Rig speak 101: Welcome to the jungle

Trinidad Rig 130Rig hands have their own language. In fact, we provide our green hands with a translation dictionary before they hit the field (OK, it’s not really a dictionary. It’s just a glossary). Just like any language, dialects can change slightly from rig to rig, but many of the terms are universal, so newbies will want to familiarize themselves with the basics.

If you’re a seasoned hand, skip to the second part of this post where we have provided a roundup of some of our favourite animal-inspired rig terms. Welcome to the jungle!

For newbies: Terms to learn now

The first “Rig speak 101” basic to know is that there is a difference between service rigs and drilling rigs. We operate drilling rigs.

Next, familiarize yourself with the names of the crew positions and what each position does: Leasehand, Floorhand, Motorhand, Derrickhand, Driller and Rig Manager.

Here are a few other terms you should have in your back pocket:

Note: Most of the definitions are from CAODC (Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors).

Making hole: Drilling.

Well bore: The hole made by a drill bit.

Derrick: The mast of a rig. This tower-like framework supports the hoisting equipment that raises/lowers drill pipe into a hole.

Drill pipe: Steel pipe, in approximately 9-metre lengths, screwed together to form a continuous pipe extending from the drilling rig’s derrick to the drilling bit in the bottom of the hole.

Tripping: The operation of hoisting the drill string out of and then returning it to the well bore.

Laying down pipe: The operation of pulling drill pipe or tubing from the hole and laying it down on the pipe rack.

Break-up: Time in the spring, usually during April and May, when the frost comes out of the ground causing softening and heaving of roadbeds or muskeg. During break-up, drilling and service rig contractors can’t move equipment.

Rig floor: The area immediately around the rotary table and extending to each corner of the derrick. Floorhands and Motorhands work on the rig floor (Derrickhands work on the Monkeyboard, which is above the rig floor).

And finally . . .

Toolpush: You’ll want to know this one. This is a reference to the Rig Manager – the top dog on a rig and your new boss.

CAODC’s Rig Lingo page is a great resource if you are looking for a complete guide.

Welcome to the jungle: Animal-inspired rig terms

For you seasoned rig hands, have you ever noticed how many drilling terms involve animal references? We gathered some of our favourites for you:

Alligator teeth: Rows of mounting pegs for each stand in the birdbath.

Birdbath: The storage area for the bottom end of a stand of tubulars when they are stored vertically in the derrick. The birdbath also captures the drilling fluid that drains out of the stand of tubulars.

Catwalk: Steel platform immediately in front of the derrick substructure on which joints of drill pipe are stored prior to being lifted to the derrick floor by the catline. *

Dog Collar
Dog collar

Dog collar: A clamp placed tightly around a drill collar that is suspended in the rotary table by drill collar slips.

Doghouse: A small enclosure on the rig floor used as an office and/or as a storehouse for small objects. Also used as an office for the Driller.

Gooseneck: The curved connection between the rotary hose and the swivel.

Monkeyboard: Platform several metres above the rig floor where the Derrickhand works. *

Mousehole: A hole drilled under the rig floor and temporarily cased. This hole is used to hold the next joint of pipe that will be added to the drill string. *


Rathole: A hole in the rig floor, some nine- to 12-metres deep, which is lined with pipe that projects above the floor.

Wildcat: Well drilled in unproven territory. *

* Denotes definition from CAODC

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