When Stephanie Liddelow, a petroleum engineering student from the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), took her seat in the conference room of the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on 12 May, she did not know quite what to expect. Ms Liddelow was one of 45 students invited to attend the 2011 IADC Environmental Conference & Exhibition, 12-13 May.
As the day’s presentations unfolded, she found herself looking through a window to the future framed by scientific experts and professionals from the myriad disciplines connected with the global oil and gas industry. Student attendance at the conference had been sanctioned by Rodney Jagai, UTT department head and program professor.
The UTT petroleum engineering department believed that conference would reaffirm the importance of environmental issues to the petroleum industry. In the drilling and completions courses at the school, environmental awareness of discharges and effluents are always a part of the discussions, particularly as it relates to drilling mud and well control, according to Doodnath Ramsundar, research associate and lecturer at UTT.
Beaming as she emerged from the conference hall, Ms Liddelow stopped to comment that she had wished to step up to the microphone and thank Dr Lee Hunt, IADC president, for inviting UTT students. “I thought it was a very educational experience for me, this being my fourth year at the university,” Ms Liddelow said. “It was very interesting to actually meet these people and hear their thoughts, what they had to say about the oil industry and the environment and what’s happened. I was moved. I will be part of the generation that will be going into the oil and gas industry now. The industry may actually finish the work that it has started (to partner with other energy players in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region to set and meet necessary environmental standards). That’s inspired me, and I can speak for my classmates as well, to continue (the environmental initiative) that’s been started.”
Expressing a similar reaction to the environmental conference experience, student Stefan Joseph said, “It was a great experience for me, a student and an aspiring petroleum engineering major, to be surrounded by great established professionals. The conference opened my eyes on how important the environment is with respect to the petroleum industry. It also raised my awareness to many of the challenges faced in drilling and the petroleum industry.”
Several students remarked that they had been affected by a slide from one presentation that showed several children playing on a beach. The concept that these children represented the grandchildren of generations to come seemed to evoke and renew the students’ commitment to considering the environment while pursuing their interest in energy industry technologies.
“We hope to get information about environmental factors in drilling and the operations of contractors in the field, as well as hear about things that are being done to protect the future and how vetted technology can provide protection for the environment, as well as human life from pollution and environmental factors,” Joshua Ragoonanan, another UTT student, said.
“Since the entire thing is mostly about environmental concerns of the petroleum industry, I think that by being here and learning about the different technologies and systems that are in place and somewhat secure human lives will expose us to the safety factor of the industry and will help us to have some kind of faith that we will be protected offshore,” student Omari Waldron said. “We’re learning about sustainable development and how we have to provide for our future.”
“I would agree,” fellow student Khalid Juman said. “When I started to pursue petroleum engineering, I didn’t really think much about the environment to be quite honest, and today I realize that the environment has a lot to do with what I am doing. I think this information can help me out by offering a different perspective to my studies.”
Enthusiastic about the invitation to participate in the conference, student Kaleem Mohammed pointed out that “it was kind of a shock at first. We didn’t expect to get invited to something like this. It was quite an honor to be invited also, to be among petroleum engineers and the industry, which will be beneficial to us in some way with our studies. It’s a great exposure for us so we will know what we are getting into.”
“It was a real experience that the class was not expecting. When we got the e-mail, I was shocked to get this from the IADC. We’re still in school, in fact I’m glad to be here,” student Shannon Fernandez said.
Ms Liddelow and many of the other students attending the conference will soon be stepping into global energy careers. It is the hope of Dr Hunt, Mr Jagai and industry professionals that this next generation of petroleum engineers will fervently embrace the concepts presented at the conference to protect the Gulf, leaving a legacy of environmental responsibility.