By December 7, 2012 Read More →

Unusual home working jobs – petroleum engineer

Home working but different.

Work from Home Wisdom unusual home working jobsBrian Moffatt got in touch recently to say how much he enjoyed the website. As a home working petroleum engineer (or apparently Reservoir Fluids Consultant to be more accurate!) he is an ideal candidate for this series on unexpected home working jobs:

Hi Brian, first of all I’d like you to explain what you do in layman’s terms so that even I can understand it!
We work with Exploration and Production companies who need to understand how their oil and gas behaves underground.
It’s painting oil by numbers – we characterise the fluids and make numerical models that capture the properties of oil and gas at high pressures in the reservoirs.

Our simple models calibrate forecasting software so that future production can be predicted. This allows companies to squeeze the most value from their reservoir and helps their engineers sleep without technical worries.

Sometimes people ask me if that isn’t a strange job to do from home. I explain you can’t walk around inside an oil reservoir, all visualisation is done virtually on a PC, and you can do that as well at home or Big Oil Company offices!

It is a fairly unusual business to run from home – how did you end up home working?
I had toyed with the idea of going solo but was too fearful to take the plunge. Redundancy gave me the push I needed. I considered several options but by chance happened to sit next to a business adviser at a networking event.

He explained how he used joined up thinking across different parts of a business from leads, sales, marketing, distribution, etc to optimise efficiency and profit for the whole business. I thought what a great job he had.

The next day the penny dropped that I could copy what he did on his business axis onto a technical axis in petroleum production. So now we cover petroleum behaviour across formation, accumulation into reservoirs, flow in the well and through production facilities.
This year we added three environmental projects on geological storage of CO2.

Do you work alone or with colleagues?
As work grew we had to expand and have four technical people home working and one admin helper. Three of us are based around Wokingham, one in Dorset and one in Edinburgh! It makes meeting face to face difficult but the flexibility of home working helps fitting in with school runs. We mainly use Skype, email and phone.

Sometimes we work on individual projects, sometimes shared, but we always use each other to check work and have ideas. We have had several world first ideas through working on challenging projects and won four industry awards.

I imagine you must deal with some rather large corporate clients – does this ever pose problems for meetings etc?
Problems like “Do we have enough cups and saucers to host Shell in the living room?” or “Can our semi-submersible drilling rig be moored in your driveway till the storms clear?”

Not really, but we occasionally busk in clients’ offices to speak to different disciplines to get the whole picture. Anyway, they have much plusher and dog free offices.

Do you actually reveal you are home working?
Yes, it can be embarrassing if clients say they will meet at our “office” and end up with a dog wanting to play tug with the agenda.

Would you look for office premises if you landed a big new contract?
Yes, but I wouldn’t give up the walking the dog slot completely! It’s during oxygenated moments like that when inspiration hatches another award winning idea.

Brian runs Petrophase, a petroleum fluids consultancy to the petroleum and carbon sequestration industry.

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2 Comments on "Unusual home working jobs – petroleum engineer"

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  1. Ben Temple says:

    We’ve known Brian for a while now & I never realised until now that he worked from home!

    It goes to show that even when you work with giant companies like Shell, you can still have the shortest commute to work in the morning and squeeze in a walk with the dogs….and win an award or two!

    • Judy says:

      I agree it’s very heartening to learn that a home business can work with a multinational. Behind many a successful home worker is a cat or dog 🙂