#22 Working Offshore

Jackup Oil Rig - EndeavourGrowing up in the 70s and 80s, it was impossible not to feel the impact that the oil and natural gas industry had on southern Louisiana. Local businesses boomed with money from oil profits. Most people I knew had some connection to the industry, either by working in the oil field, or in one of its many support industries. Working offshore was one of the best paying jobs in southern Louisiana for a non-college graduate. In fact, you could make a lot more money working offshore than most college graduates could. My grandfather worked on an Exxon drilling platform for 40 years, and was able to comfortably support his wife and six children on his salary. Sadly, he was part of the last generation of Cajuns who could work in the oil field for 40 years, and get the gold watch treatment.

Oil played a huge role in Louisiana in the 20th century. Land based oil exploration began in Louisiana in the early 1900s, and the first offshore platform was built off the Louisiana coast in the 1940s. Many thousands of Cajun men were drawn to this industry in the years that followed. When oil and gas prices rose in the 1970s, Louisiana’s economy boomed. Oil companies built more rigs and hired more people on the assumption that the price of oil would reach $50 a barrel, a bet that was lost when prices crashed to $10 a barrel in the mid 1980s. In the aftermath of the crash, unemployment reached double digits and Louisiana residents experienced a deep recession, with many people losing their livelyhoods. While the rest of the country enjoyed a booming economy, the 1980s was a hard time for Louisiana and its citizens.

Most offshore workers work one of two types of shifts, a 7 & 7, or a 14 & 7, meaning 7 days working followed by 7 days off or 14 days working and 7 days off. I spent a summer working on a natural gas platform, and I can easily say it’s the hardest job I ever worked. I’d wake up at 4am every other Monday morning and drive out to Intracoastal City, deep in Vermilion Parish. There I’d take a 45 minute helicopter ride out to my platform with my co-workers. Once I arrived, I was put right to work. As low man on the totem poll, I was stuck doing most of the menial tasks, from unloading the supply boats, to sandblasting and painting the rig while dangling 150 ft over the water. At the end of a hard 12 hour day, I wound down as most roughnecks do, by eating lots of food, watching TV, and playing some cards or pool at night.

Life on a rig is full of all sorts of potential hazards. It’s very easy to lose a finger or toe, get struck by a heavy object, or throw your back out lifting something heavy. The risk of injury is multiplied by the remoteness of the rig. Any hospital emergency room is well over an hour away, and rig staff usually have minimal first aid training. Injuries are so common, in fact, that local law firms have created a cottage industry of offshore injury litigation. Sure, your back might not work again, but you’ll have the best bass boat in the neighborhood while you collect workman’s comp. Luckily, I survived my summer offshore with no injuries, but I’m convinced that had I stayed longer, it was just a matter of time before something happened to me.

Today, Louisiana remains the #1 producer of crude oil, and #2 producer of natural gas in the United States. With 19 operating crude oil refineries, it has the second largest refining capacity in the US. Louisiana supplies a quarter of the U.S. production of natural gas. There are currently more 2,300 active oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. With oil prices over $110 a barrel, the industry is once again booming, though not at the same levels seen in the 1970s. There are many jobs to go around, but people who lived through the last recession are reluctant to return since they fear that there’s no long term future in the field. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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18 thoughts on “#22 Working Offshore

  1. My pawpaw worked and retired from Exxon. My daddy worked offshore and my husband did, too. Now they both do heat treating.

  2. What are the jobs like now for someone coming in from out of state to work off shore? Possibly a galley hand or unskilled (as far as the oil business goes) type of work.

  3. No idea. I haven’t lived in Louisiana for 10 years. With no experience, you pretty much have to work your way up from the bottom, and hope the bottom doesn’t fall out of the oil market and leave you unemployed. There are several high paying dangerous jobs out there like underwater welding, diving, etc. Those pay pretty well, if you don’t get killed first.

  4. I have been welding for a while now, and i do pretty well paywise…but I wanted to get into the underwater welding scene…Does anyone have recommendations for a company that I could look into and/or specific locations of where I should look. Right now, I’m considering an underwater weld program, one in Jacksonville Florida and the other in San Diego California…I was also wondering, lets say I got a job at Exxon or BP or something along those lines, would they pay for the dive training??
    any advice would help…THanks Guys

  5. I have been working offshore for the past few years. The only time i dont feel safe is on the chopper. one thing about offshore your either a coonass (Louisiana) or a redneck (Texas) plenty of people from Mississippi but who knows where they fall?

    • coonass = Louisiana (We’re the ones complaining that the coffee is folgers and not community)

      rednecks = Texas (they complain when a coonass makes the coffee, “this tastes burnt”

      stump-jumpers = Mississippi (side with coonasses because we all cheer for the Saints, and hate the Dallas Cowgirls)

  6. Rednecks and Coonasses…Might be an interesting topic to explore, since there’s some overlap between the two (not that all Coonasses are necessarily rednecks!)

  7. I’ve been in the buisness since 1970 and it’s great. The jobs have gotten a lot safer than when I started. The buisness is slow now, but it will pick up again soon. Ilove the 14 and 14 work schedule.

  8. My dad was a doodlebugger for Texaco, and I had 2 uncles that worked for Shell and another one that worked as the head cook on my dad’s quarterboat. Back then, when I an into any other uncles that didn’t wok offshore, I’d wonder “what’s wrong with them???”
    I started working on my dad’s crew during the summer as soon as I turned 16 (But even before I turned of age, my dad would take me down during the summer just to hang out). I even spent time on a land crew up in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Em was some good times-The boat was sometimes parked at some tiny dock with access to a road-I did alot of underage drinking back there. In LA we worked down near Grand Isle, Sabine Wildlife Preserve, and Cocodrie. Sabine had alligators every 4 ft down the canal and we had a monster 13fter that we feed every day. Cocodrie had nutria the buggies used to run over-we never saw them until it was too late. Got to drive and ride crew boats, marsh buggies and airboats, got to spend all day outside (being stuck in the cane breaks was not fun—no air whatsoever) swim in the gulf, catch gators when we were bored and all the food you can eat-no charge!
    I could go on all day…

  9. It was, and that was the hayday, my Dad was a MSO for Halliburton, man it was a company then…and it cared about it’s men AND the famlies. If daddy was offshore and the car broke mom didn’t call a mechanic, she call the Halliburton shop, they took care of it. We’d have huge family get togethers, I can remember an Easter Egg hunt right there on the yard. It was great…but that was in the day. Now it all about the dollar you don’t even get a Christmas Bonus. My brother was Hallibuton got almost killed when a valve blew out on a rig, he didn’t even get a Get Well Card. And the lawyers were the only ones that came out smiling after all was said and done. My husband and two son-in-laws both worked for them it was heartbreaking to see what happened to the company. Now my hubby works for another service company up here in yankee land (north of 1-10). It’s all land based natural gas. We get by but thats about it. They had to take a pay cut at the first of the year and we lost our 401K. I’m looking to loose insurance before long. Sigh I guess I should be grateful he has a job many don’t. But it sure isn’t like it used to be

  10. i am looking for off shore work or on land work i live in basile louisiana but had to take a job in north texas and be away from my family so if any one can help me get back home to them call me at 337-580-0149

  11. Pingback: Offshore Welding Jobs Louisiana Mississippi • Jobs-Careers-Vacancies™

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