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Women in Industry – Aruna Mannie, Exploration Manager – Mexico, Premier Oil

Women in Industry – Aruna Mannie, Exploration Manager – Mexico, Premier Oil


What was your first job in the industry?

My first job was as a summer intern at Petrotrin, the Trinidad & Tobago state oil company, where I learnt the ropes of the industry. There were no high-tech computers, rather it was all hand drawn maps to get to the fundamental principles, trips to the wellsite to see first-hand operations and visits to the field outcrop geology. It was here I tasted and felt what it was like to have my first oil discovery, a near-field step out in the onshore southern oil basin.

How did you get in to the oil and gas industry and was this always the industry for you?

I never planned on a career in the oil industry. My first love was chemistry and I originally planned to become a Chemical Engineer. However, a poster advertising a BSc Degree in Petroleum Geoscience for Chemistry, Physics and Maths enthusiasts caught my eye on my first morning at University and by afternoon I decided I would give it a shot. Clueless would not be an overstatement. I literally had no idea what Geoscience was.

Contours of formation tops? Rocks and their constituent minerals? All alien concepts. By the end of the first semester I was rock bottom and thought I would cut my losses and go back to becoming a Chemical Engineer.

However, slowly but surely as I gained a grasp for the theoretical fundamentals I was wooed into geology and the processes of the earth. I was drawn to the fact that it was an integration of all the sciences and has such a huge role to play in the world economy. If you wanted an example of where science and business really come together, this was it. My grades kept improving and I realised I really was enjoying it. I was passionate about finding oil and gas and contributing to the global energy mix - a buzz which still today makes me jump out of bed in the morning.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

I have had quite a few high points in my career, from oil and gas discoveries in Trinidad to my PhD where in under three years I developed an alternative tectono-stratigraphic model for the Jurassic in the Central North Sea to its application in making drill or drop well decisions. The latest is a close call between two particular events. One was when the drillbit closed in on the Zama target and it was clear we had a sizeable discovery on our hands. The other was the opening of the RD3.1 bids in Mexico City where Premier were awarded stakes in 3 licences. The supercharged atmosphere, the tension and adrenalin are beyond what words can describe.

Have you had to face any challenges?

On reflection, there were many challenges I faced along the way but I always saw them as opportunities to grow professionally and personally. These have included redefining exploration in a low oil price environment to convincing the powers that be to allocate funds for acreage in a new country, for which one needs serious conviction.

What sparked your interest in the Mexican market?

In 2014, I was screening opportunities globally as a geoscientist in the New Ventures team from Africa to South America. At this time, Mexico was opening its borders to foreign companies after 76 years of nationalisation.

I was captivated by its geology and what the seismic was telling us. With a high trap density influenced by salt movements, an overprint of tectonic history to decipher, clastic and carbonate plays and natural oil seeps oozing at the seabed, the unlocked prospectivity was evident.

Is there anything you would like to see change in the industry?

I would like to see the industry achieve a zero track record for Healthy, Safety and Environmental incidents, reduced time from discovery to first oil without compromising technical assurance and a desire for collaboration. The latter is a word often used but only successful thus far out of necessity and cost-cutting rather than a real genuine desire. There is a need to find a way to work together within operating agreements that embraces trust for the greater benefit of a project. Sharing and openness of subsurface data would lead to far more productivity and less unnecessary dry holes. It would boost joined up thinking and innovators would be rewarded for their efforts at spotting what others had left behind in the data.

What would be your advice for other women looking to get in to the industry?

Like most other industries, the only constant has been change. While we have made progress as an industry we still have some way to go in attracting and retaining women. It’s a highly satisfying and rewarding experience to contribute in quenching the world’s thirst for energy, in an industry that’s obsessive with doing it safely with minimal damage to the environment. It combines STEM with economics to make commercial environmentally aware decisions.

Travel, international networking, fieldtrips and thanks to technology which allows remote and flexible working are just a few perks of the industry. The key is to enjoy what you do and deliver a "good" piece of work. Be the best you can at it, everything else will take care of itself and fall into place. Be confident in your abilities, it’s always easier to get intimidated, see insurmountable barriers where they do not exist and walk away. Forge strong working and personal relationships, be a catalyst for change where needed in the environment you are in.

Published: 10-12-2018
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