The Lease Pumper's Handbook

 Responsibilities of the Lease Pumper 1. Job Duties. 2. Work Hours. · Lease pumper work schedules. · Lunch time. 3. Company Policies. · Contract pumping services. · Honesty is critical for employer trust. 4. Special Precautions. · The use of drugs or alcohol. · Hazards from heat sources. · Carrying firearms to work. B. Field Operations 1. Dressed for Work and Weather. · Full-length pants. · Steel-toed shoes. · Eyeglasses and protective shields. · Gloves. · Hard hat. 2. Miscellaneous Gear. · Rags or wipes. · Pens, pencils, and paper. · Other items. 3. Typical Lease Hand Tools. · Vehicle tool and equipment storage. · The lease pumper’s toolbox and storage shed. 4. Oil Gauging and Test Equipment. 5. Lease Operating Expenses. · Supply expenses. 6. Government Regulating Agencies. · The Bureau of Land Management (BLM). · Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). · Environmental protection and standards. 1-ii 





Chapter 1 Section A



This handbook presents information that must be known to the group of field workers who produce so much of the nation’s energy. This occupation, like many others today, may be known by a number of different titles within the industry, such as production technician. However, this manual will use the long respected and accepted title of lease pumper. While the assigned duties of a lease pumper may vary widely from company to company and even from lease to lease within the same company, some duties are almost always part of the lease pumper’s responsibilities, and these duties are the primary focus of this book. 


A-1. Job Duties. The lease pumper’s primary job responsibility is to produce, treat, and sell as much crude oil and natural gas as possible with the lowest cost. These costs—often referred to as operating costs or lifting costs—consist of all lease expenses, costs of tools and equipment, vehicles, supplies such as chemicals, utilities such as electricity, and salaries of personnel who work the lease, including the lease pumper. There are many other not-so-obvious expenses such as paying for the original purchase of the lease, royalties, costs of well services, and supervisory and office expenses. Even less obvious than these are taxes, insurance, employee benefits, lease support, and possibly bank interest and debt repayment. The lease must make a profit above all of these expenses. Most of the oil sold, if not all of it, will be produced from pumping wells or wells with some type of enhanced recovery. As production from a well declines (and most wells are low production or marginally producing wells), the income from the lease also declines, while the time and cost required to coax production increases. Thus, the challenge for the lease pumper to make a profit from the lease becomes more difficult—which means that good skills become even more important. 

Another challenge of a career as a lease pumper is to be a good self-starter who can get a job done without a lot of supervision. Some people are capable of working steadily all day by themselves doing necessary and constructive work. Others are not highly motivated and do not do well at pushing themselves, working well only when they have continuous work supervision. When a lease pumper lacks the self-discipline to do the work that is required to maintain the lease, the equipment and site will become run down, and the lack of adequate attention will soon be obvious in the appearance of the lease and the production records. 


A-2. Work Hours. While many lease pumpers are considered to be full-time employees working forty hours per week, others work part-time accumulating less than forty hours each 1A-2 week, especially lease pumpers that work a variety of leases as a relief worker, filling in for lease pumpers who are sick, on vacation, or on their days off. 

Employers differ in how they count a lease pumper’s number of hours. Some lease operators consider that the work day begins as soon as the lease pumper begins the trip to the lease and does not end until the return trip is completed. This is called port-to-port pay. Other operators mark the start of the workday as the time when the lease pumper actually arrives at the lease. This may be referred to as lease-time pay. It is not unusual for a lease operator to pay for travel time one way and not the other. When accepting employment, the lease pumper must clearly understand the terms for calculating pay. Acceptance of these terms is usually a condition of employment. 

Lease pumper work schedules. Most lease pumpers get into the habit of going to work early, arriving at the lease once the day is fully light so that everything on the lease can be easily observed. Another advantage of arriving early is that major problems that may have occurred during the night can be identified. In this way, if the problem requires that a service company respond, there is a better chance that they will be able to come the same day. 

While starting work after sunrise may benefit the lease pumper, oilfield workers in active districts have probably already been working for several hours, especially in large companies. The early morning tasks for oilfield workers with a major oil company may follow a schedule such as: 

4:00 a.m. Rig tool pushers get morning reports from rig crews. 

5:00 a.m. Rig reports are telephoned to home office. 

6:00 a.m. Superintendents and supervisors meet to plan day. 

7:00 a.m. Field supervisors and pushers meet to outline day and make contract labor arrangements. 

8:00 a.m. Field workers arrive to begin day. 

Lunch time. Lease operators differ in how they count the time the lease pumper spends eating lunch in terms of hourly wages. Some employers pay straight through lunch time if the lease pumper remains on the site, but do not count the time if the lease pumper leaves the lease to eat. One reason for this policy is that it is often possible for the lease pumper to eat while monitoring an operation, such as circulating oil. As with other employment policies, the lease pumper must clearly understand the allowances made for lunch. 


A-3. Company Policies. Most companies operate with set policies. Larger companies may maintain documents detailing these policies. These policies may give information about: 

· The work day and work week.

· Probationary and permanent employment.

· Overtime policies.

· Sick time. · Vacation time.

· Insurance plan.

· Holidays and holiday work policies.

· Savings plans.

· Retirement plan.

· Worker’s compensation. 

· Social security. 

· Tax withholdings.

· Education plans.

· Disciplinary actions and termination policies. 

· Other important topics

Many leases are held by small companies. It is not uncommon for an applicant for a position as a lease pumper to meet with the company owner during the hiring process. Often the owner or hiring supervisor may offer the job to a prospective employee during the first interview. Therefore, the person interviewing for the job should be prepared to ask key questions that will help the applicant decide whether or not to take the job. Such questions may include:

· What is the salary being offered? 

