"Using different ideas to solve one problem." Discoveries of a Senior Drilling Engineer.

Teaching the Basics

After leaving university in 1999, Per Atle Flytlie was a substitute teacher at the Godalen High school in Norway, awaiting an upswing in the oil industry. Within one year Per Atle changed his career for good, and became a part of the offshore industry, working his way up to his current position as a Senior Drilling Engineer (SDE).

“With teaching you could be dealing with children who are not working because they are unhappy, I found it’s a lot easier to deal with more technical and straight forward calculations,” laughs Per Atle. “Teaching was a good base but I wanted to see where the future could take me. I decided to move into the offshore industry as I had studied Petroleum Engineering at university.”

Like many other senior positions in the industry, the role of SDE is a versatile and challenging one. The SDE oversees the whole drilling process from start to finish and will work with a team of engineers on the project. The SDE will also oversee the cost estimates of the project and make sure that all health and safety procedures have been carried out.

Since leaving the classroom, Per Atle has been a part of some innovative projects in the industry, including a substantial oil discovery in the Havis Prospect in the Barents Sea. In 2011, Statoil together with its partner Eni Norge AS and Petoro AS discovered an oil reservoir with the volume of 200 to 300 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalents. “This was a very positive and exciting experience for me.” The well was drilled to a depth of 2200 meters below sea level.

Following Guidelines

During these projects, Per Atle implemented the JobSMART methodology to guide the team through the planning process. The JobSMART methodology is in regards to the planning process that can be used to guide a team. Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related (SMART) criteria guides the project manager throughout, setting and following objectives throughout operations.

“This is the overall approach in the engineering package so when you start the entire process of designing the well you need to plan the different stages from its design to execution. The difficulty is not just to take the model from a theoretical design to the finished product, but to take on all the different design ideas and calculations. Every team member comes up with different solutions for the design. Everyone has their own opinion, coming from different backgrounds and having different responsibilities can make the job more difficult when coming up with a final solution. As an SDE you have to be structured and disciplined and open to different solutions, this can be contradictory but this is one of the best methods for this role.

This is only one of the challenges when working in a team of like-minded people. I have to decide the best practical procedure then put this on a piece of paper. For instance, when the design is passed onto the execution team sometimes it can be difficult to fully understand this; the challenge is to make sure that everyone is on the same page. By following the project timeline not only does this help me to keep track of the team but also the objectives of the project.”

Dealing with the Downturn

The recent downturn in the oil and gas industry has meant a decrease in production as Per Atle explains. “One of the main issues of this downturn is that it affects the pace of operations and how projects are being matured and progressed. This is mainly due to the guidelines of approval; they have become a lot stricter in recent years. You need to show that the design will be beneficial for the company and that it’s cost efficient.  I think that this has also affected the relationship with partners and clients. Before you could travel out to meet face to face, but now your interaction with them is more through emails and conference calls, this is a shame as I think you risk missing important elements on the way.”

Although the issues of the downturn have affected Per Atle’s interaction with partners and clients this hasn’t put him off in finding new discoveries in the oil industry. “I would say to anyone who plans to work in the oil industry, get your hands dirty and get the feel for what it’s all about. There will be plenty of time to sit in an office and deal with the theory of everything however, being out on the rig and seeing how it works in real life is the biggest advantage you could have whilst working offshore.”

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Image: Harald Pettersen/Statoil