Industry Challenges, Role Playing Highlight SPE Workshop

The theme of the SPE Young Professionals Workshop held in Biarritz, France, during 20–23 March was “Our Challenging Future: Preparing Today’s Young Professionals for Tomorrow’s Challenges.” Judging by the feedback from attendees, the workshop achieved exactly what the steering committee intended. The event was attended by 47 young professionals representing 21 companies and 18 different nationalities. There was a roughly 50/50 split between representation from service and operating companies and a 60/40 male/female representation. There was an interesting cross section of professional interests among attendees: reservoir engineers, geoscientists, production engineers, drilling engineers, economists, and business developers. It was pleasing to see that the SPE young professionals’ initiative has gathered interest from professionals outside petroleum engineering.

The workshop was opened by workshop Cochairpersons Michel Maguerez of Total and Natalie Pestana of Shell E&P. Alain Labastie of Total provided an interesting overview of SPE, membership benefits, and the importance of young professionals to the future of the industry and SPE.

The Industry in Context

Keynote speaker Nicola Pocchetino, Senior Energy Analyst at the Intl. Energy Agency, opened the first session of the workshop. If governments stick to their current energy policies, Pocchetino said, global energy demand will be more than 50% higher in 2030 than it is today; north African and Middle Eastern countries will continue to play a critical role in meeting the world’s appetite for energy; energy importing countries likely will amend their policies so they curb demand growth and reduce reliance upon oil and gas; increased investment in technology by the industry will be required; and there will be an insufficient number of technical experts in the industry. The remainder of the session presented a broad view of the most important issues facing our industry in E&P, refining, and gas trading. Henrik Carlsen of Statoil painted the Barents Sea as Europe’s new leading offshore oil and gas province and discussed the numerous innovative technologies that are currently being deployed there. Philippe Jacob of Total spoke of the challenges for the refining industry and examined consumption vs. refining capacity on all the continents. Gerd Poell of Wingas presented how his company is involved in buying, selling, transporting, and storing gas in Germany. The session concluded with a panel session involving all speakers.

Conflict Resolution and the Flying Egg

In the second session, Bill Robb of Profit Improvers Ltd. discussed conflict resolution through a case study and role play. At the end of the exercise, Robb provided some advice on how to manage conflicts effectively. The Flying Egg Activity was a team-building game designed to test creativity, innovation, and communication skills. All teams were given equipment and told to build a contraption that would prevent an egg from breaking when dropped from a certain height. But the teams were not told that they could not speak to each other during the construction phase. Some interesting ideas emerged, not many eggs were broken, and participants had a lot of fun.

Innovation and Knowledge Transfer

Two excellent presentations were delivered by Jacques Lacambre of Renault and Peter Day of Schlumberger. Lacambre spoke about “Innovation at Renault.” It was clear that there is a strong customer focus in the automobile industry that is not matched by the oil and gas industry. The innovation process was described in detail, and the idea of “inverse coaching,” in which the young teach their older colleagues was explained. Day presented a talk on “Knowledge Transfer in Schlumberger.” When working in the oil field, language often can be a barrier, he said, but employees need the ability to connect with someone who can help out. Day described the Eureka “communities of practice,” in which employees have the ability to throw questions to a community of people, and the “In Touch” system that enables an employee to find someone who can help him as well as track similar problems and solutions in an archive.

That night, a Petrobowl quiz was held, with two teams tying for first place. Questions covered all aspects of the oil and gas industry, ranging from technology to history, from engineering to world affairs.

New Technologies for Challenging Environments

Another session presented an overview of several wide-ranging technologies and their applications. The many questions from the audience indicated a great deal of interest in all the technologies presented. Iain Wright of BP discussed “CO2 Capture and Geological Storage,” which he said could make a major contribution to greenhouse gas reduction. Thibaut Dornoy of BJ Services spoke on “Produced-Water Control.” Using an interactive software presentation, Dornoy demonstrated how a small reduction in water cut results in significantly more profitable oil production. Relative permeability modifiers can be used for controlling produced water, and several examples of this were shown. Lloyd Williams of Shell gave a presentation on “Sakhalin Phase 2.” The project is not technologically intensive, but how it interacts with the environment is the greatest challenge. The project includes the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Russia and would provide the first Russian gas to the Asia Pacific region and the U.S. west coast. Laurent Bouquier of Total presented the many challenges associated with deepwater environments. Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico are the leading regions in this technology, but other regions are developing quickly. Bouquier explained the innovations involved and the challenge of dealing with more complex fluids.

Business Game

In another session, participants played a team game revolving around a realistic situation that could occur in a company involved in producing oil and gas. There were three scenarios (drilling engineering, geological, and facilities engineering), but none required specific technical knowledge. Teams worked on one scenario, sought out information, managed the problem, and reported on stakeholder management, decisions made, and actions taken, as well as longer-term implications of successfully managing the project.

In the final session, “Gas Development,” four speakers covered a range of topics. Paula Marques of Shell presented “Global LNG Outlook—Shell in LNG.” LNG consumption is growing rapidly in China, the U.S., and Europe, Marques said, and LNG has advantages over other forms of energy. He also spoke about the complex interconnection of markets, security of supply, and gas-to-liquids technology. Stefano Rivelli of Banca Intesa gave a presentation on “Gas Development Project Financing,” explaining the many steps and risk analyses associated with the process. Obtaining financing for a project such as the Qatar Gas 2 LNG project, the case study presented, could take as long as 2 years. Laurent Dordain of GRT Gaz offered insight into the French gas market and then extended this to the European gas market. Dordain explained how the laws on third-party access to the European Union gas network were formulated and how the uniform specification of gas across Europe was determined. Furio Marchesani of SnamProgetti provided an informative presentation on gas-pipeline technology. Pipelines are becoming longer and more expensive, and they are being laid in more challenging environments (e.g., deepwater, Arctic, and severe seismic environments). Several major pipeline projects were discussed, along with their commercial and political issues, including the Iran-India pipeline. Attendee Alexander Zakharov of Carbo Ceramics then gave an overview of the Russian oil and gas industry and SPE in Russia.

Networking was a highlight of the workshop.


Two participants take part in the discussions.


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