Nabors Drilling USA has a fully functioning training rig in Williston where it trains personnel to ensure they work as safely and efficiently as possible.
The 13.38-acre site off 141th Avenue Northwest consists of a drilling rig, classroom facilities and living quarters, where employees can simulate drilling and derrick operations.
In March, the Williams County Commission approved a conditional use permit for the establishment of temporary housing at the training facility.
Ray Pacheco, director of the Planning and Zoning Department, said the company would operate 10 to 12 housing units and 83 beds placed on the commercial property. The site houses 15 to 20 employees and the remainder of the housing is used during the training of employees. Depending on the degree of training, employees may be on site one to two weeks.
The site was operating five years without a permit. It came to the attention of the planning staff by way of complaint, and further research proved the applicant lacked a permit.
At first, the planning department recommended the payment of penalty fees starting from Oct. 23, 2013, that resulted in $2.9 million in fines.
Pacheco said the condition fell obsolete since the department found the fines weren't applicable.
Fines were proposed because staff thought the units were being used as a crew camp, however, it later found the site was used strictly for training purposes.
Pacheco said when the training site was established, there was miscommunication within the county as to what constituted as a crew camp. The approval of the site also predated current planning regulations passed in 2011.
The commission board said it lifted the fine since the employees were not living permanently on the property.
Scott Reid, district manager for Nabors USA, said the site trains employees to drill on a 500-foot-deep well to simulate tripping pipe. Company representatives said the facility offers life skills as well while they get used to living quarters.
Nabors also provides tours for ambulance and firefighters to have knowledge of drilling rigs. Williston State College and Williston school districts, Boy Scouts and media are invited for tours as well.
Matt Soester, manager at Rig 445 and Dolly Ramsey, district training coordinator, both provided a tour in March. They said the number of trainees had nearly tripled in the past five years to meet company needs.
The staff said the site is one of four Nabor's domestic training rigs in the United States. Other rigs are located in Texas, Wyoming and off-shore Louisiana.
The Williston rig was trucked up from Wyoming several years ago, needing to accommodate the influx of incoming Nabor's employees.
At all locations, staff trains new employees or those with experience at other drilling companies. The staff also provide promotional training for current employees seeking to become motor-and derrick- hands, as they learn proper mechanical technique using on-ground simulators.
All employees — staff can train a maximum of 30 per week — received hands-on and classroom training.
On arrival, staff verify employees have proper equipment, have enough rest, hydration and are alcohol and drug free and without facial hair.
Employees are paid for their training. Equipment is provided, but employees must purchase their own food while they remain on the premises for up to nine days. Their rig assignments are provided on the last day of training, and they venture out into the Bakken accordingly, Ramsey said.
“These guys are given a fair chance,” Soester said.
Four crews of six men train 12 hours per shift. They retire to their standard trailers to ready themselves for tomorrow's events, Soester said.
On Rig 445, employees learn to drill down to a certain depth, pull pipe and run casing. Each individual wanted to survive the March cold by passing their training regimen and continued into the next phase of their careers at Nabors USA.
“A majority of the guys are on their own with high hopes,” Ramsey said. “They come out here and try it out for nine days and try to figure out if they like it or not.”
Soester has received similar training in his own career, climbing company ranks from floor-hand to driller and later became a rig manager.
“It takes a special kind of person to stay our in the field. It's not an easy job out there,” Soester said.