Mentoring In The #oilpatch

By 19th November 2015 Industry News No Comments

I graduated from a Mechanical Engineering Technology Program in 1980. As part of the program I spent 3 months working for an oil and gas company in Northern Saskatchewan as a roustabout – basically a poorly paid laborer who had to do all the jobs that nobody else wanted. Training was minimal but my farming background and familiarity with equipment kept me alive. Safety on the job site was not a high priority at that time. I can remember a few incidents that left me thinking I was lucky to still be alive.

Following graduation, I was offered a position as a Production Technologist with a major O&G company in Fort St. John, BC. I packed my suitcase (yes just one), Dad drove me to Saskatoon, and I hopped on a jet (first time) for my new career. I somehow managed to get to my destination, only to find out my single possession – my luggage – was redirected to St. Johns Newfoundland- clear across the country! Upon arrival, my contact did not show up to pick me up, so I started to hitchhike in the direction I thought I needed to go. Luckily a tank truck driver who worked for the Major stopped, picked me up and got me to camp.

When I finally started work, I was amazed at the technological abilities that were available. In college, our computer classes consisted of punching cards and passing them though some air blown gizmo to get results on a CRT screen. My new position actually had a keyboard where you could type in results. (FYI I have an original Apple Commodore 64 in my basement). I learned how to read charts for gas measurement based on little green, red and blue ink on a piece of chart paper that would rotate once every 24 or 72 hours. I spent a year in the field operating oil and gas wells, waterflood operations, and a multi-stage gas plant that extracted butane, pentane, ethane, propane and every other ‘ane” you can imagine. It was powered by a gas turbine generator that scared the crap out of me. Guys like “Butch” Lorinson , Reg Wiesner and Ed Potts showed me the ropes – I guess it was the early stage of being mentored.

After 4 years of field and office work I was transferred to the Calgary head office to work as a Cased Hole Log Analyst. This is where my passion for working in the patch really began. I had the opportunity to learn from one of the pioneers of production logging analysis – Dr. Mac Mickinley. As an analyst, I was expected to travel to the field, supervise the logging, interpret the results and provide the reports. In 1984, very few logging cased hole trucks had computer systems. Vellum plots and lots of orange ink were the norm. If a log was obtained off depth, instead of re-logging the interval, the log was hand plotted in the line truck with the appropriate depth shift before running it through the Blue Line plotter. Many of the PLT jobs required 24 to 72 hours on location, and it was always a pleasure to smell the ammonia from the BlueLine as you knew the job was complete. 150 to 200 days a year in the field was the norm allowing me the opportunity to work directly with drilling and completion engineers, reservoir engineers, geologists, production engineers, etc., and be mentored by them. The skills and knowledge that they imparted of their specialties was invaluable and has served me well.

In 1998, I had an opportunity to move from the operator to service provider side managing a start-up specialty cased hole log division for a local service company. The lessons learned here were many and included logistics, customer service, management, budgeting, economics, technical sales, and a vast array of other skills, once again attributed to mentors and co-workers who were more than supportive of my career.

After a series of corporate takeovers I moved to a privately owned well abandonment company in 2005. I was quickly thrown into the role of Manager of Operations, and had to assume responsibility for all programming, operations, accounting and regulatory reporting. Twenty-five years into the patch, and my learning curve was spiked. However, I quickly learned that my already varied skill sets and the knowledge I had obtained from various people I had previously worked for was invaluable in being able to successfully abandon some very tough wells. Relying upon my contacts and their knowledge bailed me out of a few precarious and expensive situations. For example, I believe I completed the first ever casing drilling/fishing operation on an abandonment operation in Canada and could not have done it without the expertise of others. The crew did manage to run over the landowner’s water well, and again I had to rely upon the expertise and knowledge of others to fix that problem.

2008 brought with it yet another change in career, working with a private waste disposal company in Business Development. This role required market evaluation for waste streams, forecasting industry trends in shale gas development, evaluating competitors, recommending (or not) acquisitions, proposing greenfield sites and brownfield renovations. Once again I found my experiences and contacts from previous opportunities was invaluable, and once again I found my learning curve spiking. Having to make presentations to MBA’s, lawyers, CEOs, CFO’s, Presidents and Vice Presidents, etc. was taxing, but I was able to rely upon my experiences and a vast amount of human resources from past co-workers and mentors. Have I mentioned the mentors before?

In 2013, I decided to go back to my roots – cased hole log analysis. I worked with a wonderful group of people who had varying levels of experience. Without realizing it at the time, I found myself sharing my experiences and knowledge on a daily basis, and found it very rewarding – I guess you could call it mentoring. Sometimes I thought I was preaching and sometimes I thought I was the smartest person in the group. But you know what, some of the junior members actually mentored me in their skill sets and taught me lessons that will remain with me as well.

No one can do it all alone, especially in an industry as vast as ours. Having a mentor aided me throughout the different stages of my career and has been critical to the longevity and success of my career. If I could leave you with one piece of advice, it would be to find yourself a mentor – no matter how experienced, young or old – but someone who hold skills you don’t have, someone you can trust and ask them as many questions as possible. ALL people hold a wealth of knowledge and more often than not they are more than willing to share if asked.

I would love to hear from others who have found mentoring to be a vital part of their career. Who is that one person or persons that helped you the most and how?”