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  • Role: Operations Engineer
  • Location: Aberdeen
  • University: Aberdeen
  • Degree: Engineering & European Studies

Sandy Merson

So where did it all begin?

I studied at Aberdeen University – it’s my hometown and also has a great reputation for engineering.

I produced my thesis working for a automotive parts development company in Luxembourg. It was a great experience working abroad and getting to use the French that I had been studying alongside my engineering courses.

How did you decide on working in the oil and gas industry?

Before working in Luxembourg, being a ‘car fanatic’, I was interested in working in the automotive industry. I thought it would involve exciting technology, huge budgets and a jet-set lifestyle, but that was not the case. In that industry product budgets were small and the technology was derived from other industries as it was too expensive to develop.

So I looked for an industry that involves new technology, international travelling and has good promotion prospects. The oil and gas industry was the obvious choice, and as I was living in the oil capital of Europe, it was right on my doorstep.

Choosing Petrofac

I weighed up offers from a few companies and decided to join Petrofac] on its Operations Management graduate training scheme. I made this decision because of the way the scheme is structured. The first year involves two months (with some flexibility) in the following areas:

  • Offshore
  • HSEQ (Health Safety Environment Quality)
  • Maintenance
  • Facilities Engineering
  • Production Engineering
  • Design Engineering
  • Commercial

I could get a feel for what Petrofac does as a company whilst finding out what interested me and what I enjoyed. This would not have been possible if I had joined the ‘big two’ (Super Majors). It was good fun working with different teams and in different locations every two months.

From my first year moving around the company I found that what I wanted to be involved in was operations and production. It was very exciting to know that the result of my work was measurable in barrels of oil or uptime.

After my first year of the multi-discipline training, I was placed on one of the platforms that Petrofac operates on behalf of a client. I was given an individual project to review the platform technical drawings and update accordingly to ensure that they are up to date. This gave me exposure to working offshore and learning in detail the hydrocarbon separation process. An added bonus to this secondment was the time – I worked a two weeks offshore, two weeks off rota!

What are you doing now?

On completion of that project I moved into the job that I am in today. I am the Operations Engineer for the Heather platform, which is owned by Lundin. Petrofac is the ‘duty holder’ on the platform, which means that Petrofac is responsible for the safe operation and management of the platform.

My job involves supporting the offshore team regarding production, production targets and ensure safe operations. On a day to day basis this can involve anything, that’s what makes it exciting.

If you are looking for a job that is not just a ‘nine to five’ and where everyday involves a new exciting challenge, I would strongly recommend a job as an Operations Engineer!

What is involved?

Monitoring production
Checking the daily report from the platform and measuring that against production targets. Making recommendations on operations to maximise production.

Monitoring environmental targets
The industry has strict regulations on the discharge of oil to sea and gas burnt due to flaring. I produce the submissions to the BERR (Department for Business, Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform) for what we believe we will discharge the following year and monitor closely how we are performing against the targets set by the BERR for the current year.

Production problem solving
This is the part of the job I enjoy the most! Offshore will make you aware or by monitoring the live feed of production data I have on my computer, problems are identified. A quick solution is important to reach targets.

Operations improvements
Using a mixture of ageing equipment and new technology, I am responsible for providing operations knowledge and details to projects to improve the offshore operations. This is critical to maintain production.

Production onshore focal point
Compile and distribute information on production to the client and anyone requiring it.

Projects
I am responsible for managing projects involving production from organising vendors to going offshore in person to manage the job. A recent example of this was a scale squeeze job on one of the wells.

Budget holder
Oil production involves a large cocktail of chemicals at different points of the process train. The chemicals do everything from reducing corrosion to preventing scale build up in pipelines. I am the budget holder for Chemical Management Р and it is a significant budget for me to manage.

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