Drilling down: What’s it really like to be a Motorhand?

Drilling is in Mitchell Andersen’s blood. His grandfather drilled. His uncles drilled.

“It’s the family business,” said Andersen.

“I’m from Alberta, and in Alberta, we drill for oil.”

Andersen is a Motorhand on Trinidad Rig 92, a heavy double that operates near Rocky Mountain House, between Edmonton and Calgary.

The location of Trinidad Rig 92. Click map for more details. (Map data from Google)

The seven year oilfield veteran shared his thoughts on working as a Motorhand and choosing a career in the patch

A Motorhand’s responsibilities

DSCN0195The Motorhand position is the third rung on a rig hand’s climb up the career ladder.

What exactly does a Motorhand do?

“My main function is to watch the rig. I’m the eyes and ears,” explained Andersen.

“I’m not chained to any one location (on the rig), so I can cruise around, keep an eye on stuff. If anything breaks, I fix it, and I try and catch it before it does.”

Here is a list of Andersen’s main responsibilities:

  • Operate and maintain the rig’s diesel and electric engines as well as other mechanical equipment
  • Order tools and replacement parts for engines and test the machinery for operability and safety
  • Clean and maintain engines
  • Train, supervise and assist other crew members
  • Operate and maintain the rig’s boiler systems

With Canada’s bitterly cold winters, that last point (maintaining the rig’s boiler systems) is a big deal. If a boiler stops running and the rig goes down, it can take three days to unthaw, explained Andersen. That is why, as a Motorhand, you have to be “on the ball.”

“If you’re 500 kilometres in the bush, and it’s -40 C, conditions can change fast and things can freeze up. It’s a very serious job,” he explained.

The best part of the job

Andersen is not afraid to get his hands dirty. He loves to fix equipment – an important trait in a person tasked with keeping millions of dollars worth of machinery up and running.

“I’m a really mechanically-inclined person, so any chance to take something apart, open it up, see how it works . . . that would be the best day for me,” he said. 

The challenges

Andersen explained that you get used to working outside during Canada’s cold winters, but it can be tough.

A drilling career is not easy and it’s not for everyone, he warned (take this quiz to find out if rig work is for you).

“If you like to work hard, if you like to be outside – be out in nature, if you are mechanically inclined, if you have a thick skin, it can be a great job,” he said. “It’s more of a lifestyle than a career.”

Working with Trinidad

To state the obvious, we’re not the only game in town when it comes to drilling contractors. So why does Andersen like working with Trinidad?

“They have really good iron,” he explained. “They maintain iron well; they maintain good business relations with oil companies; they stay busy; they keep me working. It’s a great company.”

Join the Trinidad Drilling team

Visit our careers page to view opportunities with Trinidad, an industry leading drilling contractor.

Want to learn more about other positions on a rig? Check out our “A day in the life of a rig worker” series.

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