Oil opportunity

As confidence returns to the UK’s offshore industry, the sector will continue to offer attractive openings for skilled engineers

Thousands of engineers have made their living in and from the North Sea in the 40 years since the discovery of the Forties Field, the grandfather of the UK’s offshore oil industry.

Forties may be past its peak but still produces a respectable amount of oil, a symbol of a North Sea industry that is changing but that will deliver significant economic benefit to the UK for the foreseeable future.

A major part of that benefit comes from the skilled engineering posts provided by the offshore industry and the wider oil and gas sector, which is estimated to support 450,000 jobs across the UK.
According to industry body Oil & Gas UK, confidence is returning to a sector that has suffered the effects of the recession like every other area of the economy.

The organisation’s annual economic report said capital investment, for example, is expected to reach as much as £6bn this year and possibly more in 2011 after several years of decline to a 2009 level of £4.7bn.

There is still plenty to play for offshore, with reserves of up to 24 billion boe (barrels of oil equivalent) estimated to remain beneath the UK continental shelf. Huge opportunities are expected to flow from the pressing need to decommission existing oil and gas infrastructure.

Every installation that is decommissioned represents a major engineering project. Oil & Gas UK expects £26bn to be spent on decommissioning by 2040, with £10bn worth of projects in the next decade alone.

All this activity suggests that prospects are bright for businesses operating in the sector and for the engineers they will need to bring their projects to fruition.

We get excited about candidates who are from outside the industry as most skills tend to be transferable

Petrofac is a good example of a major player in the oil and gas sector that is looking to the future with confidence and recruiting skilled engineers. The company designs, builds and commissions facilities across the world in the up and downstream sectors of the industry.
Petrofac’s Offshore Engineering & Operations (OE&O) business is looking to fill around 30 posts covering a wide range of skills to help further expand its range of services, including offshore engineering, operations management and maintenance.

It is seeking around five process engineers, as well as those with experience in technical safety, piping, electrical and instrumentation, and structural engineering, plus designers in all disciplines.

Jim Lenton, engineering director for Petrofac OE&O, said there are additional opportunities for project managers and engineers. ’Anyone with experience in leading large, lump-sum projects with a value greater than £100m should seriously consider getting in touch.’

Lenton is keen to dispel the myth that the oil and gas industry is a closed shop. ’We get excited about candidates with experience from outside the industry, as most skills tend to be transferable,’ he said.

Petrofac wants engineers who can come up with innovative solutions to the challenges the company faces, which often include working on complex infrastructure in remote and demanding conditions.

If they are ready to meet these challenges, nobody should be put off if they have the right skills and educational background, said Lenton. In the case of engineers, Petrofac is looking for a BEng or equivalent and possibly a Masters qualification. Designers will usually need a HND, HNC or similar.

Those who join Petrofac will have the chance to work on some of the industry’s most innovative projects, said Lenton. ’In the UK alone we have a number of long-term contracts underway, including our work with Apache, Marathon and Centrica.’Further afield, Petrofac is working on significant projects with Petrom in Romania and has a growing presence in Dubai. Although the majority of the work for the current crop of new posts will be based out of Aberdeen, Lenton said opportunities for work overseas are expected to grow.

New recruits to Petrofac will find themselves part of a fast-moving company, with all the challenges and rewards that brings. ’If you like to be challenged and want to develop, I can’t think of a better place,’ said Lenton.