in the gathering system. When there are problems, they may have to:
- relight pilot lights
- check for corrosion and flowline leaks
- adjust valves that control flow from various gathering lines
- check compressors
- add corrosion inhibitors or dewpoint depression chemicals.
If dehydration facilities are near the gas well, field production operators may:
- record readings
- take samples
- conduct basic tests on the samples.