Technicians in the oil and gas extraction industry play an important part in the production of oil and gas and in maintaining the systems used in the extraction processes. They work as either process operation technicians or maintenance technicians.
Process operation technicians work under supervision to produce, process and deliver oil or gas. They start up, control, monitor and shut down oil and gas production processes. They do this both manually and by using computerised distribution control systems. They maintain safe operations and make sure that all the production systems are operating efficiently to maximise the production of oil and gas.
Maintenance technicians keep the mechanical, electrical, instrument and control systems in good repair. They can work as:
Mechanical Technicians - responsible for valves, pumps and transmission systems, diesel engines and gas turbines.
Electrical Technicians - responsible for high-voltage power generation and distribution systems, motors, control systems and electrical equipment specially designed for use in offshore environments.
Instrument and Control Technicians - responsible for regulating and maintaining measurement systems for oil and gas flow, level, pressure and temperature. They also look after electronic and pneumatic process control systems, fire and gas detection systems and analysers.
Technicians work in closely-knit teams. Some technicians become multiskilled in two or more of the above areas.
Oil and gas technicians work either offshore or at an onshore terminal. The offshore working pattern is normally 12 hours on and 12 hours off continuously for two weeks, followed by two or three weeks' leave ashore. Onshore technicians normally work 37 hours a week from Monday to Friday.
Working offshore is demanding. Work takes place in all weather conditions and can be wet, cold and noisy. Technicians need to wear protective clothing, such as overalls, gloves, goggles and a hard hat.
When offshore, technicians share their living quarters with colleagues (between 30 and 200 other men and women, depending on the location). There are usually two people to each cabin.
Newly-qualified technicians working offshore may earn around £35,000 a year.
The oil and gas extraction industry employs around 20,000 people on about 200 UK offshore installations and a further 300,000 people onshore. The number of oil and gas industry technicians has increased in recent years and there is a strong demand for them.
There are around 6,000 employers in the UK oil and gas industry. They include:
Operating Companies - usually major oil companies that operate production platforms.
Drilling Companies - contracted to do the drilling work.
Service Companies - for example, seismic exploration firms, diving companies, drilling mud suppliers, cementing companies and well-testing specialists.
Jobs for technicians in the UK are mainly located in the North East of Scotland, East Anglia, Humberside and the Liverpool Bay area.
Entry to this work is through an Apprenticeship known as the Upstream Oil and Gas Industry Technician Training Programme that is run by the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organization (OPITO) and the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board. On completion, they are awarded with a Higher National Certificate and an NVQ/SVQ Level 3. Application forms can be obtained from www.oilandgastechnicians.com.
Applicants to the training programme normally need one of the following:
Entrants to the training programme must be at least 16.5 years of age, so that they are old enough to take part in offshore training at 18.
Some people enter the training programme after completing a full-time course. Relevant courses include A levels, BTEC national awards and SQA national units in chemistry or engineering.
Entrants to the Upstream Oil and Gas Industry Technician Training Programme begin by attending a college or training centre in Aberdeen, Edinburgh or Middlesbrough for up to 18 months. During this time they work for:
NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Performing Engineering Operations.
SQA National Certificate in Multidisciplinary Engineering.
Higher National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Process Control or Process Operations.
They then spend about two years of on-the-job training, either at an offshore installation or at a floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) unit. Some have a placement at an onshore refinery, for example, St Fergus (Aberdeen), Mossmorran (Kirkcaldy) or Bacton (Great Yarmouth).
Before beginning any offshore training an offshore survival course is undertaken. This covers helicopter safety and underwater escape, emergency breathing systems, first aid and fire fighting.
Technicians are expected to work towards gaining an NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Engineering Maintenance or Processing Operations: Hydrocarbons.
Technicians are also encouraged to become registered engineering technicians. To achieve this they need:
Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.
Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.
An oil and gas industry technician should:
Experienced technicians may progress to jobs such as shift team leader, production supervisor, maintenance supervisor, trainer, engineer or project manager. They may need further qualifications, such as NVQ's/SVQ's at Levels 4 and 5, for these positions.
Work overseas is available with some operating companies.
61 New Cavendish Street,
London W1G 7AR
Tel: 020 7467 7100
Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB),
Blue Court, Church Lane,
Kings Langley WD4 8JP
Tel: 01923 260000
Engineering Council UK,
246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500
Engineering and Technology Board
The Institute of Marine Engineering,
Science and Technology (IMarEST),
80 Coleman Street, London EC2R 5BJ
Tel: 020 7382 2600
Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3),
1 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DB
Tel: 020 7451 7300
Offshore Petroleum Industry
Training Organization (UK) (OPITO),
Minerva House, Bruntland Road,
Portlethen, Aberdeen AB12 4QL
Tel: 01224 787800
Oilcareers, Westhill Business Centre,
Arnhall Business Park, Westhill,
Aberdeenshire AB32 6UF
Tel: 0870 870 4564
Oil & Gas UK (England), 2nd Floor,
232-242 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 1AU
Tel: 020 7802 2400
Oil & Gas UK (Scotland): 3rd Floor,
The Exchange 2, 62 Market Street,
Aberdeen AB11 5PJ
Tel: 01224 577250
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.