Halliburton puts focus on safety in formation of local workforce

Halliburton, a leading American oil field services company, has established an office in Guyana and as it begins assembling its local workforce, Country Manager Gerald Leboeuf says it would be training Guyanese to meet crucial safety standards for oil and gas rig work.

In an interview with Stabroek News, Leboeuf emphasised that ensuring that all safety standards are met so there are no accidents is pivotal.

“On the rig, everything can be just rosy today and tomorrow there is a full blow out. You have, say people killed, the environment polluted, Venezuela and Guyana have oil on their shores if you have people that don’t know what the heck they are doing,” he said.

“Just like the Horizon that happened in the Gulf of Mexico, they had their own BP guys that made the wrong decisions… You can see how quick things can escalate when they are not done properly… It takes a flood weight to hold the pressures down when you get to a reservoir and if you don’t have the right flood weight that can come back at you, and it has many, many, many times around the world in the last 100 years.

It is why we do not let anybody go out on their own until it is established that they are absolutely ready,” he added.

Leboeuf was making reference to the Deepwater Horizon disaster that left 11 persons dead and saw approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.The rig was leased by British Petroleum (BP) to run its operation, while Halliburton provided the cementing services at the Macondo well.

The US government, in a September 2011 report, pointed to defective cement on the well and largely faulted BP but also rig operator Transocean and contractor Halliburton.

Intense training

Halliburton last month advertised for engineers but it has to wait on tenders from ExxonMobil to determine its local human resource capacity. Nonetheless, Laboeuf said it is here for the long haul.

“The Exxon local content—what they are looking for—along with your government’s local content and what they are looking for falls right in with what we are looking for. We have operations in 122 locations around the world. It is always better to come in and train the local people. It does take a while for oil and gas because oil and gas is complicated. It is not something where you can just pull in people and they are trained within months. It actually takes years for you to become the engineer we need you to be,” he explained.

“It takes time. The complication is on the science side basically. This is all science, drilling and completing wells and working at the depths we are. We are looking at almost two miles from the surface down to the sea bed, working with the rig. As for our local content, our plan is to hire as per our tendering. We are actually in the tendering mode with Exxon to see what we are going to win. We are hoping to win a good bid and we will work on local content and see what we can actually bring in, in terms of training. The contracts we have now, if we were to actually hold those contracts and we win those contracts, by yearend we could have about pretty close to 25 persons possibly hired; Guyanese. So the short term for us is, if we get tenders, to try to hire people and get them trained. The training will be in Trinidad, some will be in Houston, Texas and some could be Oklahoma,” he added.

An engineer with some 35 years of experience in the field, Leboeuf pointed out that he was not considered an expert until he had between five to eight years of hands-on training. As a result, he wants locals to be prepared for the intense training they will be offered, mostly overseas.

“On the technical side of it, where we hire engineers, some of the training could be in Trinidad but most likely in Houston, Texas, where we have a great deal of our technical stuff but on the job training will also be a part of the training process. So, if we are to hire, for example, a cement engineer, we would immediately send that person to Trinidad to get what we call some upfront training to get an understanding of what it is we want him/her to do and what their job is going to be and getting more on the technical side, understanding all the different types of cement, the different chemicals we use, why we use it. The why is important because there is a lot of people here in Guyana who don’t understand the oil field, in general, as yet, and that is where the complication comes in,” he explained.

“We try to teach what the big picture is upfront. Basic things like how do you drill for oil and gas… to let them know that on the cement side you have the casing, because you can’t just drill all the way to the bottom or it will all collapse on you. To understand that it is like a mining shaft; you can only go so deep and then you have to support it. In this case with cement casing, we need these people to see what the big picture is and why they are doing what they are doing and that is part of the training. There are different types of cement used with different chemical makeup depending on the temperature you are using the cement for. So all of them will need to be trained in software… so that you know how to put a recipe together for cement. They would get engineering training. They all have to be trained to a point where we don’t have to worry about them being on their own anymore. We trust that, at a point, the period that they would be able to work without assistance, that if the trainer decides to leave, they can take over fully. It is always better for our company to hire locals, train them and then have them run the operations. It is the way we are set up in 122 countries around the world,” he added.

‘Safety-minded’

While extensive training will be be provided, Guyanese seeking a job with the company must meet minimum requirements, depending on the job type. For low-tier jobs, the minimum requirement would be a high school diploma and for engineering jobs, the minimum requirement would be a college education.

The company has also liaised with the University of Guyana and said that a degree from the state-owned tertiary institution would be considered a qualification for employment. There will also be equal employment opportunities available for persons trained in the diaspora but they too will have to be trained by the company.

“The good thing about college is we know you went and you have the ability to learn. We don’t just hire petrol engineers, we hire chemical and other engineers. The minimum requirements here is college but we don’t see any issue, at this point, with anyone coming out of that school [UG] that we couldn’t hire. We know too there are a lot of Guyanese out of the country too who want to come back and many who work in Trinidad, some were schooled in New York, Miami and other places…,” Leboeuf noted.

He also said it was important for potential employees here to know that there is no room for errors.

“For me, in the oilfield it’s 40% everything else and 60% safety. It is all about safety and watching over everybody, making sure everybody is doing the job they are supposed to do and doing it right. If you don’t see something [being done], you stop [them] and you explain to them. Anybody we bring in has to be very safety-minded because it is what we are. We preach it, we live it and is the culture of our company,” he explained.

“The type of training we do is very intensive. It is like being back in college again. It is like classroom work, where you have to pass to get to the next level, and there is always safety. Nothing beats on-hand training,” he added, before also stressing the importance of communication to safety. “Communication is key for safety. You have to be able to do it…. But I believe the Guyanese people are capable and those from the university here should not have a problem passing.”

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