When it comes to exploration for oil and reservoir development, work methods have undergone enormous change in recent years. But the drive to find out what is hidden several kilometers under the seabed remains the same. Meet the new oil hunters!
Because that is what this is all about, a hunt for the prize, or maybe we should call it a juicy case for skilled detectives. Both exploration geologists and reservoir engineers work to understand where petroleum deposits might be hiding in the subsurface, and how we can manage to produce these resources.
“I think this is part of the reason why petroleum geology is so interesting,” says Anita Andreassen.
After completing her studies, she took a job in the exploration department in Lundin Norway. Here she joined the ranks of a relatively large number of new hires in the company’s exploration and reservoir departments.
“At the bachelor level, this mostly dealt with general geology, but with different electives. The “treasure hunter-aspect” of the petroleum elective made it the most exciting subject for me, which is why I decided to get my master’s degree in petroleum geology,” says Anita Andreassen.
Both she and the other young “oil hunters” mention excitement as an import factor in choosing their profession. The basic data from collecting seismic, well data and core samples from all wells drilled on the shelf just gets better and better. But Mother Earth still holds some surprises for us. Both positive and negative.
New tools and methods
The paramount task is the same as before – finding new petroleum on the Norwegian shelf. But this tribe of young oil hunters in Lundin agrees that the biggest difference lies in software tools and all the new opportunities when it comes to how they can cooperate in their work.
“There is no doubt that the biggest change from the generation before us up to now is the enormous access to data and the opportunity we have now to handle such vast volumes of data,” says Christina Berge. She is a petroleum engineer whose work includes optimising production from reservoirs.
“Advanced software and 3D models allow us to cooperate in entirely different ways than before,” says Berge.
At the same time, the human factor is just as important as ever. The exploration and reservoir community in Lundin has a reputation of being among the best in Norway, and the world. For young professionals, this is an important factor which leads to them applying to work for the company. Heidi Holte works as a geologist in Lundin’s branch office in Harstad. She is very focused on drawing on her colleagues’ knowledge.
“We have the expertise right here. But you can’t be afraid to tap someone on the shoulder, or pick up the phone and call someone when you get stuck on a problem, or if there’s something you are wondering about,” says Heidi Holte.
All “the new oil hunters” agree that they have a major influence on their own daily work.
“My experience was that I became ‘part of the team’ as soon as I started here,” says exploration geologist Anita. “There’s really no limitations because you are ‘new’. That kind of trust means that you can, and you must, shape your own working day, while at the same time being expected to contribute to the shared goals,” says Anita Andreassen.
Christina Berge thinks she can make good use of both her education and her social involvement in her job.
“I think the oil industry is a place where I can accomplish something, and that it gives me an opportunity to be a voice for positive development in the industry,” she says.
But interest in Christina’s chosen field of study has dwindled in recent years.
“When I started my petroleum studies in 2012, there were more than 200 applicants vying for the spots, but when my studies were complete, the number of applicants had fallen to around 20,” says Berge.
In her opinion some of the cause for this lies in the general social debate, but also the decline in activity in the industry have played a role.
“When I was studying, the Johan Sverdrup development was just getting started, and there was stiff competition to hire new graduates. Then came the oil price decline and a shortage of major new projects. That meant that the prospects of getting a job after graduation were not particularly good. However, the job market is improving, and I believe the industry will demand new graduates for many years to come,” says Berge.
Heidi Holte points out that there could be an opportunity to influence the development of the oil and gas industry from the inside. She worked for a period in the US, and she noticed a major difference in the mentality.
“Norway is highly regarded in the international industry, not least when it comes to the environment. We are particularly known for the way we have combined regulations, technological development and work methods to make measures that benefit the environment profitable,” says Holte. She mentions re-use of drilling mud as an example.
Anita Andreassen also mentions the interest in the natural environment and outdoor recreation as a recurring theme for geologists.
“But of course, there is a logical explanation for that,” she says. “The mountains are full of fascinating bedrock and rock formations”.