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MEN OF OIL FIELD

By By Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
March 17, 2012 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated March 16, 2012 at 10:17 p.m.

Brian Nwosu talks about life as a Schlumberger employee from outside of his room at the company's man camp in Cuero. Employees work six days in a row and then have three days off. During the course of the six days, they sleep at the man camp and are transported to and from work at the rig sites.

CUERO - The Schlumberger van idled in the parking lot. The men were due to go on a six-day shift in about 15 minutes, but no sign of life stirred in the man camp.

The tan door of Unit 1 creaked open. Brian Nwosu, 24, eyes still blurred from sleep, thwacked his black steel-toed work boots together, as bits of dried mud flew in all directions.

Nwosu has worked in the oil field for a year. He is an operator with Schlumberger, one of the two big hydraulic fracturing companies working in the Eagle Ford Shale play.

Nwosu and the other men in his crew are just a few of the hundreds who have found themselves in the Crossroads working to get crude oil out of the Eagle Ford Shale formation.

Stepping into the boots, unlaced, he leaned against the porch railing and pulled a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket. He inhaled sharply with the cigarette clenched in his teeth, exhaling a plume of smoke.

They work six days on and three days off, staying in the sleek, furnished rooms with Egyptian cotton sheets and a flat-screen television in both the bedroom and the bathroom. The buildings are constructed to imply permanence - the fresh cut pine stairs leading to the rooms, the newly laid plants at the entrance - but this is a transitory place.

If the price of oil drops, or if it becomes more profitable to take fracking operations to another field, Schlumberger will snap off the metal sidings that line the bottom of the domiciles, load them onto trucks and tote them to the next big play.

Nwosu rubbed his eyes one more time and pulled on his royal blue Schlumberger jumpsuit, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. He and the other men piled into the van, and it rumbled out of the parking lot, kicking up a cloud of white dust in its wake. It's a tough and dangerous job, but once you start working in the field, it's hard to imagine doing anything else, Nwosu said.

"Some of these guys have been working so long, all they do is work and they're rich, but they can't stop working. They can't walk away from it," he said. "It's hard on men with families, there's a lot of divorce. That's the point I don't want to get to, where you know everything, but you lose everything."

This is the fifth installment of "The Play," the Victoria Advocate's look at the impact of the Eagle Ford Shale on the Crossroads.

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