· What is the company’s policy on advancement and pay increases? 

· What are duties of the job?

· What hours of the day will be worked?

· Is time driving to and from work considered hours worked?

· Is lunch time considered to be work hours?

· Which days of the week will be worked?

· Is overtime paid and how is it figured?

· What is the company policy on holidays, vacation, sick leave, and other types of absences (jury duty, bereavement, military duty, etc.)?

· Who works the lease on those days when the regular lease pumper is off?

· What happens when the relief pumper gets sick?

 · Is the lease pumper allowed to take the vehicle home? 

· How are necessary supplies obtained? · What purchasing authority does the lease pumper have? 

· Does the company offer a retirement plan?

Because the duties of a lease pumper can vary greatly from company to company, the experienced lease pumper may want to ask specific about the job duties and responsibilities. For example, the applicant may ask, “Am I expected to bump bottom and lift rod strings by myself? Do I help pull rod and tubing strings?” The prospective employee may want to visit the lease site so that the company representative can explain what the job entails. This also gives the applicant a chance to see how well the lease is maintained, whether the equipment is in good repair, whether the access roads have been kept up, and other indications of how important such things are to the company. 

Thus, there can be many differences in working for a small company or working for a large one. The large company may have more structure, with established policies and procedures as well as a large support staff, contracted services, perhaps new tools and equipment, and other features that appeal to some lease pumpers. On the other hand, a smaller company may not offer the support structure and fringe benefits that a large company can afford, but may appeal to some lease pumpers due to their greater flexibility and the work can be very satisfying. Often the lease pumper becomes almost like family with the owners and, in some instances, will eventually own such a company. 

Contract pumping services. Many companies now contract construction, maintenance, and pumping services instead of hiring their own personnel. This is the continuation of a trend that started many years ago when production companies began contracting with drilling companies then with well service providers and eventually with workover specialists. Today, many lease operators lease, such as large compressors and engines, and the movement will probably progress to the leasing of pumping units, flow lines, and tank batteries. This movement means that some lease pumpers have little responsibility for maintenance and 1A-4 can focus on production and selling the oil and gas produced. Lease pumpers who prefer the maintenance tasks associated with the job may find employment with equipment leasing companies more to their liking. 

Honesty is critical for employer trust. The lease pumper is the only one who knows exactly what happens on the lease each day. The problems that occur may happen downhole, involve the automated or surface equipment, or be caused by an action of the lease pumper or contract personnel. Some people have trouble admitting to the smallest mistake or error in judgment. This can result in false reports being submitted, which may lead to incorrect wrong conclusions being made concerning lease problems. As an illustration, suppose that a lease pumper inspects a pumping unit. At that particular time of the day, the unit happened to be in an automatic off cycle and was not pumping. As part of the inspection, the lease pumper turns the control switch through the off position to run and completes the inspection. The switch should then be reset for automatic control. However, if the lease pumper fails to turn the switch far enough to re-engage the automatic control and leaves it in the off position, the well will be shut down. It will not produce any oil until the lease pumper returns, meaning that there is likely to be no production for 24 hours. The oil shortage the next day was caused by the lease pumper’s carelessness, but no one knows that except the guilty party. What should the lease pumper put in the report? There may be a temptation to list the problem as a control failure. But doing so may mean that a well servicing unit is dispatched when no problem exists In another example, the lease pumper may accidentally leave a casing valve closed after injecting fluid down the casing during a treatment of a pumping well. In this case, production from the well will decline and, after about three days, will fall almost to zero. The problem can be easily corrected by slowly bleeding off the casing pressure, but the lease pumper may be tempted to hide the mistake. Such actions are obviously dishonest, but in many cases they are easy for the lease pumper to get away with for on most days no one but the lease pumper visits the site. Yet if an employer cannot trust the lease pumper to be honest about mistakes that anyone can make, how can that employer be assured that the lease pumper is not cheating on oil production, abusing purchasing authority, using the vehicle for personal errands, or even going to the leases as required. The hiring of a lease pumper is a tremendous act of faith on the part of the lease owner. Just as some people may not have the initiative to be their own boss, some do not have the degree of honesty to fulfill their half of this relationship of trust. 


A-4. Special Precautions 

The use of drugs or alcohol. Clearly lease operators will not tolerate the use of illegal drugs and the consumption of alcohol on the job and while traveling to and from the lease. The lease owner may require periodic unannounced drug tests and is entitled take appropriate actions if problems occur. However, the lease pumper should also be aware that some over-the-counter and prescription medications can impair a worker’s ability to operate a vehicle or to perform work around moving equipment. When taking medicine, the lease pumper should check the label or consult a physician or pharmacist about possible side-effects that may prevent the safe performance of required tasks. 

Hazards from heat sources. Oil and gas are important because the energy they contain can be released through burning. For this reason, an oil or gas lease naturally presents risks of fire and explosions. Add to this the dangers presented by fuels, stored materials, soiled rags, and other potential fire hazards, and it becomes clear why so many lease operators restrict the use and presence of heat sources on the lease site. For example, smoking may be allowed only in the vehicle and only with the use of the vehicle cigarette lighter. Carrying matches or a lighter may be forbidden (Figure 1). These regulations and policies may seem restrictive but are aimed toward saving life and preventing suffering. 

Carrying firearms to work. Lease pumpers should refer to their company’s policy on carrying firearms to work.

On some leases, the use of open flames may be forbidden. These are just a few of the policies and practices that a company or lease operator may put into effect with regard to lease operations. The lease pumper should discuss policies with the lease operator to determine what practices are acceptable and which are not allowed.


Chapter 1 Section B