Team Aspire, the 2012 winners of the BP Ultimate Field Trip share their experiences from their six-week internship at BP bases in Houston, Texas and Trinidad and Tobago.
Back in May three students from Strathclyde University won the 2012 BP Ultimate Field Trip competition with their presentation on algal biomass and how it can provide a source of profit with products ranging from bio-fuels to pharmaceuticals.
Fast forward to September and Guy Drori, Simonas Stilius and Edward Kay have just returned from their internship prize, which involved three weeks based in Houston, Texas, and a further three weeks with BP operatives in Trinidad and Tobago.
Working in Houston
In Houston the students were given the chance to work with the operations team on the Na Kika floating platform moored in the Mississippi Canyon region of the Gulf of Mexico. They were given a team project focusing on the storage of a chemical: each working on a different aspect they had to come up with possible storage options – such as inside the platform’s columns - and consider all the practicalities.
“The first week was orientation where we got to know what our project would involve, then the following week we went offshore. It was really helpful for our project, as it gave us a lot of insight into how things could actually work and where they go,” explains Ed.
“For our last week in Houston we were based in the office, analysing the details of our project and then presenting our findings and what we thought was the best possible solution to the management team,” he adds.
Experiencing life offshore
The students were delighted at the opportunity to go offshore, particularly as two of them had focused on offshore platforms at university.
“Both Ed and I are studying naval architecture, so for the last year in class this is what we’d been studying,” explains Guy. “It was really interesting to see all the stuff we’d studied in class, something that prior to the visit we’d only seen on PowerPoint slides.”
BP in Trinidad and Tobago
The next three weeks were spent in Trinidad and Tobago, where the students’ project was related to an update of the onshore gas terminal Galeota.
“Although we were mainly based in the office we did get to go out and visit the terminal itself and we also got to visit an offshore gas terminal,” says Ed.
“The Galeota terminal processes the condensate - a low-density mixture of hydrocarbon liquids that are present as gaseous components in the raw natural gas - filtered from the natural gas in the Beachfield receiving terminal. One of the engineers onsite walked us through the facility and explained the processes involved,” explains Guy.
Although there was a lot of hard work, the students also had plenty of fun, getting to experience the regions through the eyes of the local people. They were wined and dined by BP colleagues, and while in the US they caught a baseball match and also went on a road trip across Texas, taking in the hill country, San Antonio and Austin.
In Trinidad and Tobago adventures included going for a day-long hike in the rainforest, swimming in the river and even leatherback turtle spotting.
Each of the students had their own highlights, but they all agree that some moments stood out more than others. One, for example, was the helicopter underwater evacuation training.
“They put you in a machine that’s designed like a helicopter cabin, they dunk you in a swimming pool and turn you upside down,” says Ed, "then you then have to bash your way out!”
Finding out how a company like BP actually works
The trio also enjoyed discovering how a company like BP actually operates, and how certain practices can vary within the same organisation.
"Across the two locations it was clearly the same company, but there were different mentalities – they follow the same code, but they all interpret it a bit differently,” explains Guy. “That was really interesting to see.”
“You do come in with some expectations – to get a project and sit in an office most of the day, but it didn’t quite turn out like that,” he continues. “We actually went out and experienced a lot of BP, so got to see a real overview of its operations.”
All the students believe they’ve come away from this experience with an improved skill set.
“Right back from working on the initial project we’ve had to work as a team, so a lot of that is about communication, communicating your ideas to others,” notes Ed.
“We got to improve our presentation skills and also were able to work with many experts in various fields,” continues Guy. “We’ve gleaned loads of information and experience from working with these people.
“We've also learnt a lot about knowing where to look for the right information and who to ask,” Ed adds. “That’s a huge part of university, knowing where to go for the right information.
Learning more about themselves and what they want from their career
The students are now back at university, but this experience has really helped them learn more about themselves and where they see their career heading.
“This was the direction I wanted my career to go in and one of the main reasons we entered into this challenge,” says Guy. “We wanted to really experience how an oil and gas company works, because you can’t properly do that during a regular internship.
“It’s opened my eyes a bit, now I can really say I know how a large energy company like BP works. For me it was a great opportunity to see where I could go in the future, to (see) discover all the different areas within a company like BP. There’s so much variety!”