In Miri, the home of Malaysia’s oil industry, Shell is training a new generation of wells engineers to help deliver major energy projects like Gumusut-Kakap.

Shell’s first deep-water project in the country – and Asia’s largest offshore platform – came on stream in October 2014. When fully ramped up, it will contribute up to 25% of Malaysia’s oil production and create significant economic benefits.

Shell started its Miri wells training programme in 2011. Two years later the Asia Pacific Wells Learning Hub opened there, adding state-of-the-art simulators to an advanced well control programme considered one of the best in the world. It is accredited by the International Well Control Forum, an organisation that develops and runs well control training, assessment and certification programmes for the oil and gas industry.

Trainees arrive from across the Asia-Pacific region in search of skills that will enable them to drill safely for much-needed energy.

Miri is one of four such Shell centres around the world: others serve the Middle East, Europe and the USA. So far, more than 800 Shell wells engineers have qualified there and 500 from other companies.

The training centre offers specialist skills that will help Malaysia become a hub of deep-water energy production for the region. 

All about safety

In four years, trainees learn to drill, complete and maintain wells in the safest possible way, in deep water and on land.

Jayaprakash Gopalakammath runs the Asia-Pacific hub. He is a wells engineer with 27 years of experience in the oil and gas industry.

“We aim to keep the hydrocarbons in the well, the reservoir and the pipe,” he said. “Everything we do has a safety aspect to it. Any one of our trainees should be able to work in a deep-water environment.”

Advanced simulators have high-definition screens and realistic control panels with dials and levers. They help to prepare learners for a wide range of scenarios, allowing them to minimise any risk of oil or gas escaping. Each simulator costs $2 million to install. It can replicate conditions in waters 3,500 metres deep and also onshore.

The centre recently installed a wireline simulator, which simulates various safety challenges that could occur during real-life well intervention operations. Engineers learn how to respond correctly, should these challenges arise. The simulator is thought to be the first of its kind in the oil and gas industry.

Hands-on

Faced with a realistic problem in the simulator room, Sothi Rajanderan has safely shut down her drill, long before any natural gas could have escaped from the well.

Sothi is three years into the programme and more than half-way through nine bulky training manuals with more than 3,000 pages in total. Today, she is doing practical exercises.

“When drilling goes wrong at sea, you feel how fast you have to react. This is preparing me to safely drill a lot of wells in the future,” she said. 

More realistic

The training centre’s long-term investment plans include displaying scale replicas of drilling equipment to familiarise trainees with the working principles of drilling components, and  installing a special rig that will give them the opportunity to drill real holes - ones with no oil or gas inside – as they hone their drilling skills ready for work in the field.

“They need to understand how real well operations work and run them safely,” Jayaprakash said.

Sothi looks forward to being a fully-qualified wells engineer in 2015, designing and executing well projects and troubleshooting problems in real time.

“I’m learning to keep things safe and under control so that we are able to drill efficiently without harming anyone,” she said.

Between now and then she must spend more supervised time out at sea on a real platform. It might even be Gumusut-Kakap.

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