MY ENERGY TRANSITION
A Little Self Indulgence and Some Questions Answered.
by Andy Wood
Subsurface Manager | Geothermal | Oil & Gas | Energy Transition
Creating Efficiency, Reducing Waste | Eco-Warrior
I’m something of an outlier at the moment. Someone who has successfully made the move from Oil & Gas to Geothermal Energy. There are a few others, but we are a rarity.
A common question from those who contact me is how I made the professional transition. This article describes my Oil & Gas journey through to Geothermal Energy and how I approached my landmark move to the other side.
I have always considered myself fortunate to have landed in the Oil & Gas business when I graduated. I met a guy in the pub before I finished my degree. He had been working as a Mudlogger for the previous 12 months. He told me it was an entry level geology job on an oil rig and that he had SIX MONTHS HOLIDAY a year! I didn’t really care about the details, I was sold. Within three months I was sitting on a Jack-Up off Humberside.
Turns out, that I absolutely loved Mudlogging. My learning curve was exponential. No one was ever too busy to answer my questions. Within four years I was in a shack in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies working as a Wellsite Geologist. What a fabulous experience. I then bounced around the world to places like Algeria (where I worked Pablo), Angola, Azerbaijan, China, Czech Republic, the list goes on.
Eventually I found myself in Aberdeen working with Talisman Energy. A Canadian company, new to the North Sea, who did something called ‘low-cost operations.’ At the time no other company had such a focus. I was hooked by the simplicity and effectiveness of Talismans’ approach. Within another few years I was helping to set up the Operations and Wellsite Geology team for Talisman in their new Norway office. What a great team of people I was lucky enough to work with. Mike Pollard the Drilling & Wells Manager and a couple of fresh-faced Geoscientists called Vegard and J T spring to mind. I must of course mention my key team members, Atle, Dave, Jay Patel and Richard.
After nearly eight years in Norway, which was finished off working with PetroCanada and their small but perfectly formed team, spearheaded by Nina and Bruce, I was approached by Tullow Oil to lead their Uganda and then, East Africa teams. Here I had a more exposure to contract design, appraisal and management, as well as honing my ever-increasing focus on Operational Optimisation and Cost Saving. Of course, a huge benefit to this role was frequent trips to places like Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa, as well as my now favourite African country, Uganda. I also worked with some fabulous people like my adversary and friend Peter Peytchev from who I learned a great deal. I also spent time with some great professionals like Teresa and Lewis, Balu, Iain & Susan Namuganyi who contributed to the fun at Tullow.
But I had a strong desire to try something different. My obstacle was that I had no idea how to go about this next step in my career. I had always enjoyed working in Oil & Gas and had never considered another industry.
I began by writing a list of headings describing the value I added to Oil & Gas Operators. I then elaborated, provided examples and ended up with an article. The article described how I delivered clarity to processes, highlighted waste and optimised operations, as well as my approach to team architecture, all ultimately saving money. I titled the article Making the Invisible Visible.
But what next? I clearly needed fresh ideas about the way to proceed. So, after 30 years in the Oil and Gas business, I looked for career advice. I found Andrew MacAskill on LinkedIn. He is a Business and Careers Advisor with experience, vision and energy. Just what I needed. While I was in Canada (again) working with Sophie, Sorrel, Philippe, Michelle and Bruce (again), during early 2020 I had a one-hour session with Andrew via Zoom. During that time, he talked to me about ‘the pain I solve’ for the Operators I worked with and asked questions about my aspirations. He followed with emphasising to me the power of LinkedIn and what a useful tool it is.
Andrew suggested I publish my article on LinkedIn and then solicited feedback from connections.
At the time, LinkedIn limited articles to 2000 words. My article was 4000 words. The only way I could slice and dice my writing to fit the target shape was to remove all oilfield examples and references.
I was left with a paper which described methods and practices I championed in order to make operations more efficient. But it was not Oil & Gas specific. I realised for the first time that my skills could be applied to any business. I have transferable skills!
Andrew MacAskill asked about what I wanted out of my future career. Due to my enduring passion for the environment, I wanted it to be a part of my new job. I had always loved drilling wells, so that should be in the mix too. The answer was a revelation: GEOTHERMAL ENERGY.
The next gem from Andrew was to begin letting people know about me, my passion and what I have to offer. Posting on LinkedIn was the first suggestion. Do it often, he said. I really didn’t think anyone would be interested in what I had to say. But apparently, I was wrong. I received positive engagement which far surpassed my expectation. Andrew then suggested I send my article to connections, asking for their feedback.
A great many people in O&G and Geothermal Energy received my article. Some were kind enough to respond with constructive advice, like Eskil. One of that group was Karl Farrow. We discussed optimisation and efficiency in processes and then Geothermal Energy. A few months later Karl, Iain, Per, Martin and Gary started CeraPhi Energy Ltd, a new Geothermal Energy company with an ambitious mission. A few months after that I was their Subsurface Manager.
So why am I writing this article? Apart from a self-indulgent trip down memory lane.
I regularly receive questions from former colleagues and connections on LinkedIn about how I made my move to another industry. At times, my career seems serendipitous, but there was always a vague plan.
I always loved working in Oil & Gas. My experiences through that industry contributed to making me who I am today, and to be honest, I am quite pleased with the result. I have talents, knowledge, skills and patience, which I garnered through working amongst multidisciplinary, multicultural teams in Oil & Gas. Everyone I have worked with (and some I haven't) has contributed to where I am now.
There are thousands of Oil & Gas professionals who have decided it is time for them to leave the industry, for varying reasons. They are all highly trained with transferrable skills which can be used in a myriad of other businesses. Geothermal Energy will expand considerably over the coming years and become a new home for many of those looking for their own Energy Transition.
By no means have I turned my back on Oil & Gas, it is partially responsible for moulding my life. I am grateful. Oil & Gas and Geothermal will also be close partners going forward. In a project sense, where Oil & Gas wells are repurposed to provide clean, CO2 free Geothermal Energy. Also, where Oil & Gas professionals follow me in the move to Geothermal Energy. As I mentioned, currently, personnel transitioning from Oil & Gas to Geothermal Energy are a rarity. With time the trickle will evolve into a flood. New technologies in Geothermal Energy will need the skills only available from the Oil & Gas sector.
So, here I am. A Cornish, Vegetarian, Eco-Warrior from Oil & Gas who has successfully made the small leap to Geothermal Energy.
Nowadays my main mission is to promote Geothermal Energy. I am delighted to talk to anyone who would like to discuss how CeraPhi Energy can tailor geothermal solutions. Conversely if you would simply like to hear more about the cleanest energy solution on the planet, as a founding member of the Geothermal Energy Advancement Association, I am happy to discuss that too.
I am also keen to support, mentor and advise anyone from Oil & Gas who thinks what I have to say may be worthwhile or of interest. If you are curious, please feel free to give me a shout. I will make time.