Oil Comp Engr
35 Years Experience
I have worked at a major integrated oil company for over 30 years. I have degrees in Civil and Petroleum Engineering. I currently work with safety, health and environmental management systems. I have worked in operations and safety in both the upstream (finding and producing oil and gas) and downstream (refining, chemicals and distributions) areas. I have travelled all over the world. I enjoy my job but have endured both good & bad business cycles as well as good and bad managers.
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Absolutely! The loss of eleven precious lives is heartbreaking. It does bother me that people got more upset over the oil spilled than over the lives lost. The very first time I went to a rig, I will never forget how the superintendent, a 30 year veteran took me aside and said "Darling, I just want you to know that you can shut down this rig at ANY time." "What do I know?" I said. "I just started here". He said, "I don't care. If you feel concerned at any point, you just tell us to stop. We all want to go home just the way we came to work" I will never forget that man, who became like a second father to me. I'm also happy to say that he was the rule and not the exception. I have shut down the job many times over my career and have never once gotten in trouble for that. All companies in all industries need to empower their employees and contractors to speak up. From the technical articles I have read, the mistakes made at Macondo were very basic and 100% preventable.
A lot has been written about "Peak oil" and I could not begin to do the subject justice in this space. Respected publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have written some good pieces. I would say that I and most of my colleagues don't subscribe to the peak oil theory. The amount of reserves available in just the oil sands in northern Canada alone is tremendous.
Great question. First thing every morning, I review the operations reports from the previous 24 hours to see whether we have had any spills (hopefully not) or any close calls. There are usually a couple of close calls or some very small spills (a burst hydraulic hose for example) that did not make it to the soil or water but was captured in a drip pan or other containment. I review the learnings and then prepare the report to be shared with all of our units worldwide so they can learn from it. This will take maybe an hour every day. I typically have one or two meetings a day with various operations units where I spend time understanding their challenges or reviewing their successes. A lot of my job involves facilitating networking among our different operating groups. My long history with the company plus having worked in several different areas allows me to help folks solve their problems faster. Once a week or so, I spend a couple of hours with one my technicians reviewing various trends in environmental data from our units, such as number and volume of spills (or close calls), air emissions trends, water consumption, waste generation and the like. We look for trends that are telling us if we are headed on the right track or if we need to take some action. Depending on the time of year, I might spend several hours a day reviewing or preparing presentations and/or speeches on our environmental goals or performance. About once a week I spend an hour or so with one of the young women engineers in our company to mentor them on technical or career development issues. I actually think that one of the most valuable things I can do for the company is to push back on requests, especially from other business units or HQ to gather more data and impose new requirements on the operating units. At a very large company, it is very easy to get caught up in the bureaucracy and hard to remember that every new internal requirement we impose costs money. The older I get, the more I think like a shareholder instead of an employee and I ask "WHY?". Why do we need to collect this data? What are we going to do with it? Is there something we can stop doing? I try to do this via phone calls and meetings and NOT by just sending out an e-mail. It's easy to just be agreeable and build more bureaucracy but I feel it is important to try to add value. In this particular job, I only travel about 10% of the time. In my previous job, I conducted environmental and safety assessments and spent about 40% of my time travelling. I managed the group and so was able to pick and choose where I wanted to go and when so long as I spent time visiting all the various regions and business lines.
It depends on where I am. If I am in Texas, most everybody seems to be familiar with the oil business but when I am in the northeast or on the west coast, the discussion does usually get political
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I don't get angry because I understand how small the profit margin is on gasoline and I do have a good appreciation for what it costs to discover and develop new reserves. Crude oil is a commodity like every other commodity subject to the laws of supply and demand.
There are lots of fun parts of my job. Here are just a few. Finishing a project (drilling a well, etc.) on time and under budget, having a well come on line at a higher than expected rate of flow, travelling in helicopters to the rig (only because I don't go to the field week in and week out), recognizing teams that have done a good job & sharing that with the rest of the organization, helping a team that is struggling to solve a tough environmental problem (and having them say "thanks"), travelling to a new country, networking with my colleagues at conferences, and giving one of my employees a raise.
Not necessarily. If, for example you own all the mineral rights below your land, your neighbors can sign agreements and drilling can usually begin. In many states, the rule of capture applies and basically, he who sucks the reservoir dry wins, unless you can prove that the reservoir is being damaged by being drained too fast. You would have to prove that there is oil or gas below your land (most likely by drilling a well yourself - expensive!) and then convince the regulating agency to force the oil company into unitization. This can take years and cost a lot of money in legal fees. I would say that 12.5% to 25% off the top is a pretty good deal considering you are taking no financial risk with your own money. Disruption to your surface enjoyment of your land is a totally different issue and should not be confused with what is fair in terms of royalty payment. Keep in min too, that in many countries, citizens are not allowed to own the mineral rights and these are considered government assets. Mexico and most of the Middle East and African countries are prime examples of state owned oil and gas reserves.
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