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Do you know your oil industry jargon?



Bell nipple. Bottom hole assembly. Blowout.

At first glance these words may appear to be unusual, strange or even rude (depending on your mind set). But read on and you’ll find out that they are just a few of the more interesting examples of the rich jargon and terminology that is used on oilfields, rigs and platforms everyday across the globe.

We’ve pulled together some of our personal favourites that we’ve encountered here at Fircroft, so scroll down and have a look at our selection so that the next time a colleague asks you to “Go check the mud weight at the possum belly and write it on the report on top of the knowledge box in the doghouse” you’ll at least have half-an-idea as to what they are talking about...

Bell nipple – A pipe that acts as a funnel to guide drilling tools into the top of the well. It’s usually fitted with a side outlet to allow drilling fluids to flow back over the shale shakers to the mud tanks. The name comes from a short length of pipe, also known as a nipple, which is flared out, or belled, to act as the funnel for guiding tools into the hole.
Big bear – Is a hitch that lasts a minimum of 50 straight days. (See hitch)
Blowout - The uncontrolled flow of gas, oil or other fluids from a well occurs if pressure control systems fail – uncapped wells could shoot oil up to 200 feet in the air. A blowout primarily composed of natural gas is known as a ‘gas gusher’.

Bottom hole assembly – Is a component of a drilling rig. It is the lowest part of the drill string, extending from the bit to the drill pipe. The assembly can consist of drill collars, subs such as stabilisers, reamers, shocks, hole-openers, and the bit sub and bit.
Derrick - A heavy lifting device supported by a crane structure. The name is said to originate from a 17th century English gallows and the surname of a London hangman.
Derrick Apples
- small components of the ‘Derrick’ that fall to the floor. Including nuts, bolts, and washers.
Doglegs - A particularly crooked section of a well, sometimes created intentionally by directional drillers but more commonly used to refer to a section of the hole that changes direction faster than anticipated. The term dogleg comes from the angle resembled by the hind leg of a dog.
Fish - Once an item is lost down the wellbore it is simply referred to as a ‘fish’. The act of fishing is the process of using specialised tools to retrieve a ‘fish’.
Ginsel – A ‘Roughneck’ worker, often someone with no oilfield experience. It’s the bottom of the pecking order in seniority terms.
Hitch - Rig employees refer to their working period as a ‘Hitch’. Commonly 20 days on followed by 10 days off.
Pig - A device inserted into a pipeline for cleaning purposes (Pipeline Inspection Gauge). The act of using a ‘pig’ is called pigging. Originally Pigs were made from straw wrapped in wire, the squealing noises they made whilst travelling through the pipe. This is believed to be what originally led to the name ‘Pig’.
Pig launcher – Although a suitable name for an Angry Birds style app, a pig launcher is actually an oversized section of the pipeline which, when closed, pushes the pig down the pipeline using pressure. The pig is pushed down until it reaches the ‘pig catcher’.
Roughneck - A manual labour member of an oil rig team. Often part of the drilling crew. The term ‘roughneck’ has been used as a symbol of hard work and resilience by sporting teams including the Calgary Roughnecks lacrosse team and the Tulsa Roughnecks of the North American Soccer League.
Tour – A working shift. Most workers worked a 10 to 12-hour shift, six days a week.

