Assistance with learning

14/12/2007 Participants in the Petroleum Administration (Petrad) foundation's eight-week courses in Stavanger this autumn have taken new expertise home with them. We talked to three of the students.

Text: Toril Bakka

“I want to learn how Norway has succeeded in getting where it is today as an oil nation,” explains Rose Ntlou from South Africa, one of the 45 people from 36 countries attending the courses.

Among those she has met on this programme, which began in mid-October, are Nofel Khalilov (31) from Azerbaijan and Norway's Astri Fritsen (53).

“My boss also urged me to apply after taking the course himself,” says 42-year-old Ms Ntlou, who has special responsibility for frame conditions and policy relating to gas in South Africa's Ministry of Minerals and Energy.

She draws comparisons between her own country and Norway, noting that the latter had cheap hydropower before finding oil and gas, while South Africa has cheap coal.

More than 90 per cent of her country's electricity supply is coal-fired, and this fuel will remain its primary energy source for a long time to come.

However, plans call for the share of natural gas, renewables and nuclear power to rise. South Africa began producing oil from Oribi and Sable in 1997 and 2003 respectively, but both fields are now in decline.

“I hope to find answers to three main questions,” says Ms Ntlou. “How can South Africa develop a gas infrastructure, how can it establish a market and how should gas be priced in relation to coal?" Phases

“I'm personally looking forward to learning more about all the phases from exploration to sale,” says Mr Khalilov, an economist with state oil company Socar.

In charge of work on financial reports in the investment division, he adds that Socar uses the Petrad course to develop expertise among its 60 000-strong workforce.

Azerbaijan found oil was far back as the late 1840s, and is ranks among the world's oldest petroleum-producing countries. When he returns home, Mr Khalilov will be working on the sale of gas from Shah Deniz in the Caspian.

Over the past decade, Socar has discovered new resources beneath this sea together with international partners, and has begun to recover that oil and gas.

“We have many oil experts in our country,” says Mr Khalilov. "I'm hoping to learn more about gas.”

“I've worked with oil and gas for years,” adds Ms Fritsen, a geologist and principal engineer in the NPD, where she has worked for 12 years.

“But this represents a good opportunity to learn more, both about our own Norwegian business and the way other countries operate.” Management

The 45 people from petroleum-producing countries around the world who attended this year's Petrad courses on petroleum policy and resource management show that interest in these programmes remains high.

“We've only had this many participating countries and students once before,” says Øystein Berg, who heads the educational foundation.

He welcomed each participant with a ceremonial handshake on the opening day of the course while the flags of every nation involved waved outside the NPD building, where Petrad is based, and he promise that all the participants would learn from the best that the Norwegian petroleum industry has to offer.

The courses were staged this year for the 17th time. Preparations began almost 12 months earlier, when invitations to participate were issued.

About 130-160 applications are usually received. Candidates go through a careful selection process in their home countries, but Petrad has the final work on who takes part.

The foundation takes account of qualifications as well as the combination of professional background, country and gender when making its selection.

Men usually account for the majority of applicants, and just nine of this year’s participants are women. Backgrounds vary, but most are engineers, lawyers, geologists and economists.

Many senior civil servants and national oil company executives in oil producing countries have visited Norway to attend one of the Petrad courses.

These programmes have a dual effect, says Torgeir Knutsen, deputy director general at the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE), who was present to welcome this year’s participants.

“They not only build up expertise in countries which receive Norwegian assistance, but also develop goodwill for Norway’s oil and gas industry in all the petroleum-producing nations.”

He represented the ministries of foreign affairs, finance and the environment as well as the MPE at the opening ceremony. All are backing the Oil for Development programme.

Noting that Petrad’s lecturers are Norwegian academics, business people and civil servants, Mr Knutsen thinks that this breadth is important for the success of the courses. Blend

“I’m very keen on the blend of theory and practice,” said Mr Khalilov in a comment the courses. “I’ve also found that I’m securing a good network.”

He was also able to contribute expertise – both his own and that of his company. Before joining Socar, he worked for many years in international oil companies in Azerbaijan.

Ms Fritsen has been pleased that both professional and cultural subjects were covered. The first week involved a team-building session in the Hardanger fjord country north of Stavanger.

Participants were enthusiastic at their meeting with typical Norwegian landscapes such as glaciers and deep fjords, which provided a unique experience.

Working closely with people who have varying expertise is very interesting to Ms Ntlou. “I’ve learnt a lot, and am looking forward to sharing my new experience with colleagues at home.”


Updated: 04/09/2009