Mudloggers play a vital role in the drilling of oil and gas, gathering information from rock samples and creating a detailed well log

As a mudlogger, you'll monitor and record drilling activity, providing information to the drilling team about a well's status during the extraction of oil or gas.

The data you collect and monitor, the 'mudlog', influences important decisions about the efficiency and placement of well sites.

You'll use a range of equipment and laboratory techniques, such as binocular microscopes, ultraviolet fluorescence and thin-section analysis, to create mud logs showing a geological record of the site being drilled.

Drilling parameters that are monitored include:

  • speed of rotation
  • rate of penetration
  • oil and gas shows (whether oil or gas is present)
  • pit levels
  • cutting rate
  • mud-flow rate.

Mudloggers ensure that accurate samples are taken at the right intervals and record any issues encountered during the drilling. They mainly work offshore and are contracted to an oil company via a service company. Less commonly, mudloggers work in water well and mineral exploration.

Mudloggers may be known as:

  • logging geologists
  • mudlogging geologists
  • mudlogging technicians.

Mudlogging is also known as hydrocarbon well logging.

Responsibilities

As a mudlogger, you'll need to:

  • work in wellsite units collecting, processing, logging and describing rock samples
  • use various laboratory techniques to analyse samples
  • monitor computer recordings of drillings
  • interpret information and feed it back to the data engineer and drilling team to enhance safety and success
  • operate and maintain a real-time computer-based data acquisition system, which records all aspects of rig activity
  • undertake on-site maintenance when necessary
  • take on the primary health and safety role for the well through constant monitoring of all critical drilling parameters
  • predict dangerous situations, such as over-pressured formations
  • assist the wellsite geologist during coring operations
  • provide written reports to the data engineer, drilling team and company.

Salary

  • Pay for mudloggers during training is usually modest until training is completed, when a typical starting salary is roughly £25,000 to £30,000.
  • Once you've built up experience as a mudlogger, you can expect to earn around £45,000. You might even be able to reach a salary of £70,000.

Benefits usually include free accommodation, food and travel when you're working away from home. Hardship posts may attract a premium.

Multinational service companies tend to offer the best pay, working conditions and opportunities for progression.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Mudloggers usually work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, spending two weeks offshore on the rig and two weeks at home. Sometimes you may need to work for four weeks at a time.

What to expect

  • Work is usually in teams of four, based in units or self-contained laboratories, which are the safest and most comfortable working areas on the rig.
  • Self-employment or freelance work, obtained via contracting companies, is sometimes possible with experience and is becoming increasingly common in mudlogging.
  • Jobs are available in restricted locations. The nearest opportunities are with North Sea oil rigs. Work in the Middle East, Africa and other regions may be possible.
  • The oilfield has a broad mix of cultures and backgrounds and creates intense physical and mental pressures. Consider how you feel about living in close quarters with others for long periods of time or spending long periods away from family and friends.
  • You don't usually need to relocate to your employer's location as mudloggers are generally employed by service companies. This is often cited as a plus point to the offshore lifestyle.

Qualifications

Most mudloggers have a degree in geology, but other relevant degree subjects include physical, mathematical or applied science and engineering. Joint degrees with geology are also acceptable.

In particular, the following subjects may be helpful:

  • applied physics
  • chemistry
  • geochemistry
  • geophysics or geotechnology
  • mineral, mining or petroleum engineering
  • petroleum geology
  • physics.

The minimum entry requirement is usually a degree as it provides the necessary scientific understanding. However, HNDs in geology or similar subjects are accepted by some companies, particularly if coupled with significant relevant practical experience.

You won't need a pre-entry postgraduate qualification.

You'll also need a good level of health and fitness, which is assessed by a medical to international standards.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • good computer skills and the ability to work with sophisticated technology
  • the ability to absorb a range of technical information in areas such as geology, chemistry, mechanics, electricity, electronics and computer science
  • strong mathematical skills
  • analytical and critical thinking
  • decision-making ability
  • excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • the ability to work independently with minimal supervision and also as part of a team
  • the ability to cope with the challenging working environment of the oil industry.

English is the generally accepted international language of the oil business. However, skills in other languages (principally French and German) can be useful.

Work experience

While pre-entry experience is not essential, vacation work and practical experience in the industry will improve your chances of finding employment.

Employers

The exploration and extraction business is worldwide and many of the jobs are based overseas. Major employers recruit internationally with many applicants coming from the United States and Europe, so UK graduates are competing with nationals of other countries.

Smaller mudlogging companies may recruit globally, although there's a tendency to recruit locally where possible.

When there is a demand for oil exploration, vacancies for mudloggers are correspondingly high and you may be able to find work anywhere in the world. However, the oil industry is strongly affected by economic trends.

In good years, major employers welcome speculative applications. Some advertise on graduate recruitment websites. Recruitment can vary between no positions advertised at all, to hundreds available in any one year.

Recruitment, training patterns and job titles vary from company to company in the extraction phase. In particular, some employers don't distinguish at entry level between petroleum, drilling and support engineering. Instead, they prefer to recruit people with wide potential and deploy them after training into roles that suit both individual and company needs.

Look for job vacancies at:

Many companies, particularly the larger ones, welcome speculative applications.

Professional development

Training varies from company to company but will almost certainly involve a course in general oil well drilling. This will cover:

  • drilling equipment and techniques
  • training in the physics and mechanics of oil-bearing rocks
  • downhole pressure and its corresponding effects on the safety of the well.

Training in computer systems is normally carried out on the job.

There's no professional accreditation associated with mudlogging. It sometimes leads on to more senior work in the oil industry, for which professional institution accreditation does exist.

Safety and survival training is obligatory and varies depending on location. To work in UK waters you'll need to obtain a BOSIET (Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training) certificate. This usually takes three days to complete and is valid for four years.

The course covers basic knowledge of safety and emergency procedures when working offshore and travelling by helicopter. Subsequent refresher courses are mandatory.

More information on training in the oil and gas industry can be found at OPITO. The Energy Institute also offers relevant training programmes - for more information, see Energy Institute - Training.

Career prospects

Mudlogging is sometimes seen as an entry point into the industry and regarded as an ideal position from which to gain knowledge and observe the practices and operation of an oil rig. However, some companies employ senior mudloggers who have been in the profession for years. Larger multinational companies tend to offer better conditions and opportunities to progress.

Some mudloggers move on to the role of data engineer or crew chief, which is a senior member of the mudlogging crew. Mudloggers typically serve two to three years before being promoted to this role.

There are opportunities to then specialise in roles such as pressure analyst, flow detection specialist, hole stability engineer or wellsite geologist.

Occasionally, mudloggers enter areas such as human resources and marketing in the oil industry.