Michael Wolanski, completion engineer, BP

I'd like that job � Michael Wolanski completion engineer BP

As a completion engineer Michael takes projects from conception through to delivery using cutting edge technology along the way. Currently involved in a ‘world first’ project, he is still amazed at the things engineers can do!

What’s your name?

Michael Wolanski.

Age?

27.

Where do you work?

I work for BP in Aberdeen and offshore when required.

What's your job title?

I am a completion engineer on BP’s Magnus platform.

How long have you been doing that?

I joined BP five years ago and have been in my current role for two years.

How did you get there?

BP has been a part of my life since I was quite young. I remember BP staff used to come and give talks at my school and once I was taken on a trip to see one of their facilities.

I think it was this early exposure that led me to enrol myself on a BP summer internship in 2006. The internship was in completions and I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided it was the field I wanted to work in, and BP was the company I wanted to work for. Fortunately, I was offered a conditional position, which motivated me to work even harder in the final year of my robotics and cybertronics degree.

In the end, I got the results I needed and was able to join BP’s graduate programme in 2007. I worked as an offshore drilling engineer for the first year of the programme, during which time I gained first-hand, operational experience on a rig. After that I came onshore and began working as a completion engineer in a mobile team that supported the Foinaven, Schiehallion and Machar fields. I worked in that role for two years before assuming my current position.

What's the work and day-to-day experience like?  

Every day is different. Some days are spent performing in depth engineering, such as stress analysis, and others can be spent at vendors looking at new products.

The work is extremely interesting, but it can be a steep learning curve. Fortunately, it’s a great environment to learn in as the people working at BP have a lot of experience to share. You end up learning a lot from colleagues in informal settings and there will always be support if you need it. I also have a mentor who I meet with on a regular basis to look at technical challenges.

What's the best thing about the job?  

I love what you are able to do technically at BP. You get to take projects from conception through to delivery and use cutting-edge technology along the way. And the scale and accuracy of the drilling is mind blowing. I am currently working on a well that is eight and a half kilometres long, and despite its huge scale, it will hit very precise coordinates to access the hydrocarbons.

It’s also nice to know that I am helping to safely deliver energy to the world.

And the worst?

Occasionally operations may not go to plan. The time to correct and get the plan back on track is an intense period.

What are the biggest projects you’ve worked on, or most proud of being involved with?

I successfully developed and delivered the world’s first ever subsea multi-stage acid frac, using a new type of technology. Technically, it was the most interesting piece of work I have ever undertaken.  

It involved designing a system that would activate various components by dropping different sizes of activation balls. This was done whilst pumping acid at high rate and high pressure.

To give an idea of scale, the acid was pumped at a rate that could fill a bathtub in about a second and at a pressure that is the equivalent of an elephant standing on an inch of space. I did a lot of detailed work to define what value the system would bring and also to make sure the components were strong enough to handle the massive forces that would be exerted.

I also act as a mentor and technical coach to a number of summer interns and new engineers to BP, which can be quite rewarding.

The training I have had has also been very interesting. As well as technical courses I have had basic explosive awareness training.

How would you describe life as a working engineer?

It’s brilliant! Being an engineer is not just about the applications of technology. Engineering at BP encompasses the application of engineering, applying standards and delivering value through cost awareness and efficiency. At BP engineers are encouraged to learn from past experiences and investigate new ways of thinking and approaching problems. We also get to test the latest technologies.

Was working as an engineer what you expected or did anything surprise you?  

The work is more exciting than I expected. The things we achieve with our reservoirs at BP still amaze me. If you had asked me before I started about drilling a well 8.5km in length I would have said it was impossible but I am currently writing the procedure to install the completion in this well!

I was also surprised by the opportunities for career development that are available at BP, and the fact that there is a clear line of sight in your career development.

Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to those about to enter an engineering workplace?

Try to get involved in a summer internship. It’s a great experience and you will get exposure to the company and the industry you are interested in. If you don’t like it then you can easily change direction, but if you do like it then it’s a great start to applying for a graduate position.

You will learn new skills in the placement but will also subconsciously learn from more experienced engineers around you. I firmly believe my summer internship in BP gave me more tools and capability to complete my final year at university.

What do you think you'll do next/what are your career plans?

My plans for now are to develop into a senior completion engineer. I have periodical meetings with my manager to discuss my career progression and BP has programmes in place to train up employees and help them achieve their ambitions.

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