What is a Service Rig?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A service rig is a piece of equipment which is used for servicing wells such as oil and gas wells. Service rigs are not intended for drilling, but for the completion of other tasks related to operating oil and gas wells. Some companies which operate wells maintain their own service rigs, while others prefer to rent them because they can be very expensive. Specialty crews run service rigs when they are needed for routine maintenance and emergencies.

Once a well is drilled and productive, it requires periodic maintenance. This is where a service rig comes in. When components need to be replaced or a well needs to be cleaned, it is done with a service rig. Likewise, when a well needs to be shut down for any reason, the crew uses a service rig to complete the tasks associated with shutting down the well and securing it for safety.

Service rigs are loaded on large vehicles which transport them to the well site. The rig itself is a telescoping tower secured with guy wires which keep it stationed in place. Attachments can be fitted to the service rig to complete various tasks associated with the well servicing activities. In special circumstances, attachments can be added to a service rig so that it can drill.

Also known as completions rigs, workover rigs, or pulling units, service rigs are run by a crew of people. The members of the crew assemble the rig, confirm that it is secure and working properly, and complete the assigned task on the well. It is necessary to have multiple people both for safety and because some tasks cannot be completed by a single person. People who are just starting out are known as roughnecks and they work their way into more advanced positions such as tool pushers.

Working on a service rig can be dangerous. The equipment is large and heavy and when it is not installed and maintained properly, it can pose safety risks. People are also exposed to the risk of electric shock when working with well maintenance equipment, and they can be endangered by environmental toxins which may be present around oil and gas wells. In recognition of the dangers, oil and gas occupations can come with very high salaries along with benefits. Employers also usually need to pay high liability and disability insurance because claims from workers are much more likely than with other trades.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments


@summing - It know what you mean, and there are definitely some bad injuries out there, but you can at least take comfort in the fact that it used to be a lot worse, and it is continuing to improve.

In states with oil right now like Texas, Oklahoma, and the Dakotas, they are advertising like crazy for workers at really high salaries. This is because a lot of guys who show up for jobs can't pass the drug test. This is a relatively new thing. Years ago guys would be drunk or stoned all the time on the rigs. You can guess what that did for safety.

And safety regulations, both government and corporate, have continued to get stricter. This is a good thing in most cases, and it should cut down on the number of accidents.


@chivebasil - I know what you mean. I love machinery and equipment too. It just looks so big and powerful. And an oil service rig is an impressive looking thing to say the least.

Have you ever worked a rig out in the open ocean? Especially somewhere with crazy weather like the North Sea? Those rigs are like small cities out in the middle of nowhere, because they have to withstand the weather and also because they have to have everything on them for the crew because you never know when a boat or helicopter can get back out to bring more stuff.


@gravois - Another problem is that oil is a really boom or bust industry, so when it's busy all of the good equipment may be rented or sold, and then when it's dead there are piles of this stuff lying around.

It does not strike me as an industry that does a lot of planning. It would seem to make sense that you'd buy a bunch of equipment when things are slow for next to nothing, then you could use it or rent it out when things picked up again.


I was a nurse in a hospital close to a big drilling site. We would see tons of injuries related to accidents at the well. I will spare you the details but some of them are pretty gruesome.

Those men worked really hard out there and they often got put in harms way. I know a lot of boys who went to work at the wells and came home hurt for the rest of their lives.

I know that we all need oil and that those boys probably did something good for us. But I just wish we would remember all the consequences. It's hard out there and it's dangerous.


A lot of the equipment and machinery involved with oil drilling is really spectacular looking. I think we can all identify with the strangely satisfying design of a typical pyramid oil derrick. But there are few things in this industry as beautiful and impressive as a service rig. When they are fitted with all their attachments they look like some kind of oil drilling octopus robot. I have worked on a lot of rigs and seen a lot of unique set ups but something about a service rig still really impresses me.


I worked for a small oil company based out of Texas and we rented our service rigs through a sub contractor.

The oil business in Texas is huge and you really have to shop around if you are going to find a good service rig rental. We worked with a lot of companies that provided shoddy equipment or did not live up to their end of the agreements. Sometimes promised equipment didn't show up at all.

There are reputable renters down there though. You have to shop around a lot and maybe get burned but they are available. Just another headache when you're working on the rigs.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Woman holding a book
      Woman holding a book