They say it is best to put pen to pad when ideas are fresh. Well here goes…it doesn’t get much fresher than being incarcerated on the psychiatric ward.
In this post we’ll look at the similarities between life on oil rigs and confinement in a mental institution. It seems the former may have been the ideal dress rehearsal…
We’re not in Kansas anymore
Twas early June 2020 and several weeks into Covid-19 lockdown when I set off for a 6am run along the river Don. Pretty uneventful until I started following imaginary clues. 🙈
I was quickly picked up by the po-po and on the fast train to Royal Cornhill Hospital.
This time I had some warning…my mood was on the up and had reached out to the family psychiatrist. Just to let them know I was feeling high.
Despite my best efforts I was checked in on Monday just a couple or days short of my birthday. During which I had no real idea where I was. Sure, the faces of the nurses were the same I had seen 18 months ago and yet I still thought they may be actors!
Down the rabbit hole
There was no sipping Bacardi to celebrate turning 31 instead it was a slice of Tesco cake and back to my bunk to listen to a borrowed Sampha CD. (thanks Ben Whyte)
They say the hardest part of a deployment to Afghanistan, trip aftshore to the Forties Alpha or hospital stay are the first few and the last few….
For now I was enjoying the heady mix of 3 square meals (make that 6) a day. Coupled with a sedtary lifestyle and olanzopine the weight piles on!
Along with all the discovery channel wheeler dealers a young geologist could watch.
Even the smells wafting around the sterile hallways are the same. At times it is the dank aroma or rolled cigarettes hastily puffed in the shared toilets.
It goes without saying that you are well and truly locked-down on the rig or in hospital. There are no day passes and your only exercise is a short walk around the heli-deck or smoke filled Skene Garden.
It’s fascinating to observe the hierarchy at both locals -offshore the OIM calls the shots with his right hand man the Company Man playing Jr Doctor Meanwhile, the patients read mudloggers are at the bottom of the barrel- (where the crabs at.)
If you’ve read this far (thanks!) You may be wondering why anyone would volunteer to work on a rig or indeed a hospital ward. I have found the common denominator is cameraderie- the feeling that we are all in this together.
As a fellow bipolar sufferer DMX says ‘life is a struggle but it’s about finding meaning in the struggle’…
Mergers and acquisitions have always been part and parcel of the oil and gas industry. Sometimes, it is more efficient to acquire reserves with the cheque book rather than the drill bit.
Assets changing hands can present challenges for data management – whether that be sorting through dusty seismic logs or importing terabytes of unstructured well data. The new owners of those wells often have entirely different preferences for how information is organised, displayed, and eventually analysed.
Back in 2008, Maersk Oil discovered the Culzean gas field. They operated it until 2017, when the company was acquired by TOTAL. Culzean is a HP/HT development and will account for 5% of UK gas when it achieves full production.
Franz Ferdinand, Rockerfella and Deals
The company has a complicated history spanning a century from formation out of the ashes of allied victory in WW1 to now a global super-major ranked 8th in the world. Unpicking all the various acronyms and subsidiaries would take an age, but essentially the company we know was formed by the eventual merger of PetroFina, Elf and CFP (Compagnie francaise des petroles or The French Oil Company.
The story begins in 1917 when – during crisis – the French made a firm decision to end reliance on imported oil. At the time American firms principally John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Co controlled- 70% of the world’s oil output. Chastened by their experience during the war the president Poincare rejected a partnership with Shell and instead set the foundations for an entirely French oil company.
In the post-war period large swathes of the yet unproven Middle Eastern reserves were carved up in the San Remo treaty. This created the Turkish Petroleum Company which was split four ways- 25% to Shell, 50% Anglo-American, and CFP (which would later become TOTAL) secured 20% from Deutsche Bank. The remaining share went to the original Mr 5%- Carlouste Gulbenkian.
