Gilles Bourgeois, Lead Petroleum Engineer in the Danish Business Unit, specialises in mature oilfield management. Before joining Maersk Oil, he worked with Shell for 19 years, where he endeavoured to influence priorities and methods for safe and economic extraction from some of the oldest oil fields in the world.
Prior to Maersk Oil you worked in Romania. What was it like?
Romania is a very beautiful country, rich in natural resources and beauty - it could rival Canada. The country has many large oil and gas fields developed in the midst of a lot of history and conflicts, World War I, Nazi Exploitation in World War II and Soviet occupation followed by Communism until 1989. With more than 150 different fields containing 2-10 reservoirs and several types of oil and rocks, the fields are a patchwork of complex geological settings with just about every oilfield challenge in the book.
The optimisation potential was (and still is) tremendous but the prevailing environment caused basic oilfield practices to fall prey to the egos and whims of those in charge. The experience proved to me that technology and process are no replacement for fundamental knowledge and application of engineering principles.
How can this experience be used in Maersk Oil?
My experience taught me all the things I took for granted while working for Shell. The act of learning was replaced with acts of filling templates and process to “justify” replacing old with new. I started writing a journal about the oilfield atrocities that resulted, and were often repeated.
Of relevance for Maersk Oil… keeping things simple, avoiding “black box” and template filling processes to make decisions. And most of all, rebuild the ability to listen to the production system (Reservoirs-Wells-Facilities as a single integrated entity) along with the ability to respond proactively to opportunity.
Technology and process have the purpose to facilitate conversion of data into useful information, and to disseminate knowledge so that human judgement is as good as it can be.
Since joining Maersk Oil, we have developed a Surveillance Strategy along with a WellBooks project, a singular Opportunity Register for our business unit and in development is a high-tech project that performs machine surveillance of 1000’s of production system elements.
This gives a much better foundation for decision-making and ensures that all decisions are integrated in the overall asset management strategy and plan for each field.
Why did you choose to work for Maersk Oil?
When I travelled to Esbjerg for the job interview, there was a poster stating that Maersk Oil aspired to become a second-to-none mature field operator.
Exploration work is often seen as a treasure hunt, finding black gold. Why do you find mature fields interesting?
There is a common misconception that reserves are secured with the wells and facilities that are in place. The reality is that mature fields are also a major treasure hunt. These treasures are in the form of safeguarding, restoration, optimisation and redevelopment gains that often cost only cents to USD 20 /boe (versus the sale of that barrel for USD 110).
Below a minimum level of surveillance, along with review work and intervention capability, the future production will very likely become lost due to natural features and circumstances that can never be accounted for in the development phase.
It can be much richer treasure hunting for those involved as contributions are experienced directly. My colleagues in the Exploration and Development teams are often the target of my dry humour. I tease them by demonstrating how green field work is the ‘money spending side of the business,’ while brownfield work is actually the ‘money making’ that you need to stay in this business.
Meet more of our people here
William Abson working on the Dunga Project in Kazakhstan
Stephen Daines, our Senior Director of Exploration