What the Frack?

Yes, the title is a nod to all those fellow Battlestar Galactica fans out there, although I think they spell it frak, but it is also a phase in oil production.  We left our gate last year prior to this phase starting, so we were curious about what it would look like on a gate.  People talk about it as a busy period in gate guarding, so we expected sort of steady stream of water and sand trucks coming in and going out, but that hasn’t been the situation here.  Instead we are getting those trucks through all hours of the day and night but they stay on site for as much as 4 hours when they come.  I don’t really get it to be honest.  We only have one well, and we heard through the grapevine they are having issue with it, but having a truck driver sit for hours at a time seems inefficient.  I asked the question in our Gate Guarding Facebook group we are in, and I think what is happening is they use different types of sand for different parts of the process so sometimes they have to sit and wait until it’s their turn.  Weird to me, but that’s how it is.  Someone told me they have upwards of 25 trucks sitting and waiting their turn on occasion.  We had 12 last night and I thought that was a lot.

Turns out the frack in this location was just a few days.  When Lee was on duty the next morning lots of people told him they were done and moving on which surprised the heck out of both of us.  It’s not 100% complete though as they still need to move out all of the remaining sand trucks and equipment, but really the whole thing was much ado about nothing.  We hear people talking about fracking process and how much traffic there is, but that wasn’t our experience.  Hard to tell if we just got lucky or if the workload is overstated, maybe it depends on the well.  We have heard that this particular one has had some technical challenges and isn’t flowing as fast as they normally do.  Maybe that is why the traffic was lighter?

My first question was “How much longer will the gate be open?”  You would think that would be a very simple question, but it is a hard one to get an answer to.  As I have mentioned before, these projects are very segmented, with each group only knowing about their individual piece, and although someone, somewhere must be in charge of the overall job, finding out who that is and talking to them is not easy.  Here’s an example.  A guy came to fill up the gasoline in our light stand and I asked him how long they were going to be on the job.  My thought process was that when the light left, maybe we would be leaving too.  He responded, “I don’t know how long are you going to be here?” Alrighty then, sorry I asked.

I do know though that when these oil field crews are motivated, they get things done!  A group of trucks came in this morning and by 3:30 they were all moving out with loads of equipment on trucks.  There were 11 trucks in all,  full of huge equipment,  and I watched them stream past, amazed by how quickly they had disassembled the equipment. The good news for us is this crew has been a large portion of the traffic at night, and if they truly are done we would expect things to slow down a bit.  Not that it has been that busy, but hey, less traffic for us.  Here is a quick picture of a portion of the convoy that went by.

Another good piece of news is the weather has been really nice.  That is changing later in the week, but for now the temps are in the 60’s and even 80’s during the day.  As I am writing this I am wearing shorts, which is awesome!  It gets MUCH colder after the sun goes down, but I am dealing with that since most of my outside trips late at night are pretty short.  Most of the time I just wave the big trucks through, (we get the driver information at the beginning of the day) and I can use that to fill out my forms.   The small trucks I always go out and see the driver the first time they come in, but if they leave and return throughout the night I am able to look back on my paperwork and wave them through from the open door.  That’s what I like about working from the rig versus a guard shack.  Most of the time I am in my house.

One other thing I should probably mention is the coyote is still hanging around.  Actually we think it is more than one since Lee saw a pack of 5 of them down the road a bit.  So far they are maintaining a distance, although I was talking to my sister the other night and walked outside and one was standing at the light post and just staring at me.  That was definitely unsettling and I had to explain to my sister why I completely lost my train of thought.  So far I am leaving them be because they are staying outside of my circle of light at night, but if I see them closer to the rig I will need to take steps.  Somewhere we have an air horn that we bought for bears a couple of years ago and that will be my first attempt at getting them to back off.

The next couple of days were nice and mellow, and although there was a significant amount of traffic as they moved heavy equipment out the weather was nice so it was just fine.  Then on Wednesday we got a wind warning.  Around 2pm the wind started blowing, and the gusts were up to 60 mph.  As those of you who live in RV’s know, wind is not our friend, and the RV was rocking as we got hit by the gusts.  Huge tumbleweeds were blowing by, and everything that wasn’t staked down blew over.  I am not a huge fan of wind, and I especially don’t like it when it has grit in it.  This wind was full of pebbles and grit, and if you walked into it you got pelted in the face.  Not nice, and it was bad enough that we put on our safety glasses.   Thankfully the truck traffic died down significantly during the storm.  At 4pm though when I walked outside to check in a vehicle, no kidding, the wind almost pushed me over.  I had to turn away from it just to see to write on the paper and really it was pretty ugly.  Lee offered to take over for me until the wind died down and I took him up on it.  He’s heavier than I am and apparently hardier and although I want to do my fair share on occasion I am just fine with letting him take care of me.

In order to take this picture I stood on the top step with the wind buffeting me so hard I almost got knocked off. I know it doesn’t do it justice, but there was definitely a sandstorm!

On Wednesday we were down to about 2″ of water in the tank so I called our service guy to find out when our water delivery was scheduled.  It was pretty clear at this  point that no special delivery would be made, and I at least wanted to know when our regular one was.  He stated we were due on Friday, but also said he had a tank with some water in it and could bring it over.  I wasn’t sure if he would be able to make it because the winds were so strong, but was pleasantly surprised when he showed up around 4:30.  The weather was windy and getting colder by the minute at this point, and it takes a while to pump water from one container to another.  Plus, our septic pump wasn’t working either so Lee had him look at that while he was there. According to him he had never heard that we needed water from the coordinator, and in any event he recommended we call him first if there was an issue.  So we will definitely do that and Lee was really nice to him when he came. Obviously this is a situation where all the power lies in the hands of one guy, and all you can do in those circumstances is make sure he likes you.

After battling the wind, I was pretty tired in the morning and went straight to bed when Lee woke up.  After a somewhat restless night, I woke up with a pretty stiff face.  I really should have washed my face before I went to bed because when I got in the shower I realized I had a layer of sand and grit on it.  I scrubbed my face using Angels on Bare Skin scrub from Lush and then moisturized using Celestial.  Worked wonders!  I just need to make sure that I start washing my face before I go to bed lol.

Speaking of bed, I have been sleeping ok, but find myself waking up every morning around 8:30am.  The sun comes up on that side of the rig and shines into the room, and unfortunately that was waking me up.  Lee decided I needed my sleep though and took some black trash bags and blacked out the windows.  I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not, but it is pretty great how dark it is and there is a tiny bit of ambient light in case I do need to get up in the middle of the “night”.

Lee’s excellent taping job and much cheaper than blackout curtains


This is what the room looks like with the light turned off. Yep it’s that dark, and I slept great!

Oh, and we found out some really good news.  The frack stage is absolutely done,and next they will be starting the work over.  That means much less traffic, and according to what they are telling us the gate should be open for 3-6 weeks more.  On Friday, we received our full 500 gallons of water, and we were topped off on diesel fuel as well.  We are tracking our daily water usage now and have 35 gallons a day to play with until our next fill-up, which will be more than plenty.  So we are definitely settled in here, which is a great thing.  I am enjoying the downtime very much, and actually cracked open my rough draft last night and started to work on it a bit.   That’s all for this week, looking forward to watching fomr football this weekend.  The picture here is outstanding and it’s great to be in one place where I can just watch the games.

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