In the early ’20s the company focused exploration in Iraq (then part of Persia) with major discoveries at Kirkuk. Refining in Europe (the process of deriving usable products from crude) was gathering pace with PetroFina using oil found in large Romanian reserves to fuel French powerplants back home.
Night and Fog
After a period of growth WW2 began– there was mass bombing of refineries, and tankers with many assets destroyed. During the fallout CFP had its Iraqi fields requisitioned by the British. These globally tumultuous years only strengthened the company’s resolve to no longer be dependent on imported oil and gas. The mid-part of the century was a time of prodigious expansion for the group. With Charles De Gaulle in power the company ventured into the Sahara where major successes would kickstart the Algerian industry. In later years, giant fields like Hassi Messoud were proved up and still produce 350,000 bbls/day.
Risk and Reward
This era saw exponential growth in demand for refined products including plastics. To meet this demand CFP collaborated with the British to build a refinery in Antwerp, Belgium. In 1949, while exploring the land around Pau, France, drillers hit heavy oil around 700m deep. Continuing down beneath the Cretaceous layer, they soon had an uncontrollable blowout on their hands, and were advised to abandon the project.
A need to exploit local reserves proved too compelling and the Lacq field was developed with estimated reserves of 8.8 TCF. France had taken a major step to the energy independence it desired.
By this point, the company was expanding its downstream business and many new forecourts were built across Europe. The early logos drew inspiration from the French tricolour. Rumour has it that that group was called TOTAL because it was pronounceable in all languages. With the revenue generated, the company set up operations in sub-Saharan Africa, developing onshore and later offshore fields in Gabon. Around this time there was an interesting reversal of fortunes – an LNG plant was built at Marseille and became a supplier to British Gas.
The 70’s started with a major oil shock- the ’73 Yom KIppur war meant oil prices climbed deeply, transforming consumption patterns. During this period, the French invested heavily in the nuclear industry.-TOTAL saw its refining capacity decline and decided to refocus on exploration. It was back to the Middle East and Abu Dhabi, where they partnered with ADNOC.
TOTAL, ELP and PetroFina all wanted to join the scramble for North Sea oil, which was still in its infancy. They realised that to compete with the likes of Phillips Petroleum – who had discovered the giant Ekofisk field-they had to collaborate. TOTAL developed Alwyn, which produced both oil and gas, justifying its high development costs. Meanwhile, PetroFina took a stake in Ekofisk while Elf began production from Frigg.
After the oil shock of the mid ’80s, where the price crashed, for the first time in its history the company decided to downsize its E+P department.
Amid surge of M+A activity – which would form the other majors (ExxonMobil, BP-Amoco) – ELF was viewed as having assets beyond their book value. Principally, Deepwater Angolan discoveries (Girranol) made them an attractive takeover target. Fast forward to 2015 and – amid another downturn – the company shrewdly acquired Maersk Oils assets for $8 Bn.
This year they repeated the feat of buying beaten down reserves from Tullow’s lake Albert project in Uganda for just $2/bbl.
Looking ahead, the company is well-positioned to emerge from the crisis. It has reduced its exposure to US onshore markets and has the biggest African acreage of the majors, where it is focused on developing deepwater fields. These projects have much longer lead times than onshore, so they should be somewhat insulated from the recent precipitous fall in oil prices.
This is such a freeing statement which all writers, artists and musicians should repeat as a mantra. I certainly have found it helpful – during the creative process-there are multiple layers of tension.
The tension to change the natural order of things- the inertia which exists in all businesses especially oil and gas.
The inner tension- should I put this out in the world? What will people think? Is this crazy talk? I think many of us avoid opening up to vulnerability,,, some may seek escape in recreational I always drank, from when it was legal for me to drink. And there was never a time for me when the goal wasn’t to get as hammered as I could possibly afford to.drugs, binging on mindless television (not all bad)… It saddens me to see people just whiling away their hours. After so many had their time cut short.
