PETRONAS looks to industry collaboration, guidelines to meet long-term training, technology needs
By Mike Killalea, editor
Datuk George Ling is drilling advisor for PETRONAS. He is also Technical Programme Committee co-chairman for the 2012 IADC/SPE Asia Pacific Drilling Technology Conference & Exhibition, 9-11 July, Tianjin, China.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see for PETRONAS and for the industry at large?
We see it getting back to people. Currently we have a lot of experienced people, including myself, and we are depending on them to ensure that we run operations efficiently and professionally. We want to grow, and that is the missing part. We really want to grow. For that, we really have to focus and invest.
At the same time, we also have to have the elements to ensure that we hold these young people by the hand as professionals. For that we will acquire the best materials and handbooks, including IADC’s, which we look at closely. That’s also why I will be working with Chit Hlaing (IADC operations assistant – Asia operations) for the help we can get from IADC – all the learning materials, the industry’s best.
We will package it in such a way that will be good for our people. At the same time, we will also look into how we can put everything about our operations online. One has to be proactive. The other thing is to help our younger people so that we can really manage them as they go along.
Because we had so many difficult years in this business, we didn’t hire significantly for many years. So there’s a lot of older people and then many new people. Is that similar for PETRONAS?
That is what we now focus on. If you looked at the pool of people at the contractors 10, 15, 20 years ago, now you see them – still the same faces.
We want to change, because in another five or 10 years they will be really retired. You can see some of the faces here, 70 plus. Malaysians like us retire at 55. I retired, but I am back again. We can work until 60 or 65, but we are talking about five, 10 years. And that is really what we are focusing on now – really putting out a sustainable training program.
Currently, we are talking about establishing a well-engineering master’s program for people who have gained degrees in petroleum engineering.
We will see new faces then. It will not be easy. It is not going to be two to three years down the line; we are talking about five, 10 years down the line. We want to make it sustainable.
What about technical challenges? The Asia Pacific region and Malaysia in particular has a lot of deepwater potential. Drilling-wise, what are some challenges?
That is why we are so keen to look into adopting WellCAP, because most of the drilling contractors – the drillers, the roustabouts – are taking WellCAP-accredited courses. Why are we doing something different? We want to be able to communicate with them. I made the commitment during a speech at PETRONAS that we really want to see IADC come in here this time.
We try to represent the whole industry. Of course, contractors are our major members, but we want to represent everyone and make the industry work efficiently.
We really want to see the standards that you have – you have WellCAP and other training programs, the magazine, training materials and reference books, as well as guidelines and standards. We are looking at these and following them. Our minimum standard is API, but in some cases we may have to raise it higher.
What about managed pressure drilling?
We have been doing that and engaged a few experts. And we are training our younger people to understand what it’s all about. After the Macondo incident, we tightened up our standards, our procedures, the training of people and how to be able to communicate better with the drilling contractors.
A lot of issues boil down to communication and how can we communicate better. It’s good that we are all associated with IADC in one way or another so we see you as a pulling point for us to work together. We want to be part of that.
PETRONAS is operating globally now. Will that continue?
Definitely. We are opening up in many other areas.
We will be getting into Africa. We have been in Turkmenistan, and we will go further there as well. We are in Vietnam, and hopefully one day we will be in China and in Canada.
What can contractors and service companies do better to work more harmoniously with PETRONAS?
Who can pull us together better than IADC? We all hope to be able to communicate in the same language. That is why we say it’s best to standardize procedures along IADC guidelines. Along with that, we must stress competencies and communications. We must talk the same language, and this is an area where IADC can help us.
For a long time, the major oil companies were the drivers of new technology. Then the service companies adopted that role. Do you see that PETRONAS and other NOCs are going to be drivers of technology more than in the past?
We definitely want to improve our efficiency, no doubt about it. We can’t continue to do things with the old ways. We dare to take the challenge. We are looking at many areas like you said – managed pressure drilling, mud cap drilling. We are now even seriously considering surface BOPs. The question is, can that technology be sustainable?
Not only sustainable but efficient and profitable. That part is very important for us. For instance in deepwater, we look at what others are doing. We also want to see that our drilling contractors can do that as well. It’s very important we have a good marriage.
Do you have specific applications for surface BOPs?
We are not doing it yet, but we are seriously looking. We must determine the safety of surface BOP drilling through risk assessment and participation with a contractor. How will they approach it? What is their confidence level? We are looking at it for exploration.
In Malaysian waters?
We will definitely do it here first and see how confident we are. Here we will have better control.
It began offshore Thailand.
I have done it personally, many years ago with Stena Drilling. Many people have experience here, particularly our deepwater team, many with 20 to 30 years of experience. We have specialists in deepwater and in HPHT, many of them contractors. However, as I’ve said, we are short of our own people.
That seems to be an industrywide problem.
That is the reason why I am here: to focus a bit more on how we will upgrade our in-house capabilities.