The second edition of the Petroleum Arabian Conference and Exhibition (PACE) was held from March 21 to 23 at the American University in Cairo (AUC), aiming to achieve a balance between theory and practice. The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Student Chapters in the AUC, Suez University and Cairo University, organized the event, which was attended by around 390 students.

The conference provided its attendees with panel discussions and around 20 technical sessions enabling field experts to share their knowledge and experiences.

Advanced Energy Systems (ADES), DEA Deutsch Erdoel AG, and Halliburton were the platinum, gold, and silver sponsors of the event, respectively. Other sponsors included Kuwait Energy Egypt; Schlumberger; Baker Hughes, a GE Company (BHGE); Chevron; Weatherford; BGS Energy Services (BGSES); BP; and Oil and Gas Skills (OGS). Egypt Oil & Gas was the event’s media sponsor and official publication.

Opening Ceremony

The conference began with an opening ceremony that included a panel discussion. Panelists were Mohamed Farouk, ADES CEO; Colby Fuser, Halliburton Vice President – Egypt and Libya; Kamel Al-Sawi, President of Kuwait Energy Egypt; Karim Badawi, Schlumberger Managing Director Egypt and East Mediterranean; Hussam Abu Seif, Egypt General Manager at BHGE; and Mostafa Fouad, BGSES Global Director. Dr. Mohamed El Ahmady, Professor of Petroleum Engineering at the AUC, moderated the session.

The discussion focused on the youth’s role in the oil and gas sector to develop the industry as well as the importance of spreading values such as resilience and teamwork.

Farouk was the first to speak. In his remarks, he told attendees about how he switched from academia to lead a regional drilling company. Farouk also indicated that despite the global oil crisis that hit the world in 2014, his company still achieved its highest growth rates when the prices dropped to $28 per barrel. That is why, as he noted, challenging market conditions are not an excuse for failure; they could be, in fact, an opportunity for success. Moreover, he stressed that university students must focus on efficiency and innovation to exploit their knowledge about modern technologies and incorporate robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) into the industry to reshape its future.

Fuser followed with a speech in which he focused on the importance of setting a target and a strategy that enable students to develop the industry. “Setting the right pace is extremely important, because that pace not only allows you to reach an end-result, but it also allows you to bring your peers to get to that final step. I can promise you that you do not get to the final step alone. You get there because you build a good network. You get there because you have not only the network that works for you, but it also works with you,” said Fuser.

During the panel discussion, El-Sawi stressed that the most important value that affects everyone in the industry is volatility. “Since 2013, we have seen many fluctuations hit the oil market globally. Therefore, it is necessary to acknowledge that the era of easy oil is diminishing with the rise of unconventional resources, which requires highly skilled and trained calibers,” he said.

Abu Seif stated that the oil and gas sector has a challenging environment, which has increased the importance of knowing how to run companies under these challenging circumstances, especially after the turmoil affecting the oil market.

“What we need to do in the coming years as an industry is to promote the oil and gas industry to the new generations. I do not think that the industry has adopted the new changes in other sectors that interest the new generations. We have a duty in the oil and gas sector to work for the new generations, to make a more attractive environment for them,” he added.

Building on this, Badawi stressed that the industry needs to be “positively motivated with the new advancements in technology, [which will make] this industry very strong.” Mindsets and innovation are crucial to keeping the students interested in the industry, as Badawi noted.

He also stated that, on the digitalization front, a new era for the sector is beginning, with many companies investing in research and development, and innovation, especially as “students come in with fresh perspectives, new ideas, and solutions to engage in the industry.”

Additionally, Fuser explained that despite the challenges in the sector, opportunities always arise to understand the industry components well. He also noted that the industry needs to focus more on its employees and to encourage the students to be creative.

“What we are missing on the last four to five years is that we had to focus on efficiency, cost and everything else. What we are going to see moving forward is a focus on employees. I see generations coming out of college into the workforce pushing companies into implementing digital solutions; so bring your best to the table,” said Fuser.

Fouad advised the students to focus on how to reach their goals in the career they already chose, noting that although the sector witnessed two downturns in 2008 and 2014, only the best people had the ability to face these troubles and remain in the company.

Farouk further explained the challenges facing supply and demand in the global energy markets since the 1900s. He expects that by 2035 or 2040, energy will reach its peak due to modern technologies, noting that today the energy sector sees competition between the cost of oil per barrel versus the cost of kilowatt-hour from renewable resources.

Additionally, he advised the students to focus on the factors that could help them succeed, such as emotional and social intelligence, and the ability to understand their colleagues and work together as a team, as well as assessing their own strengths and weaknesses through scientific tools.

Panelists shared their experiences with the students in order to help them relate to their career paths in the industry. “It is not only the grades that matter, but also extracurricular activities,” Badawi said, explaining how he began his career in Schlumberger after a recruitment event in the AUC, where he studied mechanical engineering and was not thinking of pursuing a career in oil and gas yet.