The last edge of tension is when you are running just at the limit… Gunning for that elusive Sub-20 Parkrun PB… 149 runs and counting… You could get a stich or as the cyclists say bonk- but you go there anyway.
Back in fall of 2019. After a spell on the sidelines. I had been tasked with marketing a new real-time software solution.-
As these sagas usually start…
I made a cold call –
to a podcaster who I had been following and who was after starting in 2017 was 100 odd episodes deep…
‘Hey I’m Max…I think it would be great to have our company appear on the show’…
Expecting nothing… Got a reply back the very next day…
‘Don’t be surprised Max’…
After several months of back and forth trying to get the diaries matched up, me wanting to drop it as the boss ‘has bigger fish to fry’ we finally got in the metaphorical booth- thank you very much Mr. Covid-19.
I learned several things-
Reach out – most craftsmen are proud about their work and love to share it with the world. Back in the day it wasn’t so easy to find the new Charles Dickens or William Blake. This thing call the Internet makes it possible. There must be so much creative output just sat in dusty attics.
You don’t need to be in the centre of the colloseumto enjoy the action. It is equally if not more satisfying to manage the process from the side. With the added advantage of not fluffing your lines.
Take a risk- whats the worst thing that could happen? They block you on Instaglam…Life is to short not to.
So there is no manual for teaching your kids… But here are three things I kept hearing again and again…
‘Shut the door!’
‘No such thing as can’t’
‘Never go into a business partnership’
Walk tall walk proud and look the world right in the eye.
So as ever we learn by a sort of osmosis- whether at home, school or work- you are the average of the 5 people you have around you… or in lockdown your Cockatiel…
As one of my favourite podcaster’s Joshua Sheats (not Sheets) says- (Our religious views differ but here are three key takeaways..
Focus on what you can build.
Don’t be manipulated. You can always have peace in your thoughts.
Make your home a sanctuary.
And perhaps most important – we all have a Responsibility to guard our families to what comes through the front door and the …Tinterweb firehouse…
.. Ass shots and stripper poles for the eyes of my daughter
I love a good documentary- mainly because I have never had the stomach for horror movies…
Three of my favourites –which have been on my watch list for a while…
Yup- took me 5 years to get around to watching it…
But wow- really powerful.
Amy was like F’ this bullshit the whos sleeping with who..etc she just wanted to get into the studio. Money and fame were not drivers for here- as I said here….(Adapting to working from home) as my uncle said
When some of my favourite artists showed up- Nas and Mos Def I was chuffed!
Montage of Heck
That blow your brain, Kurt Cobain, that Nirvana shit
I figured I would relate- like me was bipolar. Unlike me he got mixed up in drugs..
The most visceral scene- the freight train switching tracks after Kurt has weighed himself down with a concrete block. Think about that in another parallel universe maybe the world wouldn’t have smells like teen spirit to cycle too…
Note – lost the notes I’d scribbled while watching these so just gone off memory here.
Both had raw talent- and for them exercising that talent was a pure form of therapy.
All the other trappings of fame- money, booze and partying clouded that.
This article was initially published at Crosslink. The news site for Petrolink in March 2020.
Whether we are enjoying solitude or missing our co-workers it is important for us to take certain steps to navigate the new reality of working from home whether it be several weeks or months ahead. Each of us will have our own ways of thriving so this article just aims to set out some of the latest thinking.
During the industrial revolution, where many employees were engaged in routine tasks, (now known as child abuse) success was measured by the number of widgets produced per hour.
In the mid-1920’S the economy reached a crossover point where more people were employed in the provision of services rather than the production of goods.
As we enter a new decade, the ‘knowledge worker’ has become the norm. One could argue that outmoded attitudes still need to catch up. Some would say that in the age of the knowledge worker it is bizarre to be confining them to 9-5 office hours. Designing your day
Central to Dan Pink’s book Drive is the argument that much of our motivation at is intrinsic. To flourish at work employees need three things—not higher salaries or perks (these can actually be counter-productive) but autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy- Our innate desire to be self-directed. Having control over when, where and how you work.
