Total recruited me last year on a visit to campus, while I was completing my petroleum engineering Master’s. Having already spent nine years with PTT, the Thai national oil company, I was joining a few years into my career, but it’s only really now that I’m seeing what the global oil industry has to offer.
I’m a completion engineer in Congo, on the west coast of Africa – my first assignment for Total. Completion is the process of installing special equipment to turn a drilled well into a producing one. Completion engineers design and monitor the installation of completions, and devise methods of improving oil and gas production once wells are on stream.
I never imagined I’d end up in Africa or in a French-speaking country – a huge leap. Until recently, I didn’t speak the language, which is a big barrier both in work and outside it. But Total has been really helpful, sending me on language courses and I’m quickly finding my feet.
At present, I’m working with a work-over unit. Work-overs are interventions performed on producing wells to restore or increase production – by removing sand or wax from the wellbore, for example, or by mechanically repairing the well. Reservoir engineers and well-performance teams identify problems and, as a completion engineer, I then design solutions that improve performance at a reasonable economic cost. I’m also on hand to solve any snags that arise during the actual operation. In the more complex projects, it can take months to go from the initial engineering study to implementation, and typically we’ll be working on several projects simultaneously.
The size of teams varies from perhaps three or four in a simple work-over to several more in a complex intervention. And they typically include representatives from various services companies, each responsible for different aspects of each well. Leading a team to a successful execution of a plan and taking responsibility for its design is a challenging role, but one that I find exciting and rewarding.
My original motivation for choosing the oil and gas industry was the crucial role it plays in the global economy. The need for personnel is global and the working conditions are exciting: I like travelling and the industry gives me that opportunity. Remuneration is good too.
Since then, I’ve also come to appreciate the vast range of careers it offers. In fact, one of the things that drew me to Total was its policy of supporting people who wish to change disciplines and making the right training available to enable that to happen. At some point, I could transfer to drilling or reservoir engineering, and work in other cutting-edge developments such as deep-water drilling.
The opportunities to take on responsibility come early in your career. If you’re driven, you like working in an international environment, then this is the place for you.