Depending on the company, field production operators may be in charge of field production for 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 downhole wireline dewaxing programs on flowing oil wells
- Monitoring downhole pump efficiency on artificial lift wells and reporting malfunctions
- Identifying failed equipment and reporting which replacement parts are needed
Senior production operators may identify safety hazards, issue safe work permits, isolate equipment for maintenance, return equipment to operation after maintenance is complete, and supervise work crews to ensure operating practices are safe and comply with legislated and corporate requirements. They may monitor environmental issues and report incidents to regulatory bodies.
Oil field production operators usually are responsible for several wells. The number depends on the size of the oil field, level of automation, production systems, and the company operating the wells. Specific duties vary from one position to another and one company to another. For example, some oil field production operators, called pumpers, are only responsible for checking wellhead equipment. Others, called battery operators, work entirely at batteries (field stations with treatment units, water disposal units, and storage units). However, in most companies, oil field production operators are in charge of 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. Operators must have additional power engineering certification for steam flood operations.
In general, oil field production operators take pressure and flow readings at oil wells. They also:
- 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 system parts for inspection, repair, and cleaning
- Return equipment to operation after maintenance is complete
- Report their findings, sometimes by mobile radio
- Maintain good relations with landowners
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:
- Measure pressures, temperatures, and flow rates
- Check storage capabilities
- Measure levels in the tanks
- Maintain equipment
Depending on the level of automation of 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 unused gas from the battery to the gas plant or other markets.
In some fields, oil field production operators handle maintenance. Those who work with a helper take charge of training the helper.
Gas field production operators tend to oversee several gas wells depending on the level of automation, the processes and systems used, the size of the gas field, and the company they work for. The amount of travel required depends on whether gas wells are scattered or located near each other.
At each well, gas field production operators:
- Check equipment that controls the flow and pressure of the well
- Check valves, flow lines, and hydrate suppression systems
- Take readings of temperatures, pressures, and flow rates
- Take gas samples
- Maintain equipment
They also may put wells online or isolate 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 flow line 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, and conduct basic tests on samples.