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Blog – Oil Rig Lightning in Oklahoma

Storm season is upon us in Oklahoma, As well as across
the Country and when I see Lightning in the distance
and and feel the Thunder rattle the Rig, The instant
question that jumps into my mind is”Am I protected
from these Lightning strikes?” In Oklahoma our News
Stations have all the latest equipment and technology
to predict and understand these storms so I sent the
following email to all 3 Major Stations and their
Meterologists. Not surprisingly the only response came
from Gary England with KWTV 9 in Oklahoma City. He has been Oklahomas most
revered authority on storms for as far back as I can remember. What follows is
the basic text of the email;


Hi Gary, My name is Curtis ***** . I have a website for Oilfield Workers and want
to write a Safety Meeting over being safe on the Rig during Thunderstorms. We
have all always been told we are safe in cars because we are not grounded. well,
on a Rig, with several miles of Drill Pipe in the ground, we are definitely grounded!
We don’t usually stop for storms, The entire Rig is iron and we always worry
when the lightning starts striking around us! Can you shed some light on this
subject for all of us?



Gary Englad responded that he was directing the question to his Meterologist
Carrie Rose for research and that I could expect an answer back in a few days. In
a week I received a response and was really impressed at the obvious research
that went into the answer and the understanding showed for what it is we do. I
think you will be also.Hi Curtis, You are right, the Oil Rigs are grounded. The
problem is that much of the exposed surface of it that
the workers touch is metal. The workers need to get as
far away from touching the metal surfaces as possible.
Another example similar to this is a highway overpass.
The overpass has metal in it and it is grounded. If
struck, the lightning will likely safely pass to the


However, you can’t touch the metal parts of the
overpass if you are seeking shelter underneath it. Move as far away from the
metal parts (like the girders), stay on dry surfaces. So for you guys, I don’t know
if it would be effective to build “Safe Spots” all over the rig which are not metal.
Maybe enclosed safe rooms the guys can go to when there is lightning. Protective
suits and gloves might provide sufficient protection if they must continue touching
and standing on the metal, but I’m not sure how feasible that option is for you.
Your car example you mentioned is good, but you’re inside the car, not outside it
like you would be on the Rig, and that’s what helps keep you safe; the lightning is
conducted around you. When you’re on the rig, you’re outside touching the metal,
making you a part of the conducting system (like if you stuck your finger in the
ignition key inside the car, or sit on the hood of the car outside). Even though the
rig is well-grounded, lightning discharges do not always follow the path into the
ground. The lightning can fan out along the surface of the ground as well, which is
dangerous for anyone working outside at the time of the strike. You can increase
your protection against this happening by using radial conductors buried just
below the ground surface, extending about 30 feet from the bottoms of theOil Rig
Conductor. So basically, if you’re on the Rig touching metal, or even near the Rig
exposed to the open, you are at risk. If you’re touching the grounded metal, you
are a conductor along with the metal. I hope this information helps, but you guys
are really in a difficult situation. The safest advice is to stop working on theRig and
seek shelter inside a building or car (not touching metal surfaces in the car!). But
I also understand the economic demands on the business. If you remain on the rig
touching metal, you’re taking your chances. Please do not hesitate to contact me if
you have any further questions, or if I may be of any assistance.
Carrie Rose,
News 9 Weather Producer