Spotlight: Ben Foreman, P&A Club manager at Well-Safe Solutions
Tell us a fun fact about yourself
At 37 I am still a student, studying for a Masters in Petroleum Engineering at Heriot Watt.
Tell us about your career journey so far
After getting my Beng in Mechanical Engineering at Loughborough University I worked at Toyota manufacturing plant as a trainee production engineer for a year, making the Auris and Avensis cars.
I then moved to Aberdeen to work for Schlumberger, a service company in the oil and gas industry. I worked in drilling and measurement, based in Aberdeen but working all over the world in 4 continents.
From Schlumberger I moved to a well engineering company called ADTI where I worked as a drilling engineer planning and executing the drilling and testing of oil and gas wells.
Unfortunately, ADTI was a victim of the downturn in 2014 and closed, I decided I wanted a job where I could improve my soft skills. I worked for ITF where I worked at the technology manager and was responsible for facilitating new technology developments between ingenious small technology development companies and massive multinational oil companies.
After a few years in that role, I got the itch to return to operations, so moved to a new start company called Well-Safe Solutions, initially as an abandonment engineer, but quickly progressing into a project manager role. Now I am responsible to the timely delivery of whole well abandonment projects to operator customers.
What was your favourite subject in school and why?
I equally enjoyed maths and physics. I like to understand why and how this work, those two subjects go some way to explaining that. I think it was also down to having good teachers in those subjects.
What subjects/qualifications are useful in your role?
I would say that maths and physics were crucial for doing an engineering degree. For my career after these are again the foundation of what I do, especially maths. But with engineering, you also need to take into consideration the cost and commercial impacts as well as safety, so other subjects like business studies also feed in. In all honesty all learning from school can be employed, as in an engineering role you require the skills of reading information, interpreting it and being able to provide a critique and apply it to solve a challenge.
There are also job-based qualification I have earnt while working, although job specific, they show the learning and development doesn’t stop once you start working.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
The diversity of the role, the cut and thrust of operations where the daily cost of operations can be quarter of a million, so time and efficiency are very important. The team that works for me also makes the job enjoyable, with the amount of time we spend working together that’s really important!!
I also enjoy problem solving, with well abandonment operations there is always a challenge that needs to be solved, I enjoy understanding an issue and providing solutions to that issue, then administering the solution to see the end result.
What is a normal day in your role like?
During planning a typical day is examining data, planning based on what we find, whilst communicating with the 100 stakeholders to make a successful project.
When I have a rig on hire and we are actively decommissioning wells the mornings start with reading the daily reports that are delivered at 6am, then in to a morning call with the rig at 8am to discuss the days operations and what is coming up. The day is that a mix of ensuring everything is in place for upcoming operations for both equipment and personnel, ensuring all relevant parties are aware of what is happening.
Suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?
Quest for Oil is a computer game made by Maersk and really well shows how oil is found and produced.
Practical example for well abandonment which shows the basic premise of well abandonment, which is to prevent hydrocarbons under pressure reaching surface by using a plug.
A series of experiment by putting different fluids (water, jam, peanut butter) in a straw and seeing how easy they are to push out of the straw by applying a pressure (blowing on it). Easy to see a low viscosity fluid like water will flow out easily, but a viscous fluid like nut butter will not. This along with the principle of permeability show how plugs work.