Developing the necessary skills in the oil and gas workforce has always been a challenge for operating companies, as each individual needs not only knowledge in their specific discipline but also sufficient understanding of the interfaces to other parts of the business. The challenge is higher for specialized areas of application, like Heavy Oil. This paper will present our insights and learnings in the process of shaping skilled profiles needed to handle heavy oil developments, grounded on our experience in Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), with a focus on subsurface profiles.

To further support the development of its heavy oil resources, KOC signed a 10-year Enhanced Technical Services Agreement (ETSA) with Shell in December 2016, in which a key driver is the enhancement of KOC staff technical competencies. Within this framework, KOC and Shell jointly created a capabilities-development program for Heavy Oil staff, encompassing discipline-driven coaching, on-the-job training, attachments, mini-learnings, and customized courses, constituting a blended-learning approach.

Heavy Oil developments and operations require integration of information, knowledge and experience from the very early phases of the field development, due to the high cost per barrel that challenges profitability. Every optimization counts. In addition, there are specific skills inherent to heavy oil, like steam injection expertise, cap rock characterization, modeling/management of viscosity changes, besides processing and transportation.

After the culmination of the first year of the ETSA, opportunities to accelerate the uplift the efficacy of the training plans for heavy Oil skills were identified:

  • Cross-discipline training, to enhance the integrated approach to studies and operations

  • More operational and hands-on training formats needed in the blended training frameworks

  • Assessment processes, pre- and post-learning events, to measure the value of training

  • Strategic career planning as a planning requisite for the optimization of training

  • Soft skills training, to endow the creation of enriching teamwork, beyond corporate cultural nuances.

A selected example will exemplify how the collaboration efforts IOC-KOC for integration were successful, exposing Reservoir Engineers to an integrated core and field-based seminar that was shifted from a pure geological focus to address multidisciplinary topics such as reservoir modeling, steam conformance, reservoir heterogeneity and integrated analysis of subsurface-surface interdependence.

The learnings derived from the first year of exchange and collaboration between an NOC and an IOC will be useful for similar cases in the world, to augment the specialized skills and core expertise in the oil and gas workforce.

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