Working in oil and gas with my MSc Drilling and Well Engineering degree

Working in oil and gas with my MSc Drilling and Well Engineering degree

Liza van den Berg graduated from RGU last year with a master’s degree in Drilling and Well Engineering and has since been developing her career. She shares more about the diversity of her role, how RGU prepared her for the workplace and offers a positive outlook on the future of the industry.

About me

I can’t believe it has been more than a year since I graduated! It’s been a busy year. Starting a new job, officially moving to Aberdeen from the Netherlands and meeting lots of new people. I currently work as a Drilling and Wells Engineer with Equinor in Aberdeen. Although the MSc Drilling and Well Engineering degree prepared me well for my new challenge, there is no substitution for real world experience.

My role as a Drilling and Well Engineer

As the drilling engineer, you are in the centre of planning and drilling a new well. You need to make sure the work gets done. Good communication and keeping track of tasks is essential, as is an understanding of the technical challenges. Risk assessments are also a major factor in good well design. This is why there is a module dedicated to it in the degree, which was very helpful. After all, we want to drill a well safely and without any damage to people, the environment or assets.

Within Equinor, I have been given many opportunities to adopt various roles within the drilling and well engineering team. During the master’s degree, you learn a lot about the process of drilling and completing a well and I felt quite lucky to get the opportunity to go offshore as part of my role for some field experience.

During these trips, I completed tasks that helped me understand the process of drilling and completing an offshore well even more. I then returned onshore to guide operations as a programme engineer. This included providing planning support and problem solving. As the programme engineer, you also get involved with cost control tasks, such as invoicing, and vendor relations. Sometimes you have to get in touch with the authorities and draft reports, such as the end of well report. This report is especially important because it captures the lessons learnt on the well and makes sure we keep improving our performance.

Liza smiling in uniform standing in front of engineering equipment.

Using skills learned at RGU to progress in my career

After being in those roles for a couple of months, I moved on to the planning of a well. I was tasked with a challenging project. We had to look at improving the well’s trajectory while making sure we would avoid existing wells. All the while staying within the limits for cement operations, fluids etc. These few months consisted of many meetings where good communication was very important. It was also an opportunity to learn more about subsurface and what they are looking for in a good well.

The master’s degree has helped me a lot here. This was my chance to put into practice what I already knew about managing risk assessments, the technical challenges in well design, and the basics on what happens in the subsurface.

Finally, near the end of 2021 I took part in what we call ‘well maturation’. This is the stage before the main well planning and focuses on target optimisation. As a drilling engineer, you need to make sure the well is practically drillable while meeting all the design requirements. I especially enjoyed this time as it required a lot more creativity and is multi-disciplinary. The strong interaction with the Subsurface department and learning more on the geometry of the field was something that was particularly enjoyable. The MSc Drilling and Well Engineering module on subsurface especially helped me understand the challenges of placing and, ultimately, producing the well.

Building global connections through engineering work

In a few weeks, I will have the opportunity to go to Brazil and work for Equinor in Rio de Janeiro. This will be a great opportunity to gain experience in a different field with its own risks and challenges.

The beauty of the oil industry for me is that you can potentially work anywhere in the world. You meet so many different people from as many diverse cultures. Every day I work with people across the globe. For example, you might need to talk to someone based in Norway and set up a meeting after that with someone located in Canada to gather all the experience you need for your well to have a successful design.

Working with people from different countries in my own team makes work a bit more interesting. Everyone has a unique story behind how they ended up in Aberdeen working for Equinor!

Starting this journey with the MSc Drilling and Well Engineering at RGU

As you can see from my story, two days are never the same in my role. Every well is different, and many things can change and trigger a new plan. If you like that diversity, then I certainly recommend a job in the oil and gas industry, and specifically in Drilling and Well Engineering.

The master’s degree at RGU will prepare you well in understanding the basic principles. It will also give you a good head start when job hunting. You will already have some of the technical skills needed to design a well and some basic knowledge of subsurface and geology. You will also already know to handle risks and how to maintain safe operations.

If you are in doubt that a job in the oil and gas industry is for you, there are also many opportunities for summer internships.

The future of drilling engineers

In the future, I can still see myself as a drilling engineer. The energy transition is happening, but it will not happen overnight. While companies build up their decarbonisation businesses, oil and gas will still play a role as a transitionary source of energy.

There is a lot of value that drilling engineers can add in reducing emissions from operations, so that while we still produce oil and gas, we do so with the lowest emissions. The best people to help with this are the drilling engineers, since they already understand the drilling process.

We will need more young engineers who can think outside the box to drive change in oil and gas. They will need to help with challenges such as carbon capture and storage. Or even assist on other large infrastructure projects linked to the transition. So, don’t be scared away by people telling you there is no future in oil.

There has never been such an exciting time where so many different technologies could be used to accelerate the reduction of emissions while still ensuring the world has energy.

Liza van den Berg

Read more about Liza’s experience studying MSc Drilling and Well Engineering.

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