How did you get into the Energy Sector and how long have you been working in it?
I commenced my career in the oil industry in 1984 as a welder which involved being on a project on the Sedco 704. I then moved onto Vetco Gray after a few years within fabrication. I subsequently progressed to become a Field Service Engineer, on Surface and Subsea equipment installation. After a few years’ rotation (28 x 28) I was 3 years residential in Angola, and after that, 2 years in Qatar. My career continued to progress moving into the Subsea arena offshore in 2010 with Maersk Drilling and Ocean Rig.
What does your job involve on an average day?
A big part of my role was travelling to remote locations including Africa, Singapore, and the USA. I was responsible for overseeing the rework and rebuild of Maersk well control equipment. This involved witnessing FAT, making sure all the work was performed to the relevant API regulations. Working with various oilfield vendors making sure that the strict high level of compliance that was required by Maersk was met.
How have you coped personally and as a company with the pandemic?
Unfortunately like many individuals my position in Houston was ended prematurely resulting in moving back to Aberdeen. As a self-employed contractor projects were plentiful initially; however, new work scopes have slowed down. There are positive green shoots showing signs of recovery towards the middle of 2021. Working from home has taken a while to adapt into, as I do prefer the office environment and the camaraderie that brings.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Working for Maersk. They are such a diverse dynamic company. Great people to work with, and the calmness of the Scandinavian culture is something that benefited me personally. Working on projects in South Africa/ Palermo/ Singapore and the USA were the most enjoyable. I think the best project was when we decided to go away from the traditional BOP swap and rebuild and inspect the BOPs on board the rig. We had a 5-year rework project which involved managing multi disciplines needed to do all the required BOP work. This involved a lot of planning across various teams and ensuring that the support of the 3rd parties involved in the project.
How has your job changed in the last 5 years, what do you do more of and what do you do less of?
Since the continued oil price decline, a lot of experienced people have been let go from the industry, and in some cases quality has slipped. Now with the COVID situation a lot of the work I did previously was close contact, this has now changed to remote witnessing, meaning you need to have more trust in all the vendors. Aligned with this, consideration being given to push out the annual/5-year inspections, proving that the maintenance performed on the equipment is elongating its time in service without needing a 5 yearly, possibly pushing it out to a 10 yearly, using proven evidence that parts are being maintained and spares used tracked for wear.
What ambitions have you still yet to fulfil professionally in your career?
I enjoy working for myself, which allows me to take my extensive experience to various clients. It is the first time in 37 years I have not worked directly for a company. I am hoping to move to Canada in the future. I may try and secure work in the oil industry there or look for a new challenge for the last years of my working career, whilst enjoying some more relaxation on the golf course, skiing and cycling.
If you were inviting guests to a dinner party, which 4 people you invite and why?
Bill Shankly, Sir Ian Wood, Irvine Welsh and Jack Welch (GE).. Sir Ian Wood is a pioneer in the oil business, moving away from the traditional fishing business into the new thing called” oil and gas” back in the 70s. The company speaks for itself with offices all over the world, and still diversifying into other avenues. Bill Shankly took his footprint from a hard life in a mining village in Scotland and transformed a sleeping giant in the form of Liverpool, he installed a work ethic and a belief in the team that saw them become the biggest team in Europe from many years. Irvine Welsh, enough said, he has a dark mind but a brilliant one. Jack Welch, from my time at GE, I recommend reading his autobiography.
Who has been the most influential person in your life professionally?
A few come to mind. I have had so much help and support, and good advice over the years. As an apprentice I was always told to take pride in your work, something I have tried to carry forward as part of my work ethic. I was lucky with the management at Maersk Drilling who always have an open-door policy. The senior management at Maersk also gave a confidence that the company would succeed in Oil and Gas, something that cascaded down into the workforce.
Over the next 10 years what do you see will be the key challenges in the Energy Sector both in the UK and internationally?
With the lack of recruitment over the last 5 years there is likely to be another skills shortage. It is not the first time that this has happened in the rollercoaster, that is the oil and gas industry. The latest recession has now gone on for almost 6 years. Experienced personnel are walking away, sadly never to return. The industry is struggling to attract the young talent it needs to survive, this will have a knock-on effect in years to come. The instability of the fluctuating oil price will drive businesses into alternative sectors such as renewables, and this will create more competition for oil companies to secure the right people.
Given the experience you have now, what advice would you have given yourself when you were just starting out in the Energy Sector?
Working in the Oil & Gas industry is a roller coaster, but enjoyable every day. A boom it is closely followed by bust, and when this does happen, it does often make you wish you has taken a “normal job”. That said, I have had some fantastic experiences over the last 37 years and worked in some great places globally. I wish I had taken time to do some online university courses to benefit my career; however, with workload and family commitments it was difficult to get the balance right. Who knows, I might try one more time to see if a can get the degree I have thought about for so long.
Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE.