Drilling for heavy oil involves many people, each with their area of expertise, using ever evolving technology to solve the many problems associated with producing heavy oil.
Drawing courtesy of Westwind Design,
From the cable tool rigs of the pioneers, through the rotary rigs which dominated from the 1940's to the 1980's, to today's slant and directional drilling, the object is the same - get at that heavy oil, ~ 650 meters below.
It's hard work (they don't call them "roughnecks" for nothing). It's an evolving, exacting science. It's an art - an experienced driller has a "feel" for what's happening hundreds of meters below. For some, it's a way of life. With the rig running 24 hours a day, through summer's heat or winter's minus 40°, there's pride in making a good hole and bringing in a paying producer.
For an explanation of the different directions of drilling -click here
For an outline of some of the jobs on a drill site - click here
Illustrated explanation of Cable Tool drilling - the pioneer process - click here
Boy, when that drill bit poked through the shale above me, was I excited. And they provided me with a nice steel casing, and even a pump which acted like an elevator to lift me to the surface. It was hard to get all the sand off me, but they persisted. And when I got to the surface - wow! Bright lights, big cities - take me to your liters!