For Gareth Lindsay, 27, a graduate structural engineer at oil services group PSN, his decision to get into oil&gas has become his passport to the world – including Down Under.
After graduating with an MEng in Naval Architecture from the University of Strathclyde, Lindsay was accepted into PSN’s graduate programme in 2006 and joined the firm’s advanced integrity group (AIG).
Located in Aberdeen, the AIG is PSN’s centre of excellence for advanced structural engineering and analysis and provides technical support to the UK group’s clients around the world.
Lindsay: “I was always keen on structural integrity engineering and I was aware of the value of the opportunity to join PSN. The advanced integrity team delivers cutting-edge solutions to customers in every corner of the world.
“From overcoming the challenge of breaking through ice at minus 40C in Sakhalin to assisting in the decommissioning of an LNG storage tank the size of a football pitch in Algeria, the group solves some of the most extreme engineering challenges in our industry today.
“The great thing about a graduate place in the advanced integrity group was the sheer level of emphasis on technical and personal development.
“Very early on I was given responsibility. I was made accountable for the work I did and I was given the opportunity to work on some really advanced engineering workscopes – including the topside decommissioning of the North West Hutton platform – and encouraged to use my own initiative.”
It was on a trip to Houston in 2008 that Lindsay first heard about the opportunity for an overseas secondment.
“Any young engineer will tell you that any opportunity for overseas travel is amazing – and I was lucky enough to get to go to Houston to attend the Offshore Technology Conference for a week. It was while I was there that I found out about the opportunity to work on key projects in Melbourne.
“By this point, I only just had two years’ experience and had gone from having a lot of close-at-hand, very experienced support to having to figure a great deal out on my own – which, in hindsight, is a very good way to learn.”
When he arrived in Melbourne, Lindsay joined the inspection engineering group (IEG) for one of PSN’s key clients in Australia.
Providing a structural integrity programme to 18 offshore platforms, two onshore gas plants and one marine terminal in the Bass Strait region, the role and challenges were completely different to what he had been used to in Aberdeen.
He said: “As part of the IEG, the role meant I was running the structural integrity programme. This included the provision of inspection programmes, the delivery of ongoing integrity projects and modifications and ad hoc support to operations and maintenance.
“In terms of inspections, I was responsible for managing topside, onshore, underwater vehicle and diving inspections – which was a huge undertaking given the number of assets involved.
“Working alongside the various inspection and engineering contractors and working and liaising with the internal client project teams were great ways to gain exposure to large parts of the operation and the various industry players in the Melbourne area.”
Some key projects during Lindsay’s 18 months in Australia included a Bass Strait-wide assessment of helideck integrity for a proposed fleet of larger helicopters; determining the design for operations requirements for a new fixed platform, and significant engineering studies into the structural integrity at one of the onshore gas plants.
“My entire work experience in Melbourne was very broad and, because it was client-based, I got to see and understand the bigger operations picture a lot better.
“Much of what I learned in my time in Australia was about decision-making and project leadership.
“This experience, combined with my technical knowledge, means I feel like I have a better pan-industry approach to business and I am far more delivery-focused now.”
As for living in Melbourne, he admitted that was a major perk.
“Some of the highlights of living in Melbourne had to include attending the Formula One Grand Prix and the Australian Open Tennis – both of which were in walking distance from my flat. I also made sure to make the most of where I was based and used any time off I had to travel. I went to Japan and Singapore and travelled a lot around Australia.”
Now back in Aberdeen, Lindsay maintains a strong link with PSN’s Melbourne client and acts as the technical interface for a structural integrity model management contract established during his time in Australia. A trip back to Melbourne is planned for later this year.
Outlining why graduates are important to a company like PSN, Mohammad Nabavian, chief of advanced , said the group was absolutely committed to seeking out the highest calibre of engineers.
“In order to do this, we recognise that we need to offer young engineers top-class learning opportunities and development experiences that inspire them to carve out their careers with us,” he said.
“Gareth has been a model graduate and employee – he is one of the industry’s brightest prospects, and the feedback we received from our customer in Australia and the increasing technical support we are providing to them is testimony to this.”
As well as staying focused on the job in hand, Lindsay is also working towards becoming a chartered engineer through PSN’s graduate training scheme. He is on track to become fully chartered by the end of this year.