Slugcatcher- A slugcatcher is the name of a unit in a gas or petroleum refinery in which slugs at the outlet of pipelines are collected or caught. A slug is a large quantity of gas or liquid that exits in the pipeline.
Elephant – An elephant is an oil field that contains more than 100 million recoverable barrels of oil.
Nodding Donkey – Another name for a pumpjack, an overground drive for a reciprocating piston pump in an oil well. Also known as a horsehead pump, rocking horse, grasshopper pump, big Texan or thirsty bird to name but a few.
Fish eye - A slang term for a globule of partly hydrated polymer (gel) caused by poor dispersion during the mixing process (commonly a result of adding the product too fast).
Mule shoe - A Mule Shoe is a small tube that is attached on the bottom of a drill string. Its primary use is to remove mud, sand and other particles from a borehole.
Pony rod – A rod that’s slightly shorter than usual, placed below the polished rod and used to make a rod string of a certain length.
Monkey board – A small platform that the derrickman stands on when tripping pipe.
Possum Belly – A metal container at the head of a shale shaker that receives the flow of drilling fluid. It’s believed to have derived its name from the under belly of a female possum as they look similar in appearance.
So there you have it, our favourite selection of oil industry jargon. Are there any terms that we’ve missed out on this list that you still use today or perhaps used in the past but are now dying out? We’d be interested to hear them! Drop us a comment below or send us a message on social media.
Tags: Oil & Gas
Recent Comments
Some still need to be added to your list Dog House, Floorhand Fingers Fish Kill Mousehole Rathole Swabbing..etc
shahram vatanparast, 08 September 2016
A Nine Line Bind - Any difficult problem. Older drilling rigs had wire and pulleys to lift the drill string. There were typically 9 wire ropes that ran through the top pulley (crown). If all nine lines were tangled it was called a nine line bind. This came to mean any difficult problem on the rig.
Scott Hayes, 08 September 2016
Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. I was looking for some liquid lubricants for reducing friction and for drilling. Can you suggest me something for liquid lubricants?
Meghan Joyce, 11 September 2017
Quite informative post and after reading this we get really good ideas about oil industry and its history. Just loved reading this post and thanks for this.
Meghan Joyce, 15 February 2018
Oil industry is expanding day by day. It is really good to know about the oil industry details. This information was very important for everyone. Keep sharing this post more and more.
Liquid lubricants, 28 March 2018
"Most workers worked a 10 to 12-hour shift, six days a week." Er what rig are you on? We work 12hrs a day 7 days a week 365 days a year, no public holidays, no national holidays. 2, 3, 4 weeks or even longer sometimes for a hitch and not everyone is guaranteed time off between although we should get 50%. Now where are the definitions of ROP, OBM, WBM, NABM, PPG? What about a Kick, Influx, Mud Cut, or the Poor Boy, Shakers or Top Drive? What about positions like the Camp Boss, DSV, WSG, DD? There's thousands of terms and abbreviations that the layman would never understand. Even after 21 years I'm still coming across new ones I have to ask someone to explain.
Keiron, 30 August 2018
Completely agree with Keiron, also some terms tend to be rig specific and could vary a little bit. To answer Megan's question the drill mud is used for lubercant to reduce friction in the hole, it can be oil based or water based but full of polymer mentioned in the definition of fish eyes above. If extra lubercant was needed for some reason, the Derrick hand would mix either a sweep (thick mud) or a pill (really thick mud almost not liquid) to pump down the hole with a very high concentration of polymer. Depending on the fluid engineer the Derrick hand might be instructed to intentionally make fish eyes because they cling to the hole wall very well and are the definition of slick. A alternative would be to add casing beads (not liquid at all, it's manufactured polymer plastic or glass beads that are about a half mm in diameter. They act like ball bearings in the hole.
Matthew Erp, 13 March 2019
Thanks for these comments as they made me smile and remember some of my times in the drilling industry. Some of these terms sound offensive but were used a lot during me days, terms like: cows cunt (this was an area where the drilling pipe was placed by the derrickman when pulling pipe (also known as tripping) out of the hole ) also a Fuck-Stick: long pole that was used to reach a latch on the drilling block. Dope was another (not the smoking type) a specially formulated blend of lubricating grease, a funny one was a Fishing Tool (special mechanical devices used to recovery equipment lost or stuck downhole. There are so many more keep up this puts a smile on the older guys. Apologies if any offence with some of the terms. Dave Anderson
David Anderson, 17 July 2020
Very nice and informative. Learned Pig (pipeline inspection gauge). Elephant, blowout Thanks for sharing. Please share more like this.
Dr.Babu, 31 July 2020
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Do you know your oil industry jargon? - Time to read 5 min
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