Vault Q&A: Graduate Petroleum Engineer, BG Group
Title: Graduate Petroleum Engineer. This encompasses a wide scope of things. My responsibilities include looking after the day-to-day production of one of our oil fields in the North Sea, which currently produces in excess of 20,000 barrels of oil a day. This involves daily production optimization and dealing with issues that will become apparent in the next three to six months. These might be interventions into the wells or dealing with oil field chemistry issues. I also have discussions with our partners on the best way to operate the field, reacting to problems, such as sea water break through into our reservoir.
Department/Division: Production Technology--sub-section Petroleum Engineering
Location (city): Aberdeen
Number of years at firm: Two years
Number of years in current role: Seven months. As part of the graduate programme, I move departments every six months to a year. When I first joined, I spent five months in the internal consultancy department in the head office in Reading. There, I was helping out with bids into new entries as we were trying to expand into such areas as Oman and Alaska. I then moved onto a six-month placement to Calgary, Canada where I undertook computer network modeling, trying to optimize production and spent a further six months than I was originally seconded for, working on a wide variety of projects there before moving to Aberdeen.
Degree (s): Civil Engineering at Southampton University, 2.1, MSc Petroleum Engineering at Heriot-Watt
How did you first decide to enter your industry? What first attracted you?
A principal attraction was that BG Group offered international travel and, unlike other engineering firms, they guaranteed it. I very much liked the idea that you would end up in remote places. It's also a pretty cutting-edge industry, as you're always at the forefront of technology, from the to computer programming to equipment that we use. And it's been interesting going to difficult places and that is something I've certainly experienced. I've been down to the Po Valley in Italy to British Columbia to the North Sea.
What are the typical education requirements? What skills and/or experience are important for success?
Most of the people I know in my field have an MSc in petroleum engineering. This is because there is no undergraduate programme for petroleum engineering. As for skills, I would say be open to new ideas and technologies. It is also important to understand you will be working in a highly international and diverse business. Therefore being able to work in a team is very important. Not only will you be working with different departments in BG, but also with outside partners and contractors. Here in the North Sea you very rarely work on projects that involves only your company. It is also important to maintain an active interest in the industry and to keep abreast of developments within the industry. Within the company there is a yearly, four-day conference with geologist, geophysicists and engineers all coming together. We bring our news and developments and present it to the other specialties. That's not to mention the numerous outside conferences and networking opportunities there are in the industry. The Society of Petroleum Engineers in particular is very active here in Aberdeen.
What is the typical career path in your industry?
It works both ways as it depends on what both you and the company want. As BG Group is an expanding company, there are always positions available. As for me, I hope to develop my skills during the two to three years in Aberdeen. I have a technical ladder which has been set up with my mentor, noting what I need to concentrate on. This might involve going to different countries. These placements are really diverse and I've got friends going to places like Egypt, India and Kazakhstan.
What is the best part of your job?
I'd say never being quite sure what is happening in the next three months time. There are always new projects and new challenges. Going off-shore is always interesting. You also have got the opportunity to plan your development within the company. The fresh challenges are what make the job exciting.
What is your least favourite part of your job?
Given that you are often out in the middle of nowhere, it can be a bit lonely. The fact that there are no certainties in the job can be a little dispiriting at times but once you accept this and embrace the challenge, it does make for a great job.
How relevant is your education to what you are doing today?
The MSc I did at Heriot Watt is very relevant and I would highly recommend the course. It is very intensive but is very well taught. You cover a lot and cover it well. So much so it allows you to pursue a career path after the course in the industry that covers the complete spectrum from drilling to production to reservoir simulation. I certainly use it every day in my work. Also, the undergraduate degree does provide a good foundation for all of this as you learn a lot about engineering.
Can you offer any advice to graduates seeking a career in your industry?
There are plenty of opportunities within the industry. Don't listen to those people who say that it is a dying industry. It is, in fact, a very exciting industry. The company is always looking out for young people. It is very challenging but also very exciting as we are always getting more advanced as to what we are drilling with and how we operate.
What is something unusual that they might not know?
You certainly go a long way in a short time. It is two years after I joined and I now help look after a field that produces oil worth $1.6 million every day.
What is your best perk?
You certainly get paid well. There is a comprehensive benefits programme and there is a lot of opportunities to buy into the company. There is also a good company atmosphere and it provides the opportunity to get involved in other activities. For example, I recently competed in the London triathlon as part of a BG Team.