Interview with Usama Sabir, Drilling engineer with United Energy Pakistan

Usama Sabir shares his thoughts on well planning, and raises the bar on agile planning.

Posted 19.01.2021 08:00 by Magnus Tvedt
Inverview Usama smiles

An ambitious engineer in a changing process

Usama Sabir is an experienced and visionary drilling engineer with a fresh Project Management Professional certification. He has worked for almost a decade in the oil and gas industry with drilling operations and planning. I met with him on Teams in January 2021, following an interesting discussion on LinkedIn on the workflows of well planning. During his time with United Energy Pakistan, he has seen the company grow through different stages and owners, and he has been through planning and the execution phases of wells.

Usama explains the process of well planning as a complex process with multiple stakeholders internally and externally. Collaboration between subsurface teams, drilling engineers, contracts, service providers and equipment providers is crucial for a successful project.

Pulling from his fresh PMP training Usama summarizes:

From my PMP experience, I can say that well planning has been predictive planning, meaning we know what we are going to do. But we should move to more agile process.

Read on to learn more about collaboration and risk management, and watch the short videos to get to know the inspiring Usama Sabir.

On the planning task

"What I need is a clear understanding of my stakeholders, services and equipment", he concludes on the topic early planning. He needs to be well versed in the decision processes of the company and the planning stages your well will go through to get the necessary approvals. "You need to know the people and their diverse backgrounds who make decisions because they can impact the dynamics and hurt the planning by pushing back". The risk of failing in the bureaucracy can be just as likely as any technical failure.

Sharing insights in management theory, Usama talks of predictive and more agile ways of planning. The well planning process is assumed to be a predictable task, where step-by-step tasks will take you to a successful well. But the process of planning a well is complex, with many stakeholders and tasks, and the importance of aligning with stakeholders does not match well with step-by-step procedures.

We need a more agile planning process

His agile approach to well planning is that it is an iterative task, with many stakeholders that need to be in a close decision loop. Iterations of data sharing, results, and discussions need to be fast, so the organization is able to spend time on improvements. He is worried that the bottom line of the oil company can suffer in the operational phase from slow iterations and tedious workflows in the planning phase:

If we had more detailed information from or more risks identified from the early well planning phase that could have helped us. When we are executing you can't do anything except firefighting.

The importance of an agile process

Usama talks about experiences with collaboration between the different departments in well planning, highlighting the value of working on the same data, and simplifying the collaboration. "There are many meetings that should have been an email", he says, pointing at inefficiencies in the workflow, where there are a lot of meetings and work going into collaboration. When you are not on the same platform as your stakeholders, your work can not be easily shared, and you need to create presentations, reports, and spreadsheets, and discuss them in meetings.

He explains platform collaboration with a good example: "Me and you are talking on Teams, that is the same platform. And now we are able to clarify a lot of understandings". But when he is planning a well in one application, and the stakeholders are in another application, there are endless reports, emails, presentations, and meetings to communicate the work and get the necessary feedback.

He lights up over this pain point and is more specific for a scenario he knows well:

Once I develop my trajectory, I should not be reaching out to the exploration engineer and ask them to kindly review this. This interaction should happen instantly, with faster iterations. We could use time on more value-adding tasks, which are better for the company.

More about agile and collaborative well planning

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After the interview, Usama shared this article on the management role in a data-driven workflow with his professional network, adding that well planning is heavy on bureaucracy which should be spent on improvements.

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