The 2014 BP UFT winners.

Students return from their BP Ultimate Field Trip

‘I Challenge You to a Joule’ – the UK winners of the 2014 BP Ultimate Field Trip (UFT) - joined their winning colleagues from the US, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and Angola to take part in a two-week field trip to Alaska and Chicago.

Back in March, three students from Oxford University won the UK’s 2014 BP Ultimate Field Trip competition, which asked students to identify a solution that would significantly reduce energy consumption, could be implemented by 2025 and that had the potential to scale across the energy industry.

This summer they joined with the winning teams from the US, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and Angola competitions to take part in their prize - a once in a lifetime field trip with BP. We caught up with team member Chris Clay, 19, who shared his experiences from the trip.

The field trip entailed exploring BP’s operations in Alaska and Chicago, enabling the students to see the broad range of activities BP is involved in, from exploratory drilling in the Arctic Circle through to piping and refining and experiencing life on the trading floor in Chicago. They also had some great networking opportunities, meeting with staff from all levels of the business.

“The scale of the operations was staggering, with huge facilities and equipment – fascinating to me and my fellow engineering students,” Chris says. “BP’s attitude towards safety also really impressed me. They work in extremely challenging environments such as the North Slope – a remote, pristine location in the Arctic Circle. As the head of BP Alaska put it to us, ‘we simply can’t have an accident’. The high standards of safety were maintained across all of BP’s facilities, and there was a great feeling of respect towards the people and places in which BP operates.”

A taste of America

But it wasn’t all work, work, work; Chris and his colleagues also got to experience a slice of American life.

“Whilst we discovered BP, we also took time to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and cultures of the places we visited. The activities included dog sledding in Alaska, watching a baseball game in Chicago and an evening boat cruise on July 4th to enjoy the fireworks!

“My favourite part of the UFT was our time spent in Seward, Alaska,” he continues.  “We had the opportunity to go kayaking in Resurrection Bay, which is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Whilst kayaking, we saw a wild sea otter, which was having a great time eating a sea cucumber. It was fantastic to watch such a relaxed animal in his element. Having lots of old and new friends around me to share the moment made it even more special, and I shall cherish it forever.”

Discovering what life’s like working in the energy sector

Chris and his colleagues got to learn a lot about the industry and see how the career paths they’re considering choosing could pan out. They were also able to hone their skills as well as gain new ones.

“I’ve learnt that there is a great deal more to making a successful product than a good idea,” he says. “We took a simple concept and, with guidance from some very helpful staff from BP and the University of Oxford, developed a product. We learnt to analyse the political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental factors thoroughly and create something that will integrate well with the customer’s current technology and values. For the Texan oil industry, we designed something simple, reliable and easy to transport.

Gaining new skills

“Whilst on the trip, we also learnt how to work with people from very different backgrounds from our own. When we worked with winners from other countries, we quickly realised that we each had unique strengths. Throughout the experience, we gave presentations to a wide variety of audiences and [I believe] we have become more confident and learnt how to convey our passion.

“I think that the interpersonal skills that we learnt throughout the process will be invaluable,” he continues. “We have become business people as well as scientists and learnt to work effectively in teams – skills that will be extremely useful in any career we pursue.”

Chris entered the BP UFT to learn more about the energy sector and how it works and feels that this experience has made him even more passionate about starting a career in this area.

“Seeing the enormous size of BP’s operations has highlighted to me the challenges ahead – finding sustainable alternatives to meet our massive energy consumption will take a great deal of innovation. Developing new ways of producing and saving energy fascinates me; it drove me to enter the competition and will continue to drive me in the future,” he concludes.

For more information on the students winning ideas and the competition itself, head to the BP Ultimate Field Trip Facebook page or official website. 2015’s competition will open for entries this coming autumn.  

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