Dr. Emmanuel O Egbogah spent eight-and-a-half years in Malaysia helping PETRONAS Carigali (PCSB) to develop its technical capabilities. Here, he talks about his experiences with PCSB, and shares his thoughts on how the Malaysian oil & gas industry has evolved so successfully.
Dr Egbogah being interviewed
by the SPE Digest.
What prompted you to join PETRONAS Carigali(PCSB) as a Technical Advisor in 1991?
The opportunity to join PETRONAS Carigali in 1991 was God-sent. I was working in Libya as an Enhanced Oil Recovery Advisor to the Libyan National Oil Corporation in Tripoli when, in May 1990, I received a phone call followed by a written invitation from Mr. Chai Kwok Kit, Manager of Petroleum Engineering at PCSB, to visit Malaysia and to present a technical seminar on Secondary Oil Recovery in general, and Water Injection in particular. As I wanted to understand the motivation behind this invitation, I called my friend Mr. Sastry Karra, who had earlier on left Tripoli to join PETRONAS as a Technical Adivisor) Production. He explained that PCSB was on the verge of developing the Dulang Oil Field in the South China Sea. This would be the company’s first attempt at independently developing a major oilfield and whose diagnosed problem included pressure maintenance.
As I had never had the opportunity of developing any field from inception, it was my dream to be able to participate in the development of a green field where I could test my reservoir management principles, particularly the multidisciplinary team approach to management. The chance to do it in the Dulang field was a rare and wonderful opportunity.
I went to Malaysia in August 1990 and delivered my technical seminar, following which I was officially invited to lead the effort in implementing all the technical details with I had presented. I happily accepted the invitation to become Technical Advisor (Reservoir Engineering) from January 1991, and thus began a mutually very satisfying and rewarding relationship that lasted eight-and-a-half years.
You were involved in the strategic planning for PETRONAS’ E&P expansion internationally. What were the major factors you had to take into consideration and how smoothly did this expansion happen?
In the early 1990s, the Malaysian Government decided to focus on E&P programmes overseas because the hydrocarbon reserve base in Malaysia was very limited. In order to successfully acquire reserves internationally, PETRONAS had to meet certain stringent requirements. It was up against very stiff competition with other E&P companies, thoroughbreds in the business who were ruthless in their mode of competition. As Technical Advisor, I indicated to the management that ”we must be technologically competent to be able to compete“. Most important was equipping ourselves with the necessary technology. We also needed to develop a sort of road map of where we were and where we wanted to go.
A technology blueprint was issued, and responsibilities included negotiating Strategic Technical Alliances (STAs) and technology partnerships with R&D institutions and commercial technology vendors in the global petroleum industry.
PETRONAS’ expansion has gone very smoothly and successfully to the extent that the corporation is now in over 30 countries, with reserves acquisition that far exceeds the original plan. The corporation’s position in both the upstream and downstream hydrocarbon business elicits the description being among the most successful national oil companies in the world. It is a success and accomplishment of which I am very proud of Malaysia.
You also conducted extensive research to maximize oil recovery while at PCSB. Where there any ”startling“ discoveries? Did your research lead to substantial change in techniques/systems deployed?
The decision to develop the Dulang Field was predicated on total oil initially in place of about 587 million barrels and ultimate recovery of about 200 million barrels. While at PCSB, I engaged in extensive research with an in-house team, the result of which led to better reservoir characterization and dynamics. This resulted in significantly higher booked reserves for the field in excess of one billion barrels of oil initially in place and over 400 million barrels of recoverable oil. The research also resulted in the design of much better field development best practices embodied in a very dynamic reservoir management plan document for the Dulang field. A lot of our novelties were shared with the global industry through publications of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE).
You advocate a ”multidisciplinary“ approach to Field Development Planning and Integrated Reservoir Management. Can you please elaborate on this?
I have been a strong advocate of this approach and have led SPE’s efforts in this area. In order to understand multidisciplinary and synergistic developments, it is worth looking at how the concept of reservoir management has developed over the years. Historically, the petroleum industry tended to be organized along functional lines and encouraged specialization within individual disciplines. This, combined with a traditional hierarchical corporate structure, led to a very sequential approach to reservoir development. The geophysicist, for example, would use seismic and well control data to develop a seismic map or maps of a field, which would then be handed over to a geologist.
Further, it was very necessary for me to build a good team for the development and management of the Dulang Field, and to create our Technology Plan. The success that resulted from this won me a large number of converts from former skeptics. I overcame the challenges through dogged efforts in building consensus among my colleagues. I soon gained their respect. I owe a lot of gratitude to those managers who had great belief in my ideas and competence, such as Mr. Chai Kwok Kit, Mohd Wahid Kario, Mohd Johari Dasri, Abdullah Karim and Hashim Wahir.
What was the most gratifying part of your eight years with PCSB?
The technology foundation we built up in PCSB equipped the company for very successful global competition. The success we achieved in the development of the Dulang Field, in the implementation of sustainable pressure support programme and the implementation of a robust reservoir management practices, where all gratifying to me. The work we did in the Dulang Field in reducing field development and reservoir management uncertainties in low-resistivity, low-contrast reservoir environment through advanced coring and core analysis permitted the very first successful core-log integration for improved formation evaluation in the Dulang Field and serves as a living model for similar freshwater contribution to the industry, and my most gratifying moment at PCSB.
The acceptance of my doctrine that ”you have to be technologically competent to compete“ in the global oil & gas industry was the bedrock upon which the successful international growth of PETRONAS was irrevocably laid. All these, and visible success they have led to, are incontrovertible and very satisfying and gratifying to me.
How did you get involved in RESOURCE magazine as Associate Editor? Where there any stories that stand out in your mind?
I got involved in RESOURCE through the invitation of my boss at the time, Mr. Abdul Hamid Ibrahim, who was General Manager (Development) at PCSB. He assigned me the role of reviewing several technical papers that were published.
We did many stories that stand out in my mind, such as The Role of Technology in the Oil and Gas Industry (Volume 2 Issue No 2), Smart Partnerships for a Win-Win Approach Volume 4 No 1) and a volume on Science & Technology in Malaysia.
DR EMMANUEL EGBOGAH HOLDS A DISTINGUISHED MEMBERSHIP OF SPE (INTERNATIONAL). HE ALSO SITS ON THE SPE BOARD AS REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR AFRICA, AND IS THE EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF EMERALD ENERGY RESOURCES LIMITED BASED IN NIGERIA.