Well Drilling Engineer
In the Exploration & Production sector, Total is noted for steady growth in its production and in its oil and gas reserves, thanks to its positions in the North Sea, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East and America. Once a prospected area is shown to be promising, a subsidiary drilling operation is set up and the Well Drilling Engineer drills wells to confirm the presence of hydrocarbons. If this is successful, new wells are drilled to determine the precise dimensions of the field. Finally, development wells are drilled to extract the oil and gas from the fields.
The tasks of a Well Drilling Engineer lie in four core areas:
- Conducting operations: in a subsidiary, he is based overseas working on drilling rigs or platforms to prepare operations or take part in intricate operations. He supervises well drilling and helps to solve day-today technical problems. In development, he delivers the field, ready for production, to the operator.
- Planning and design: he produces drilling and completion programmes, forecasts the timescale and budget for operations, analyses and optimises methods and processes. He selects the equipment and controls costs. He orders and supervises special studies by head office or engineering service companies. He manages the relative budgets.
- Contract management, project and drilling site supervision: at a subsidiary or headquarters, he prepares tenders, produces technical specifications then selects suppliers. He takes part in the fabrication and acceptance of equipment and manages relations with contractors.
- Operations supervision and engineering studies: at headquarters, he has a role in supervising and assisting with operations and carries out studies for the subsidiaries or other departments.
As part of each task, the engineer watches over the safety of the men and installations and ensures respect for the
A junior Well Drilling Engineer works initially (for eighteen to twenty-four months) as a Junior Supervisor and sometimes as a Rig Engineer on a drilling rig. His second posting will be to a subsidiary as a junior base engineer (around two years) then he will join a research team based in Paris or Pau (around two years). At the end of this training period, he is a qualified engineer and joins a subsidiary.
After an initial posting to a subsidiary as a qualified engineer, he will be given a change of post approximately every three years, alternating between a subsidiary and headquarters. Eventually, he may become a senior Well Drilling Engineer, a departmental manager at headquarters, a Drilling Manager in a small to medium-sized subsidiary then in a large subsidiary, or occupy other managerial posts. He may also take up a career as a specialist or expert.
- Graduate of a School of General Engineering, possibly supplemented by an ENSPM/DEG training course. Long training periods or VIE in the oil industry, preferably in the field of drilling, are appreciated.
- Geographical mobility, personal authority, aptitude for team work, adaptability, decisionmaking skills, receptive to new ideas.
- A good working knowledge of English essential, a second foreign language appreciated.
Experiences of Samir O.
Nationality: French – Age: 31
Well Drilling Engineer - Graduate of the École Centrale de Nantes, ENSPM Diploma in Oilfield Development and Production
After a two-year posting in Venezuela followed by two years of supervision on a drilling site (on land then offshore), I spent three years as a Well Drilling Engineer at a subsidiary in Luanda, Angola. Now I am at the forefront of the development operations carried out by the Group. Specifically, I conduct preliminary project engineering studies
and business related with new wells, upstream of operations, in conjunction with the exploitation engineers. These engineers coordinate development studies for new or producing oilfields. They manage relatively large projects which they initiate by collecting data required for engineering and economic analyses. Then they coordinate with the Group's business lines which take the studies forward in their special fields.
Synthesising well-drilling expertise
For my part, I coordinate all studies related with well drilling. I analyse the problems, seek solutions with the help of specialists (stratum-borehole link-up, activation, rock mechanics...) and finally I assess the well-drilling expertise and recommend the best solution.
A study may take a week for a prospect analysis, or up to six months in the case of a preliminary project engineering study. It deals with both the technical and economic feasibility of the project. The areas of interest are located all over the world, so I virtually, or actually during study assignments, tour the world as part of a team of seven engineers based in Paris who do the same job as I do. I do five to six studies simultaneously so I need to organise my time very carefully.
A joint decision-making process
The exploitation engineer is particularly interested in the cost estimates produced in the study. After I have submitted my study, and once the technical feasibility and HSE (Health, Safety and Environmental) risks have been assessed and validated, he passes it to an economist to assess the cost-effectiveness of the project. His report then goes up through the various decision-making levels of the Group as far as the Executive Committee, which decides in last esort whether or not to launch. Every study does not have a successful outcome and paradoxically this is what makes the job so interesting. By examining the subsequent stages through which the studies pass, you see in action the decision-making process on which the launch of a project depends.
So I get an overall view of the operation of the Group, particularly in Exploration & Production, and of all the related validation procedures. And then if a new field is opened up I have the satisfaction of telling myself that maybe I had something to do with it.
Experiences of Claudia P.
Nationality: Venezuelan – Age: 31
Well Drilling Engineer – Paris (France) - Graduate of an Engineering School in Venezuela and holder of an MSc degree in Oilfield Development and Production from the IFP
Assisting the Subsidiaries
First of all, the team assists the subsidiaries upstream or during their operations. The team leader centralises requests and operational queries from the subsidiaries and, according to the specialities, each member responds to them within his or her sphere of activity.
Preliminary design studies – well architecture
I also participate in preliminary design studies. Once the drilling location has been pin-pointed by the reservoir engineers and a development project has been drawn up by the exploitation engineers, we conduct feasibility studies on, for example, vertical profiling, the section of the casing that will be lowered into the drilled well to bring up effluent, or the
choice of a piece of drilling equipment capable of exploiting the well. For a well feasibility study, one must calculate whether the pumping capacity during drilling and the hoisting capacity for raising and lowering well casings will be sufficient. At the same time, we must examine the strength of the materials chosen at the pressure and temperature to which the well will be subjected.
What I like about these studies is that, in addition to varying in duration and complexity, they are very specific and hands-on. In addition, the team that monitors the subsequent operations (those who put what we have studied into effect) gives us regular feedback on our recommendations. We then use this operational feedback to optimise our future studies.
Constant monitoring of new technology
Finally, I have a third cross-departmental task of acting as a kind of referral agent over two specialities within the Group. Total has decided to centralise information on new technology so that it can be passed on to the subsidiaries. Therefore several of us are tasked with a technology watch at companies supplying the subsidiaries and other operators, to monitor the deployment of new drilling technology and inform the subsidiaries of innovations.
For example, a task that has been put on hold for lack of adequate technology may be reinstated if advances in technology enable it to be done. My brief covers multilateral technologies (wells with several branches) and expandable tubular technologies (casings that are lowered into wells then expanded to increase well production diameter).
Shared experience and multicultural interaction
In my job, I am frequently in contact with people who have more work experience than I have. However, when carrying out studies experience is an important factor. By working with more experienced people you learn from them. My work environment is also a multicultural one because of the many contacts with the subsidiaries and with service companies or other operators. This is very rewarding.
An important factor in my job is planning control. I often carry out several studies at the same time and the important thing is to produce a result quickly and not become bogged down in the details of the study. To avoid overrunning deadlines and also savour the sheer variety of assignments, it is essential to manage your time well.