The Guarding Of the Gates



What danger lurks, what forms of industrial espionage might occur behind these oilfield entrance gates that require 24 hour, seven days a week surveillance from a team of diligent security specialists living in fortified travel trailers? Are there technological secrets to protect behind those gates, stimulation studies underway to revolutionize the US tight oil phenomena that companies want kept strictly confidential? Nuclear stage frac'ing? Fusion induced perforating? Is their proprietary data at risk, intellectual theft that might occur? Drones watching from above? Will there be lie detector tests to take?


Nah. Most of the "security specialists" in those travel trailers are watching soap operas on TV.


There might be five drilling pads down a lease road, with five HZ well locations on each pad; drillers walk the rig 40 feet from well to well and when those wells are all drilled, zipper frac'ed and come on line... its like 25 cans of Diet Coke just dropped drop out of a vending machine. There all the same. Down the highway there are gate guards on every gate, all "guarding" the exact same stuff.


Tight hole; for a tight oil well? Gimme a break. If its trade secrets about frac design you want to keep proprietary, relax, dude; that evening at the nearest beer joint every Halli hand in South Texas will spill all the beans you thought you had for a Bud Light. If out of the 25 wells past the gate you make one well that produces 900 BOEPD, who cares? By next Sunday it will be down to 55o BOEPD, just like the other 24 wells.

What other reasons for guarding the gates to America's energy dominance? In West Texas nobody is going to steal a cow (save the county judge of Loving) because there's no stinking grass for cows to eat out there. It's just one caliche pad after another. Hell, if you found a cow back in there somewhere he'd only weigh 200 pounds and bawl to be put out his misery.


And nobody is going to poach a scrawny deer; or a nasty feral pig, so what's to protect? Jack rabbits? They fled Regan County years ago. You can't steal anything off a drilling rig without a damn forklift and a 40 foot float; somebody is going to stop and ask you who the hell you are and where's your work order.


And if you think your going to sneak past a gate guard driving a tanker truck to steal 160 barrels of tight oil... you better first damn sure have some place to export the shit.


Really, who in the hell truly wants to go thru that gate anyway? Its 125 degrees on the pad, and the dust is so bad you have to use your windshield wipers to find it. You won't see shit thru the floating dirt except mesquite and the occasional rattle snake across the road that, at first glance, looks like somebody dropped an 8 foot 2 3/8ths pup join out of his pickup.


Every trip in to a location, and every trip out, requires new air filters in your pickup and a chest x-ray. In West Texas the hottest item to buy at Allsups, besides cold beer and bean burritos, is Visine eye drops.

I reckon the tight oil industry in the Permian is always in such a big damn hurry, gate guards don't try to keep people out likely near as much as they are trying to keep roughnecks IN.






Not to be disrespectful to gate guards but they might be one step up the oilfield food chain from vacuum truck drivers.


As a security guard you take everybody's name going in to the location and write it down on a clipboard, go back inside your trailer and watch another episode of Oprah Winfrey on television, wipe more dust off your kitchen table, then go back out and check off the porta pottie driver coming out of the location. That's about it. Up to $200 bucks a day for that, plus expenses. I'm telling you, those tight oil fellas can flat piss off (other people's) money.


Does this gate guard on the right look like she is capable of handcuffing you to your pickup steering wheel and calling the sheriff if she caught you, for instance, trying to deliver a meth order to Bubba Gump Rig 404?


Do you see a stun gun on her, or a squirt bottle of mace?



If I needed gate guards on my locations I would like to see all of them be able to speak Spanish, for sure, and know what equipment or services are expected to be delivered that day. You would NOT want the guard to, for instance, let Weatherford in the gate to start rigging up to frac a well that's already been frac'ed. And with a proper schedule you'd also prevent stupid shit like this moron, above, trying to deliver a tank, when you were really expecting an entirely different kind of tank.

I guess gate guarding is fraught with some level of peril I never thought of, and it can get really ugly out there, as the entire book about gate guarding on the left suggests. This is something I need to read. I had no idea. It occurs to me the worst that could happen would be that the generator quits, you couldn't watch TV and had to open the windows to keep from baking like a chicken in the Texas heat, in which case you stand the good chance of choking to death on Texas dust.


It's always possible, I suppose, to get caught in a gun battle between two rival casing crews. So yeah, I guess it IS dangerous work.


Besides, everything in South Texas will stick you, sting you or flat bite your ass so you have to sort of be tough to be a gate guard. Snakes, spiders, ticks, fleas and scorpions always want to get in your trailer with you so THEY don't fry to death in the sun; Rule 27 in the Gate Guard Manual requires you tump your boots upside down before putting them on in the mornings and try not to scream when you see what comes out.


Rule 32) b.) in that same manual, by the way, suggests gate guards always pee outside the trailer, on the roads, as it helps keep the dust down. Just be mindful of the snakes.

Gate guards do come in handy sometimes; in H2S situations they can keep dumb people from dying and on a big oil or gas well fire it was always good to have security, and the law, at the front gate to keep gawkers away and the media from barging in wanting to know if the world is over and, if so, who's to blame.



On this fire, above, there were 300 people in lawn chairs out on the highway barditch watching, taking videos, always trying to crawl under the fence to get a closer look. I looked up one morning and there was partially toothed yahoo wearing shorts and flip flops wanting to know if he could get a job helping out. I gave him a Boots and Coots bumper sticker and walked him up to the gate guard for "processing."

Everybody in Texas carries a gun, its plum rude not to, and nobody is going to search your pickup for firearms because they already know your driving a virtual arsenal. I am unclear if you have to take a urine test to get in a Reeves County location these days; it wouldn't surprise me. Are gate guards trained in lab work too?


On the right is a gate guard system into a Bone Springs well in Lea County, New Mexico; I have no idea WHAT this is all about.


Most entrances to well locations are so well lit at night it looks like a football game is underway at an Odessa high school.


There are perks. As a gate guard in Texas the sunsets are nice, and the stars are always bright, deep in the heart of Texas. You just can't hear coyote's howl because of all the damn generators.

Dogs, of course, take gate guarding very seriously. Once they get the job, they are on it full time. If you get out of the truck to sign the ladies clipboard you might get your ass chewed off, or licked plum to death. 50/50 on that, so it's likely best to just stay in your pickup and wait for orders.


Dogs, much like people, can be hard to judge.



Hold on to your FR coveralls...you actually can get badges when you become a gate guard in the Texas tight oil business. Not kidding about this.










I am of the opinion that if you wish to be a bear, try very hard being a Grizzly, and if you really need a gate guard... arm the son of a bitch to the hilt and tell him to shoot first, ask questions later.


The fella on the right, in the great East Texas Oil Field in 1933, even looks professional. Go ahead, try and make his day.









Below is a very unprofessional (but funny) video on interactions with a typical South Texas gate guard protecting vital Eagle Ford shale oil secrets in Webb County. Clearly our national energy security is at stake in many of these situations...