Jonny Hall, a reservoir engineer, had his first contact with BP in Year 9 at school. Now, 10 years later, he works for them as a reservoir engineer. We spoke to him about his love of STEM subjects, problem solving, his relationship with BP, and living on a North Sea oil rig.
What subjects were you interested in at school?
I did a lot of maths at school. I was particularly good at it and I enjoyed it a lot. I like to think logically and I like to problem-solve. Similarly, I did a lot of physics, which is all about solving problems in real life. This is the route my life went down. It’s problem solving.
It’s great when you find a job you enjoy.
Definitely. When you come to work, there’s a new problem each day. You’re being asked to give your best engineering judgment based on quite a lot of uncertain, unknown problems, which is great for me.
What is a reservoir engineer?
I’m part of the subsurface team, which is looking at everything below the ground. We’re dealing with reservoirs a few kilometres below the sea bed and producing oil and gas from those. My job as a reservoir engineer is to evaluate those oil and gas reservoirs which are found within the rock and figure out what sort of production we’re going to get from them.
Do you get to spend time on oil and gas rigs?
Yes. It’s generally expected as a reservoir engineer that you get a couple of months of experience, being on rigs, platforms, at sites, in the core labs, loads of different places. Every reservoir engineer in BP would have to go through that sort of thing.
What’s life on a rig like?
I quite enjoy it. It’s pretty cool actually. You’re able to go out and see the actual pieces of equipment that you’re flowing the oil and gas through. It makes it a lot more tangible when you’re actually out there because when you’re in the office and you’re just looking at data trends, graphs, and that sort of stuff, it doesn’t make it feel very real.
What was your first contact with BP?
They did a schools link program with my school, called Go4SET. You’d do a few weeks with an engineer supervising you every so often and it was to come up with some ideas to solve a real-life problem. At the time, I think it was saving water. They mentor you, they give you advice. Then we went to present that project to a load of engineers in the BP office.
How did the relationship continue?
I did work experience, after that project as well, where I went in and shadowed a BP employee, a geologist this time, for a week. That was really interesting. I set up a load of meetings with different engineers, just to get the flavour of exactly what they do. Then they made me take all that information and said, “right, here’s some data. Go and design a field development plan for us.”
What did you do after school?
I spent three years doing maths at Imperial college, which wasn’t directly relevant to the oil and gas industry. During that time, I got a scholarship with BP, so I was part of the BP scholars’ team again. Then there was an internship and at the end of that, I managed to qualify for a job offer. I went back and did my final year at uni with a job offer in hand. It was conditional on final year performance, so it was a good incentive to do well and actually pass my final year exams.
What do you like about your job?
I like working in the big team that we have. We work between lots of different disciplines. Being able to communicate your technical opinion and getting other people to understand the problem and how we’re going to solve it together. I always like to hear other people’s opinions.
If there’s a kid who’s really into STEM subjects, what do BP offer?
A huge amount of technical challenges to go get their teeth into. Some of the biggest problems the world will ever face, especially as we move into the renewable energy side of things. There are going to be massive, massive energy challenges in the future. The only way we’re going to tackle those is to get the brightest and best people involved. I look forward to seeing how BP is going to be a part of that.