Mastery – An urge to acquire skills that you can see improve over time.
Purpose – Perhaps the most elusive but equally the element which is the most satisfying – creating something of meaning be that an app, article or artwork. Often it will benefit the wider industry, society or world.
Cultivating these three factors within an organisation produces better customer service and happier employees.
Many of us will know that some of us are larks and others night owls. As a rule, we are typically most productive for an 1hr or so mid-morning before attention wanders. It’s easy to fire up Outlook and get straight into the email- but this can set you back – you’re immediately working on someone else agenda. Why not park the daily reports, and route tasks for the inevitable post lunch afternoon dip? Enjoy being able to design your own environment:
• No fluorescent strip lighting • Your own music (at whatever volume you like) • Control over the temperature- these may seem trivial- but taken together can improve productivity.
Finding your flow
It is worth introducing the concept of flow; we’ve all experienced it when working on a complex problem- say a presentation or report that requires getting the message just right. Away from work many people describe a similar feeling of focused attention when running or cycling. Above all the feeling is enjoyable and time passes quickly without realising.
Athletes are familiar will cultivate ‘getting in the zone’. Tennis players describe this even during the final points of a gruelling five setter -being able to move effortlessly to hit the perfect winner. The point is we can all experience this at work.
Some will say that employees can’t be trusted to work from home – they will simply slack off or miss important deadlines- with productivity falling off a cliff. This feels a bit like the headteacher and pupil dynamic which we have all left behind. I prefer to be optimistic and given a little more flexibility we can find the headspace to create our best work.
Others will say that this kind of distributed remote is fine for small organisations 10-15 people or so. Mark Mullenweg developer of WordPress is a big proponent of remote teams- so much so that when starting Automattic in 2005 no one worked from the office. That is still the case today with over 1,000 people on the books – even hiring is done by using online tools like Slack.
The global health crisis we are currently living through has forced many companies hand into rapidly adopting remote work. In reality the technology to support this has been at scale for some time.
We have adopted asynchronous communication with Confluence. It has done away with a good chunk of email threads- no more needing to worry about choosing who to CC. Emails although still vital tend to be overly formal- with MCB and Scott’s Farquhar Confluence the information silos between departments have been broken down.
• More remote meetings -less flying- got to be better for the environment. If not my Rolls-Royce Shares….
• Teams docs- everyone can see the meeting notes being typed up in real-time. Rather than being distracting this can reinforce messages so action points are clear. • Machine learning apps like Krisp can block incoming and outgoing distracting background noise- Dogs, kids etc
We will be relying on instant messaging apps more than ever. Whether via Microsoft teams or PHD it can be tricky to get the tone right. So, follow the acronym API (Assume Positive Intent) you can always add emoji’s to illustrate your point. • If there is too much back and forth then jump on a call together, you’ll be able to pick up much more from talking.
I think the best thing about working remotely is the ability to let ideas marinate- just by doing something simple like taking a walk. It can seem counter intuitive to step away from the screen – after all we tell ourselves that we just need to focus harder to solve the task at hand. Often the result of letting the brain relax is that the ideas have re-arranged themselves and a way forward becomes clear.
We do lose a degree of creativity when not surrounded by colleagues. Some moderately successful companies (Apple Inc) realised this when designing their campus. To allow cross pollination of ideas one pair of bathrooms were installed on the ground floor- meaning workers from different departments would be brought together by the call of nature.
A challenge for managers is the absence of visual cues to see how an employee is getting on. One solution could be to schedule 1:1 time each week for a quick catch up.
The ongoing pandemic has thrown us the working from home curve ball, and we are all scrambling to adjust. Let’s try and see this as an opportunity not only to have the shortest commute of our lives but to take our work to the next level!