How did you get into the Energy sector and how long have you been working in the industry?
I started as a Marine Engineer Officer on deep-sea tankers. If I am honest, I had little appetite for career progression. This changed following an explosion on a vessel which led to multiple loss of life and several hours firefighting. Recovering from this trauma changed me personally. I became unaccepting of risk and more focused as an individual.
Getting married and having children drove a need for shorter tour lengths, this led me to move into the offshore industry. Unfortunately, a slipped disc put paid to my seagoing career. I moved to an onshore role before moving to Aberdeen where I joined a Well Intervention Ship Operator.
After progressing my career to Marine Manager, I joined CNOOC in 2013 where I hold the position as a Technical Authority for Marine and Lifting.
What does your job involve on an average day?
As a Technical Authority within the Process Safety Management Department, I support safe operations through effective risk management. As owner and subject matter expert for the marine operations safe system of work, and developer of the mechanical handling safe system of work, I am called upon for clarifications or assessment of deviations.
How have you coped personally and as a company with the pandemic?
CNOOC reacted early to COVID-19, bringing in segregation and various additional hygiene measures across the business. Since then, there has been continued assessments of risk by the company including the return to our offices which is unlikely to happen until next year. In terms of impact to business I am not aware of any countermeasure not being effective.
Personally, working from home I found initially that I was more productive due to the absence of distraction, however after several months this has tempered somewhat. It took a while to set up an effective workstation, but since doing this and with access to remote team meetings working from home has not been difficult. I imagine that for those who work at the coal face of operations working from home may have been more impactful.
Despite living and working in a busy household I have been fortunate not to suffer mental health anguishes, but it has been far too easy to have boredom drive a visit to the kitchen.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Technically the most impactful has been the writing and roll out of a computer-based maintenance program on a Diving Support Vessel. When I was a Chief Engineer, I received an endorsement from a Diving Superintendent “the guys in the bin [in saturation] will be happy’. Asking what he meant he replied, ‘because the guys feel safer when you are on board’. There is nothing in my career I remember with more pride. The oddest highlight must be appearing on BBC TV News as an ‘expert’ to comment on the risks from the planned recovery of the Costa Concordia.
How has your job changed in the last 5 years, what do you do more of and what do you do less of?
Despite a relentless downward spiral in the oil and gas industry the fact remains that the risks are still there. As such my role today and the activities I perform are similar to those 5 years ago. Any variation has come from the improvements in mechanical handling and marine risk management.
What ambitions have you still got to fulfil professionally in your career?
I have been fortunate to have had an interesting career. My ambition now lies with limiting risk of harm to persons and the environment, through continuous improvement in the governing processes. CNOOC have made many positive improvements, however like many areas within Oil & Gas there are still more to identify and resolve. At CNOOC we have introduced a new marine operations risk management process and with it the necessary training for persons who apply it. It takes up to 2 years before the effect of such a change can be evaluated; I would very much like to see positive outcomes from this.
If you were inviting guests to a dinner party, which 4 people would you invite and why?
Some of my work colleagues would laugh at this question as I am not the most sociable of people.
Steve Brusatte- A palaeontologist who wrote a fantastic book called ‘The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs’. I would have to include Eric Brown, the test pilot… I could listen to his stories all day.
It would be a difficult choice between Lewis Hamilton and Mo Farrah; I think it would have to be Lewis only because I could interrogate him on the technical aspects of a formula one car.
Richard Osmond: because he is able to find humour in the most eclectic conversation, if he could not make it then Romesh Ranganathan. If I am to enjoy a dinner party as well as great food, it must be interesting and be full of levity.
Who has been the most influential person in your life professionally?
One of my favourite saying is that an individual is never more competent than a group. When developing standards or safe systems of work it is essential that adequate conduits exists to allow the contribution and feedback of the workforce. Because of this I would not tie this down to one individual.
Over the next 10 years what do you see will be the key challenges in the energy sector in the UK?
Energy transition. Both as a reduction in production demand but also the reduction in environmental impact. Looking at my areas of expertise, in marine for me it is not reasonable to expect ship operators alone to carry the business risk of replacing or modifying existing tonnage with green power plants. Partnerships are going to have to be built between oil and gas and the ship operators likely through long term contracts incentivised by the government.
Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE.