An Interview with Mr Maciej Librant – Petroleum Geo-Services

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The first guest of YoungPetro’s Ask Me Anything column is Mr Maciej Librant, Petroleum Geo-Services geophysicist. Together with AGH UST Students Association “Geophone” we were honoured to organise a meeting with this land and marine seismic specialist.

YoungPetro: Tell us about your first steps in the industry.

Maciej Librant: Just after my postgraduate geophysics studies at the AGH UST I was working for three years mainly in the Sahara Desert engaging in land seismic. I was responsible for correct and accurate work of data collecting equipment. Then I got an offer from CGGVeritas to join them. The whole recruitment procedure was undoubtedly curious. It covered a conversation with psychologist in Geneva and two meetings in Paris. Eventually, I rejected it due to conditions of this proposition. I wanted to be at home more frequently. Hopefully, I encountered a headhunter from PGS, passed the interview in Krakow, signed a contract and that’s how I’ve been practising an extremely interesting job for 5 years.

YP: What’s PGS and what are your main responsibilities?

M.L.: Petroleum Geo-Services is a multinational company headquartered in Norway which operates marine seismic in vast regions of the World. It holds both offshore and onshore data processing facilities.
We work in 12/12 system (twelve hours of work and twelve of rest and recreation which can be spent variously – at the gym and other onboard leisure, but mainly on sleep). Currently I swim in the North Sea on PGS Apollo vessel that has in its equipment maximum of 12 streamers. We take seismic images using air guns and dynamite as a source of seismic waves. Waves after reflection under the seabed are received by hydrophones which are part of 10 cables of total 8 kilometres long (approximately 5 miles). The next step is seismic record check based on special software able to display and filter seismic data in many ways.  My other responsibilities are usually linked with IT problems. I have to cope with overloading of the system. Generally I have to admit that PGS is a very serious business that takes care of its employees and guarantees support in need.

YP: What are your favourite activities onboard?

M.L.: From time to time when weather is fine we have motorboats training. They’re not compulsory but clearly give  me a lot of fun, provide steering course on different propulsion boats, and give me breath from daily routine.

YP: Summer’s issue topic is women in the industry. How does a female geophysicist meet such difficult and extreme conditions onshore and offshore?

M.L.: Very well! Actually I have to admit that women are often better than men, despite the conditions. For 2 years I had a female boss – an extraordinarily talented specialist. There was also a situation when my coworker got pregnant, therefore she could no more work on ship. Although she was so good at her job she got an offer from PGS to work remotely via Internet. At her home whole initial data processing system was installed. That’s how she could combine maternity with work. In our profession gender doesn’t matter.

YP: What incredible stories could you tell us?

M.L.: The most eeriness thing on the ship was dynamite. Naturally it’s very unstable but effective, that’s why it is still in use in land seismic. But when air guns didn’t exist or were uncommon it was successfully applied offshore. Rarely  uncontrolled explosions happened onboard. But as far as I know no one got hurt also property losses weren’t so enormous. The most unfortunate situation I have experienced was the entanglement of measurement cables. The whole crew with no exceptions for 12 hours a day and one and a half week had dragged partially cables out of the sea and unknotted them. It was terribly tedious and harsh work. Working on a seismic ship demands responsibility. If we make a mistake, the whole measurement might go wrong and that’s a loss for the company. The time of a usual trip is 5 weeks on a ship. Weather conditions do not pamper you – storms, unfavorable currents. And if little marine creatures called barnacles would pin to cables and measurement apparatus you have to remove them manually at sea. It’s bound with cessation of normal operations. The job necessitate fortitude, but most of all it’s incredibly fascinating.

YP: Do you have any advice for future geophysicists you could share?

M.L.: First of all if you have some problems with English – do not hesitate. It’s an international language and language of the industry. Its knowledge is equally important as basics of the mathematics in regular life. Being operational in Linux at least at the same level as in Windows system is superbly useful. All of computing programmes are open-source, thus it would help you resolve IT problems. Never forget to sleep and eat properly. It gives you essential power for the next effective day. Overworking is not an option because it lowers your abilities. You have to count in working more than 6 months a year remote from your home. It’s good to be a positive man to overcome such separation.

YP: Would you choose the same path of career if you could?

M.L.: It’s philosophical question and the answer depends on perspective you look at every pros and cons of such a job. As a confirmed and subjective optimist I can frankly say that this career gave me a lot of adventures some might read about only in books. I would remember the service for my whole life.

YP: At the end maybe could you partake some trivia about Petroleum Geo-Services?

M.L.: PGS has by this time unbeaten the Guinness World Record in the biggest object moving on the Earth category. It’s our vessel with a dozen or so eight kilometers cables. Crazy, isn’t it? Just as crazy as people who work here. Enthusiastic companionship with whom you will never be bored.

YP: Thank you very much for this conversation. I hope you unveiled to our readers some mysteries of your work. Comment and share it!

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Gordon Wasilewski

BSc in Petroleum Engineering student at AGH University of Science and Technology. YoungPetro Editor

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