Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Elizabeth Padmos

Elizabeth Padmos

Elizabeth PalmosHow I got into engineering

I knew I wanted to be an engineer at primary school because my dad was an engineer, so I got exposed to this world quite early on. Part of my motivation stemmed from an awareness of his career but also just from things we did at home together, such as working on car engines and taking things apart. I realise I was lucky to get that exposure from home and I know that not everybody has this opportunity.After finishing an MEng in Engineering Science at Oxford, I decided I wanted to work in internal combustion engine design, so I went to do a year at the Institut Français du Petrole (IFP) in Paris, to do a course on the subject. Whilst I really enjoyed it, almost every other course that IFP offered was for people who wanted to work in oil and gas, so I was surrounded by people doing geology, geophysics and reservoir engineering, for instance. The field was one I hadn’t previously explored and it appealed to me, and upon completion of my course, I applied to the BP graduate scheme.

What I do now

I’m the lead reservoir engineer for the Schiehallion, Loyal and Foinaven Fields, and I’m part of the North Sea Reservoir Development division. In my role, I have been responsible for building and managing the Schiehallion reservoir simulation model, which is now being used to predict the amount of oil and gas which will be produced from the field in the future and make significant investment decisions. This required close integration with other members of the team: geologists, geophysicists and other reservoir engineers. We had to work closely together to share insights we had gained from our respective areas of interest and to make sure we were building up a consistent understanding of the reservoir. We are now using the model to help us to decide where to drill new wells, using the model predictions of where in the reservoir oil will be left behind. We are also using it to evaluate enhancing oil production by mixing a polymer with the injection water to make it more viscous. This will increase the amount of oil that is produced in the future.I’m based in the BP North Sea headquarters in Aberdeen. My job is office-based and is a mixture of computer simulation work and working together with other engineers and other technical professionals. I am married and have three children and have worked part-time since 2002 so that I can balance my work with my family life. I am very lucky that BP has enabled me (and my husband) to work flexibly over the last few years. I don’t feel that part-time working has held me back at all and I have recently taken on more leadership responsibilities. I have been a chartered engineer since 2007.

My career highlight so far

The Schiehallion and Loyal fields are currently undergoing a huge redevelopment project which has been really exciting to be involved in. I’ve been able to use some cutting-edge technology, such as 4D seismic, which allows you to see how liquids move through a reservoir over time, even though the reservoir is 2000 metres below the seabed. 4D seismic helps us to understand how our injection wells connect to our producing wells and also gives an indication of where oil is being left behind, which makes it an incredibly powerful tool both for calibrating our model and in detailed well-planning.

My biggest challenge

My team and I are currently planning 15 new wells to be drilled in the Schiehallion field over the next 5 years. Each new well costs around £70million to drill so we need to make sure that we are investing money wisely and drilling successful wells which produce enough oil to be economic. One big difference between reservoir and other branches of engineering is that we have to work with very sparse data and have veryfew direct measurements. Consequently, we have to be comfortable working with uncertainty - we need to know what we don’t know! Well planning is very exciting and I look forward to drilling the wells and finding out the results and whether our predictions are correct.

My advice for anyone considering a career in engineering

I would recommend a career in engineering to anyone who has a curiosity about how things work and enjoys logical thinking. Obviously maths and physics are important subjects to study at school, but I would also encourage people to look for opportunities to investigate how things around them are put together and how they work. Grab any chance to gain some work experience in an engineering company. I got work experience in a heavy engineering manufacturing company before and during my university studies, and I still draw on those experiences today. Successful engineering is about making ideas work in the real world.

 

Our supporters