Call for action to tackle drilling skills crisis

Paul Boughton

The CEO of global energy services company LR Senergy, James McCallum has issued a stark warning that oil and gas productivity will drop if the drilling sector doesn’t unite and take urgent action to tackle the drilling skills shortage and focus on excellence in well delivery processes.

Speaking at the Industry Technology Facilitator’s (ITF) Bi-annual Members’ Forum meeting on Wednesday 23 April in Abu Dhabi, McCallum hosted a debate on drilling challenges and initiatives.

He highlighted that highly skilled engineers are needed now more than ever to execute drilling on complex, high risk projects such as Shah and Bab sour gas developments in the Middle East, but with 50% of petroleum engineers due to reach retirement age in the coming years, concerns are rising about the potential impact of a lost generation of talent.

McCallum said: “Concerns are rising that the exit of senior drilling talent will be accompanied by a drop in productivity as new entrants are likelier to make costly errors, operate at a slower pace and extract lower yields from more challenging deposits due to a lack of experience, resulting incremental non-production time (NPT) and inefficient operation.

“The set of skills required for drilling engineers in the region is changing, in particular on the type of high-risk projects, where specific skills are required to identify any potential hazards. Risk judgement is very important at a time when the drilling risks become significantly higher as geographically difficult and more complex mature oil and gas fields are being exploited. Enhanced oil recovery rightly gets a great deal of attention, however incremental oil recovery from efficient and effective drilling operations should be the immediate priority.

“It is a serious issue that has been ongoing and although the drilling sector continuously talks of collaborating, what we need to see is a commitment to this with urgent action.”

ITF’s meeting was attended by the organisation’s membership of international operating and service companies as well as technology specialists who were given a platform to showcase latest developments.