Faces of the Boom: Woman works hard to prove herself in oilfield

WILLISTON, N.D. – As a woman working in the oilfield, Ale Broschat has a motto she lives by:

“The muddier you are, the better you are.”

The 29-year-old from Mexico City has worked alongside men in the Williston area for four years. She recently became a drilling engineer, but first worked on drilling rigs as part of a cement crew.

“You have to show another part of yourself out here,” Broschat said. “Forget about being girly or anything like it.”

Broschat earned a degree in chemical engineering and was looking for work in Mexico City for six months before she got a job with Schlumberger, a well service company.

“They asked me if I wanted to be international,” Broschat said. “That sounds exciting out of college.”

Going international meant transferring to Williston, a place she’d never heard of, and starting her training to be a cement engineer.

Cement crews are called out to the oil rigs to pump cement around the casing of a newly drilled well.

“Whenever they called, you had to be ready and be out there,” Broschat said. “If something went wrong, you had to wait.”

Once, on a day with 40 degrees below zero weather, Broschat had to sit in her pickup and wait, for 34 hours.

“That’s the worst part of it, working when it’s like 40 below out there,” she said. “I still don’t know how I survived that.”

Typical shifts were 12 hours long, but if she had to drive to and from the site a shift could be as long as 20 hours, Broschat said.

Her primary job involved monitoring the work, but she also had to do physical labor.

“You really have to prove yourself, that you want to work,” Broschat said.

She later worked with hydraulic fracturing for Schlumberger, managing all the fluids that are used.

Then she got a call from Statoil about a job opportunity as a drilling engineer.

“I was pretty excited,” Broschat said. “I was ready for a change.”

In her new job, Broschat reviews engineering reports in the mornings and then makes trips out to the well sites.

Statoil has 19 rigs, so communication is one of the biggest challenges, Broschat said.

Of those challenges, her gender in a male-dominated line of work hasn’t been among the problems.

“I guess guys are very open to working with girls,” she said. “We’re on the same team, so that always makes things easier.”

Broschat ended up marrying a Williston man, Ben Broschat, who was her mentor when she became a cement engineer. The two spent long hours together in a pickup driving to sites and waiting.

“You really get to know someone very well, very fast,” she said.

Ben Broschat is now a partner with Omni Management Systems, a company that remotely monitors tank levels, temperatures and other oilfield parameters. He said he never dreamed he’d meet his wife in the oilfield, where he sees few women.

“It’s pretty rare,” he said. “You see some doing office positions, but actually in the oilfield, it’s not very common.”

Ale Broschat said her favorite part about her job is constantly learning something new, “You never have a dull day.”