The Business Year

William Grace

AZERBAIJAN - Energy & Mining

Oilfield Services in Azerbaijan

General Manager, Schlumberger


Will Grace was born in Birmingham in 1973 and studied Geophysics at the University of East Anglia before joining Schlumberger. He was most recently Operations Manager for the Drilling and Measurements (D&M) segment in Aberdeen, UK, before taking the position as General Manager for Azerbaijan in summer of 2012.

"According to industry forecasts, the future for the sector is continued growth."

What are the main focuses of Schlumberger’s operations in Azerbaijan?

Our customers in Azerbaijan include the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), BP, and Total, as well as a number of independent operators that have contracts to rejuvenate existing fields and explore for new reserves. Schlumberger provides technology, information solutions, and integrated project management for its customers to explore, develop, and producer their oil and gas fields. We are providing our services at many of the country’s oil and gas fields, including Azer-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG), Shah Deniz, and Umid.

What strategy led to Schlumberger’s decision to enter the Azerbaijani market?

Schlumberger actually first worked in Azerbaijan back in the 1930s. With the signing of the “Contract of Century” it was clear there would be a significant opportunity for the company’s technology and expertise to develop the ACG oilfield, and so the company was delighted to restart continuous operations in Baku.

How much has Schlumberger invested in operations in the area?

The most important investment Schlumberger has made in Azerbaijan has been in hiring and training engineers from Azerbaijan to perform services onshore and offshore. Today, Schlumberger employees from Azerbaijan can be found not only working at Azerbaijani oil and gas fields, but also in major oilfields around the world.

“According to industry forecasts, the future for the sector is continued growth.”

What does Azerbaijan represent in terms of Schlumberger’s global operations?

Azerbaijan is an important market for Schlumberger. All of the Schlumberger service lines are present in Azerbaijan, and each sees significant potential for further growth. We are particularly proud of the two joint ventures run with SOCAR for drilling fluids (Azeri M-I), and for seismic exploration and processing (Caspian Geophysical).

How would you characterize the market for value-added oil and gas services in Azerbaijan?

In general we think about the work here in three ways: the mega project, the new discoveries, and the mature oilfields. Each of these categories of oilfields presents specific challenges to the industry. In order to succeed, it is a requirement to bring the right technical solution, be efficient, and most importantly, work safely.

What does R&D mean for Schlumberger?

An important value of Schlumberger is our steadfast commitment to technology and quality—this is the basis for our competitive advantage. Consistent with this value is our commitment to providing services that enhance and optimize our customers’ performance. R&D is essential if we are to meet this commitment. Schlumberger has over 25 R&D facilities worldwide, with emphasis on developing innovative technology that adds value for our customers. In 2011, for example, we invested $1.1 billion in R&D. The reality of bringing hydrocarbons to market today is that the technical challenges are increasing all the time. As it is sometimes said, “the easy oil is gone.” That makes it an ever-increasing requirement to apply technology to meet the challenges that today’s oilfields present.

In terms of the working environment, when you compare Azerbaijan to your previous experience, how do you feel about operating here?

I’ve been fortunate to work in some very interesting places in my career from the Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia, to the North Sea, to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Canada. My latest assignment Azerbaijan is no exception. From a technical perspective, the work can be very challenging with deeply burried, high-pressure reservoirs and challenging formations to drill through. The history of the country, and the oil fields here in particular, also make it a very rich and stimulating environment in which to work.

How do you deal with issues of hiring skilled local personnel?

Part of our corporate profile is to hire people in every country where we work. We look for people with a good educational backgrounds and then provide them with technical training through our company’s training centers to ensure they are competent enough to perform services for our customers. The level of training the company provides is one of the unique benefits of working for Schlumberger. We have four major learning centers in Houston, Paris, Tyumen, and Abu Dhabi. These centers are even equipped with drilling rigs so we can provide our engineers with real hands-on training. Once the employees return from these learning centers they follow a structured program to enable them to continue developing their skills.

What is your outlook for the Azerbaijani energy sector?

According to industry forecasts, the future for the sector is continued growth. There is ongoing work to maximize production from the existing fields, and there are new discoveries yet to be fully developed. The new subsea developments are particularly exciting and require a new set of technical solutions. The plans to add drilling rig capacity in the country are a good indicator of the confidence we have going forward. We are fully committed to supporting our customers here in Azerbaijan. I am looking forward to continuing to bring innovative technology here to maximize our customers’ success.

© The Business Year – December 2012



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