Special Tribute to William J. Murchison

On Monday, July 15, William (Bill) J. Murchison, founder of Murchison Drilling Schools, passed away peacefully at the age of 88. Bill left a huge imprint on our industry. In this special issue, I want to mention just a few of his contributions.

The Importance of Training

Bill did not set out to be in training. He loved drilling operations, and he learned everything he could about what he was doing. He kept very good records of what he did. When he was working in Iran, the operators, contractors, and service companies had 180% turnover. The living and work conditions were tough, but the drilling problems were even tougher. Because there were always so many new people that did not understand the problems and the best way to handle them, the oil consortium asked Bill to put together a training program for every new hire to go through before entering the field. Bill had the knowledge, experience and records to put together that training program. It was highly successful, and it saved the consortium millions of dollars. They were able to prevent many problems, and handle the ones that they did run into much more quickly and efficiently. Training is often the first thing cut in budgets, but a good training program will save companies far more money than they cost.

Teaching What People Need To Know

When I joined Murchison, I recommended that we begin to teach well control classes. At that time most well control classes were two and a half days, and basically taught the tests. Bill did not want to have anything to do with a class like that. He said that you have to talk about tripping if you are teaching well control, because 50% of kicks are taken on trips. He said that lost circulation, stuck pipe, drilling fluids, and many other things had to be taught in conjunction with well control. So, I put together a five-day well control class with these topics, and he approved it. Unfortunately, the industry was not ready to embrace a five-day well control class. After the Macondo, the International Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) made recommendations to the industry about well control. Both the IADC and IWCF embraced those recommendations, and new time requirements, and a new curriculum was required. Murchison did not have to make many changes because Bill had already determined what needed to be included in well control training, and our classes already included the new material. We were already doing more simulator work than what was required because he felt it prepared people for actual well control events. He included floats on simulator exercises, because that is what people used in the field. Bill insisted on teaching the things that people in the field needed to know, not just what was needed to pass a test.

The Importance of Hard Work

Bill worked hard all of his life. As a young boy in Mission,Texas, his family lived in an abandoned box car. He picked cotton, mowed lawns, and studied hard and worked his way through college, and earned a BS in Chemistry. He was a brilliant man, but he applied himself and worked hard at everything that he did. When he started Murchison Drilling Schools, he expected other people to work hard and learn as much as they could. He created homework exercises to reinforce the classroom learning. He found that the more effort people put into the class, the more they got out of the class. People learned a lot in his classes because they worked hard and did the work. I still receive emails from people about how much they learned and profited from the class they took with my father. Steve Kropla wrote me this week and had this to say about my father. "He was a great man who was a powerful force for good in our industry, and he will be missed."