Story and photo by John Bayko
Chris Zavlanos, owner and founder of Riggertalk.com, has worked in the Oil & Gas Industry for over 22 years. He started his career working on both service and drilling rigs, and gradually worked his way into consulting. “When you start out in the industry you’re scared. You’re trying to find work, you have no money, and you end up on a service rig and you’ve never seen one before.” Zavlanos liked hard work, and when he landed his first job, the money was good. “$11 an hour and $7 for travel time was a lot of money back then.” So Zavlanos stayed on the service rigs for about a year and then made his move to the drilling side, “Because a buddy said ‘we need a leasehand.’” “So I took a bus to Leduc,” and the rest is history. Zavlanos currently works as a well-site consultant throughout western Canada and has done so for the past twelve years.
Remote locations and challenging situations are normal working conditions for Canadian consultants. The sub-surface drilling and completion conditions in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin are among the most challenging in the world. Tight gas, heavy oil, oilsands, shallow gas… –40° Celsius, mud caked lease roads… the variety and complexity of Canadian drilling has developed some of the best, and most knowledgeable drilling and service technicians in the business. They are tasked with executing drilling and completion programs that make money in environments less experienced producers wouldn’t see profit in. In order to achieve these results, a variety of services must be coordinated at specific times and sent to specific places with slim margin for error. “This is tough when you’re sending trucks to leases where roads didn’t even exist before the lease was built,” Zavlanos notes.
Right from the beginning, because of the tough work environment, Zavlanos noticed that he and his colleagues would continually find it challenging to secure good quality services when and where they needed them. As a result, too much time and effort was focused on making phone calls and chasing down leads. “Any printed services (like a phone book) were hard to use because a lot of times the information is changing before they’re even printed,” Zavlanos observes. As his time, experience and knowledge in the oilfield kept growing, he began to see a real opportunity to fill an industry need.
Always a life-long learner and never one to sit around, when the downturn of 1998 hit, Zavlanos took advantage of a course offered in heavy oil operator technician (HOOT). After that, his attention turned to online courses in Petroleum Technology. Today, he’s applying all of this experience to a venture that is grabbing a lot of attention: RiggerTalk, a web-based Oilfield Directory. Born from years of trying to locate services, RiggerTalk is a website and mobile application that allows users to find companies and services through keyword search, category search, or location search on an innovative map.
“I used to drive down the road looking a billboards and trying to write down phone numbers,” Zavlanos recalls. “You’d call a buddy of a buddy to grab a vac truck, and hopefully the guy was close enough to make it to the lease.” The advanced search capability allows RiggerTalk users to quickly sift through and contact local services anywhere on the world map, thus saving time, money, and aggravation. RiggerTalk combines everything Zavlanos has always wished he had as a consultant. A host of service vendors are available at a push of a button. Active drilling rigs are listed by company and LSD number. Road ban maps tell you which roads you can access and which ones you can’t. There is even a jobs map, resume map, and buy & sell map complete with locations and directions to everything. In short, it’s the ultimate source of information for anyone working in the oilfield, built by someone who knows first-hand.