Cover interview: Fostering the future of oil and gas

Dr Esra Al Hosani, believes that young people will bring fresh ideas and innovation to the oil and gas industry, and more upstream companies should look at bringing graduates on board

Dr Al Hosani won the Young Oil &  Gas Professional of the Year Award from Oil & Gas  Middle East in 2017.
Dr Al Hosani won the Young Oil & Gas Professional of the Year Award from Oil & Gas Middle East in 2017.

For young oil and gas graduates looking to enter the industry, the landscape can seem bleak, with companies cutting back on expenditures and eking out every penny where they can find it, and few open to hiring young professionals fresh out of the starting gates. The oil price slump, which began in 2014, caused project shutdowns, slashes in capital expenditures of up to 40% between 2014 and 2016 and, according to Strategy&’s research paper 2017 Oil & Gas Trends, 400,000 workers were left without jobs.

While much of the industry has survived through the tough times, it has been difficult for upstream oil and gas companies to make strategic decisions and plan for the future. Only now is the sector just beginning to emerge from the upheaval, and those plans can start to see the light of day.

Oil and gas companies looking to 2018 and beyond are now faced with a dual challenge, re-invigorate the talent lost in cut-backs, but maintain innovation and sustainability in a still uncertain marketplace. According to Strategy&, many companies do not have the talent, organisational framework, systems, processes, or attitudes to be sufficiently flexible and innovative in an evolving and uncertain marketplace. The company recommends that upstream should increase its research into sustainability and clean energy and ask itself these questions: Do I have the right business models in place? How can my company develop new capabilities and in what areas? How should asset portfolios evolve? What type of technology plays should I invest in?

Dr Esra Al Hosani, an instrumentation and control engineer at ADNOC Group Company ADCO, believes that with hard work and the right opportunities, fresh graduates can excel and bring innovation, invigorate business models, and develop research to meet companies’ pressing sustainability goals.

“This generation is smart, strong, creative, and has a fresh look into everything. When we are given the opportunity to lead in a company we will lead it through an innovative, shorter path to success,” said Dr Al Hosani.

However, one of the biggest obstacles young people face in the industry in the region is not being given the chance to prove their worth to the companies that employ them.

“I would say one of the main obstacles [to graduates in the industry] is not having an opportunity to learn or contribute. This mainly happens when superiors do not take the young seriously, overloading them with meaningless or routine tasks, not giving them responsibilities, or shutting their innovative initiatives down. Unfortunately, young professionals are often being micromanaged rather than only guided or supported. There are still many undiscovered champions and many buried talents, and I believe that if every manager, from the lower to the upper level, took one talent under his or her wings, we will grow exponentially faster,” she said.

Dr Al Hosani herself is no stranger to hard work. In 2006, Dr Al Hosani went to study in the Petroleum Institute, where she studied electrical engineering with a focus on the petroleum industry needs. The Petroleum Institute is an engineering programme that is part of Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi and specifically trains young people to be engineers to join the oil and gas industry. Students enrolled in this programme, of which there are around 1,000, are fully sponsored with a monthly salary and high achievement rewards.

Dr Al Hosani obtained her B.Sc. and M.Sc. with Honours in 2011 and 2012 respectively. She focused her M.Sc thesis on black powder and deposit detection in gas pipelines.

She then joined ADNOC Onshore in 2013 as an instrumentation and control engineer and managed to finish her training programme in half the time required.

Although Dr Al Hosani was offered a full scholarship to pursue her PhD, she turned down the offer to be exempted from her work duties and decided to pursue her PhD in parallel to her normal job, as she realised from an early age the importance of having a solid knowledge of the industry as well as hands-on experience to strengthen theoretical knowledge. She focused her research on the existing problems of multiphase measurement/imaging and deposit detection in the oil and gas industry, in order to arrive at solutions for such critical challenges.

Although Dr Al Hosani was sponsored by ADNOC Onshore for four years, she managed to obtain her PhD in three years while still working for the company full time.

Dr Al Hosani has published in seven top journal papers so far in her career, including a paper published in the elite Royal Society journal and others in top IEEE transactions, which were all cited many times by other researchers. She has also published four conference papers in addition to M.Sc. and Ph.D. theses. All her publications are related to challenges facing her field of work. Furthermore, she was granted two US patents for novel ways to detect deposits in gas pipelines and measure the flowrate of wet gas.

Dr Al Hosani has been involved in large projects and attached to consultant companies and vendors, as well as being attached to different ADNOC Onshore fields where she was involved in daily operation duties.

Luckily Dr Al Hosani has a strong support network from both ADNOC, a semi-governmental organisation which supports young graduates through The Petroleum Institute, which was established in 2000 by an Emiri decree under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates. It is financed and governed by a consortium of five major oil companies: ADNOC, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Total S.A., and Japan Oil Development Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of INPEX.

Dr Al Hosani also had a role model who she could rely on.

“I had the most supportive management, especially Abdul Munim Alkindi, our CEO of ADCO, who believed in me and allowed me to be the researcher that I am, even in a purely operating company,” she noted.

Research and development

One of the most critical areas for the oil and gas industry is research and development. Without evolution, upstream will struggle to remain profitable. This research includes some of the more technical aspects of oil and gas, such as Dr Al Hosani’s research, which focused on the critical need for accurate multiphase flow measurement/imaging and deposit detection.

“I took a leading role in my department’s first R&D project, Joint Development Multiphase Flow Meter [MPFM], where a new MPFM is being developed to be tested in the field. Before that, I worked on detecting black powder in gas pipelines using optical spectroscopy. For my PhD research, I successfully adapted a conventional Electrical Capacitance Tomography (ECT) system for multiphase imaging, aiming to distinguish boundaries between different components in a process, where information about the flow (eg, phase fraction, flow regime, vector velocity etc.) can then be extracted from the image. The images produced can be used to analyse the flow in order to measure all of the separate phases including contaminants, actuate process control strategies, or even develop live 2D or 3D models that describe the process for validation or simulation,” according to Dr Al Hosani.

Dr Al Hosani believes in the power of research and managed to integrate it with her work duties in a petroleum operating company in the most effective way. She is making her name in a male-dominated area of research. Her main focus is multiphase measurement and visualisation, and she worked hard to develop innovative solutions that are being continuously enhanced. Dr Al Hosani stated that there is still no commercially available live visualisation that can image and measure all phases in a flow, in addition to the contaminants. Furthermore, there is no MPFM able to measure all of the different phases in a flow without critical dependence on the fluid properties, characteristics or flow condition.

“My research initiatives on process tomography are among the first in UAE. They provide a base for more research to come. My projects, as well as others, are welcomed by ADNOC to be taken further to develop field ready equipment and devices that can help solve real time process problems,” she said. “I would like to encourage young professionals to be the creative and innovative people that they are and go beyond their job description. I also would like to emphasise that research should be an integrated part of any job if people learned how to use it properly to improve and progress.”

Dr Al Hosani is an Emirati role model in the field of research and engineering having published so many works and patents in such a short of time. However, she states that the most challenging achievement in her career so far was obtaining her PhD from the University of Bath, UK, in only three years while still working at ADNOC Onshore full time.

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