An Oilfield "Fish" Story and the Dangers Down Below
In language of the oilfield, any object that falls into the open well bore, or gets left there by accident after the drill pipe has been removed, is called a "fish". People that specialize in removing these objects are referred to as "fisherman" in the oilfield
Now that the jargon has been defined, here is my fish story.
I was working offshore on a rig owned by the Rowan company in 2002. As a service employee I was working up on the rig floor with the roughnecks installing a monitoring instrument. All of the drill string had been removed from the well and the hole, approximately 12" in diameter, was uncovered. The hole itself was well over a mile and a half deep, at just about 9000 feet.
We had pulled out of the hole because shortly after a 10 stand "short trip" and resuming drilling, the drill bit had become dull and suddenly quit drilling entirely. We had gone from drilling over two hundred feet an hour to only about two feet per hour in a matter of minutes. Whatever we had drilled into was very hard and had apparently dulled the bit.
A new drill bit was installed and the drilling assembly was prepared to be lowered into the well again.
We were about ready to start "tripping" pipe back into the hole to resume drilling of the well. A new roughneck, or "worm" as new employees are called, was walking across the rig floor in a hurry to help guide the drill pipe into the hole when he accidentally kicked a 24 inch pipe wrench that he had left lying on the rig floor.
Almost as if it were in slow motion, all of us watched the pipe wrench twirl and skid across the metal floor, flip over and fall down the hole head first. Horrified, we ran over to the open hole and listened as we heard faint bumps as the wrench continued down through the light water - based drilling fluid toward the bottom of the well. The bumps faded away and all we could do was report the incident to the company man. Thankfully that was not my job.
The company man was of course furious about the wrench, or fish as it would now be called, being dropped into the well. We would have to wait for an oilfield fisherman to be flown by helicopter from of Houma Louisiana, along with special tools to be be placed on the end of the drill string and lowered into the hole to try and catch it.
Finally the oilfield fisherman arrived and his gear was attached to the drill pipe. The pipe was tripped into the hole, all the way to bottom, taking about half a day. A "round trip" as it is called, took 24 hours. After placing a tool called a "junk basket" over the object and rotating the drill string, the rig again pulled all the drill pipe out of the hole. There was no fish on the end of the line.
This process was repeated, about ten times over a period of a week and a half. The oil company, for whatever reasons, had determined it was more important to carry on with the original hole than start a new one or "sidetrack" off the original hole higher up.
Finally on the eleventh run, a combination of magnets and a basket brought up the wrench, along with another surprise. There was a second pipe wrench along with it.
Apparently the reason for the slow drilling was that another wrench had fell into the hole. None of the roughnecks remembered losing any wrenches other than the one that they had seen fall down the hole. They all suspected it was the clumsy "worm" who had done both deeds.
After some "strong conversation" the worm finally owned up to losing the first wrench into the hole just before the drill bit quit drilling. Needless to say, he was on the helicopter along with the oilfield fisherman, returning to shore permanently. He might have kept his job had he been honest, but since his silence cost literally about two million dollars, he was sent packing.
Thus endeth this oilfield "fish tale". Moral: Nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong...