An Interview with Seweryn Kwasniewski, Drilling Optimization Engineer for Baker Hughes


Barbara Pach
Edyta Stopyra

YoungPetro organised a meeting for AGH UST students with Mr. Seweryn Kwaśniewski. He agreed to tell us about his job, work experience and trips to constant places. Today we have a pleasure to present you this conversation.

YoungPetro: You have master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, how did you get an idea to pursue career in Oil and Gas business?

Seweryn Kwaśniewski: Everything’s started in a rather unusual way. When I was in my senior year, I got interested in offshore drilling. And then asked to myself why do not try myself on a drilling rig? At first, I had no idea about the industry. I did not even know any major companies in that field until one day my friend from a student organization/folk dance group/ensemble “Krakus” introduced me to a man from Geoservices and that’s how I got into the oil business. Later I joined Baker Hughes where I am currently working as a Drilling Optimization Engineer.

YP: Now you are working in an office, but earlier you were spending more time on the rig. Did you like working offshore? What was the most difficult for you working in field?

SK: Working offshore is completely different from an office job. I really miss working in field, mostly because of the people I left. Oilmen are like entirely other species. Do not get me wrong but not everyone is suitable for the job and at the sea. I met people who quit after just 1 week. Working offshore you have to be strong, persistent, brave at times, especially towards yourself. Living with the same people for 2 to 6 weeks in a small environment sometimes is tiring. The problem is that it is not a 9-5 job and you cannot go home to distance yourself from work. Everyone has her/his own flaws and habits which you need to accept or at least ignore. But what is the most difficult? Hmm… I think the uncertainty, it is really difficult to plan things when the job can come up anytime and even you were told you can go on vacation you have to go on a rig. I remember one time – we were waiting for the helicopter which was going to take us home but at the last moment it was cancelled… If you did not work offshore you cannot even imagine how it feels. For this reason, sometimes I find it very amusing when I see people frustrated at airports only because their plane was slightly delayed.

YP: Before working on the platform apparently you have to pass a special training and tests. Can you tell us something more about them? What are they and is there anything that can disqualify from working at rig?

SK: Before you go on offshore, detailed medical examination and appropriate HS&E training must be passed. They are conducted in certified centers all around the world and they usually last three days. An exception was the certification for Norwegian Shelf – it took about 5 days. They generally include: training in first aid; basic procedures on platforms; lessons in the pool; familiarization with the swimming techniques. In my opinion, the most interesting are exercises carried out in a helicopter mock-up, which can rotate 180 degrees (then a student is hanging upside down). A task is to escape when it is submerged. Once, while training in Baku (Azerbaijan), I witnessed quite uncomfortable situation: during this kind of maneuver, water got into student’s mouth – it was caused by a leaky bag (we use them for breathing). This of course resulted of his sheer panic. Therefore, it is vital to keep calm in stressful situations.

Basic training is just a start, each company conducts its own additional courses in HS&E. After passing successful the course, you will be awarded a certificate, which entitles you to work for the company or service provider. It may happen that you will have to take about two, three extra courses, before you go on  a rig. In addition, before boarding a helicopter, there is a training concerning safety rules (just as in the airliners).

YP: Working in the oil industry most often is connected with the constant trips to distant places. We know that you have already been to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, the Gulf of Mexico. We are curious what memorable you experienced during your visits. Did you have any adventures, especially striking?

SK: Each country has its own specific characteristics and work culture. For example, Kazakhstan: I’ll never forget walking from Europe to Asia and back. An unpleasant situation that happened to me and my colleague of course concerned money. The staff house was visited by two Kazakhs – they attempted to extort money for electricity bill from us, they threatened to cut it off despite the fact, that the bill had already been settled. Finally it turned out that it was the fault of the owner, who had been in arrears with payments for a long time. Today we laugh about it, but then the situation seemed to be quite dangerous.

Tunisia: the local people like to take an advantage of the fact, that you are not a native – a word of advice for those, who are going to visit this country: use only the yellow cabs and demand turning taximeters on. Otherwise, you can pay several times more than in reality. As the Gulf of Mexico: perhaps the strangest situation I had to deal with was a coach ride through Louisiana, from one heliport to another (because of some problems with flights).

Turkmenistan is another story. I honestly do not know if I would decide to work there again. A lot of things were unacceptable. We were transported to the platform on old boats. To my misfortune, it happened at night and during not the best weather. I was also told to jump from the boat to an old rusty drilling rig. Actually, it is not an easy place for working. The only thing I regret from the trip to this country is that I did not had the opportunity to see so-called “The Door to Hell” but who knows, maybe someday.

During my first visit to Baku, what surprised me were small oil pumping stations in private gardens.

YP: It was a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you very much!

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