Moreover, Al-Sawi told students that he was a petroleum engineer just like them, as he graduated in 2002 from Suez University, and then obtained a master’s degree in management. He advised students to be positive, proactive and productive, adapt to changes, be open to available opportunities all the time, and always learn from their mistakes.

Meanwhile, Fouad said that skills are either gifted or acquired, and, in both cases, one has to work on them, stressing that learning from history will help predict what could happen in the future.

Abu Seif advised the students to develop their ability to listen, process, and then take the right decision.

The discussion was well received by attendees. “What brought me to this event is the gathering of all these oil and gas companies as well as engineers and students from different universities,” said Kur Akuien, a South Sudanese undergraduate student in Suez University, studying drilling at the Faculty of Petroleum Engineering. “I was surprised to see this diversity of the high-profile industry leaders attending on the first day,” he added.

Technical Sessions: A Platform for Understanding Industry Dynamics

The conference provided attendees with 20 technical sessions. One of them was introduced by Ahmed Sami, Associate Technical Professional at BGSES, about managing pressure drilling (MPD), “which is a subject that students do not currently study in universities,” Sami told Egypt Oil & Gas, adding that there was a positive interaction while explaining the topic.

“Introducing our solutions and new technologies to the students makes it easier for the company to recruit and train them when they graduate in a couple of years,” Sami explained, when asked about the company’s interest in being a technical sponsor of PACE 2019.

Another session about cementing was delivered by Reem Henri, Wireline and Perforating Reservoir Evaluation Engineer at Halliburton. “It is the policy of our company to invest in youth through internships and events like this, bringing market knowledge to academia,” she also told Egypt Oil & Gas.

“We want university students to know what will happen after graduation and how the environment in the office or the field will look like, as they are our future assets. I was chosen to take part in this event as I was the first Halliburton female field engineer in North Africa to work on wireline, so we wanted to send a message to young ladies that there is an opportunity for them in technical roles on the field,” Henri added.

“I was surprised with the level of knowledge the participants had, despite that most of them do not have logging courses in their curriculums, which reflects their efforts in research and teaching themselves. This shows how the new generation is investing in their own value,” she added, advising students to engage in many activities alongside their studies and focus on enhancing their network.

Exhibition and Women Participation

Schlumberger and Halliburton showcased prototypes of their drilling bits, with the latter also representing its technologies through a screen at its booth. Moreover, BP allowed attendees to experience the company’s works through virtual reality (VR) headsets.

Three girls studying in their first year of Chemical Engineering in the Canal High Institute of Engineering and Technology (CHI) in Suez University were among the relatively small number of females attending the event. In a conversation with Egypt Oil & Gas, they expressed their enthusiasm about PACE 2019 and mentioned points that could be enhanced in future editions. “I would have liked to see more non-technical topics, as the focus is mostly on subjects like drilling,” said Ruqayyah Ateya.

Naira El Touny stressed on the importance of having more female speakers in technical sessions. “They can serve as role models for us,” she said.

“Having most of the big companies here was the main motive for my participation, as I want to understand the market. It was also a nice opportunity to visit the AUC and know more about student activities here. We are all seeking training and diplomas to be qualified since I want to pursue a career in petrochemicals,” El Touny revealed.

Marwa Magdy stressed the importance of chemical engineering as an essential component in the oil and gas industry worldwide, saying that she is looking for career guidance in the sector. Ateya also noted that one of her motives to pursue a career in the industry is carving out a bigger space for girls to change the current mindset.

Egypt Oil & Gas also took the opinion of other students and oil and gas employees. Mahmoud Essam, a second-year undergraduate in the petroleum department at the Faculty of Science at Zagazig University, said that attending the conference helped enhance his understanding of the industry.

“Having all of these companies gave me positive energy although I am still worried about finding a suitable job in the oil and gas industry, but having young speakers from various companies greatly motivated me to be like them one day,” he stated.

“We need students to know more about our business, and they need this type of advice and career counseling to ease their path to professional life. Being here will make it easier for undergraduates to pass the screening when they apply for job opportunities, as well as summer internships, and our Graduate Training Program (GTP),” said Noha Salah, Human Resources (HR) Coordinator at ADES, commenting on the resumé reviewing that took place in the company’s booth.

Ahmed Farrag from Halliburton said that the company is exhibiting prototypes of drill bits and underreamers, which students showed great interest in knowing more about from a practical point of view. “We are happy to interact with interested students and teach them about new technologies through an opportunity that we mostly did not have when we were in university. Their part is to do more research and prepare themselves,” he explained.

More than 20 Internships Offered Through Six Competitions

The event sponsors provided more than 20 internship opportunities for participating students through competitions that followed the conference’s technical sessions across the three days of the event.

A competition by Halliburton Egypt on “Well Completion and Cementing” had 10 two-member participating teams of which two teams were chosen for summer internships. Abdelrahman Saeed and Ahmed Abu Ewees in the first team, and Ahmed Kamal and Amr Atef in the second.

Meanwhile, DEA Egypt chose three undergraduate students, Zeinab Al-Araby, Raghda Ahmed, and Mohamed Ali, for summer internships, after a selection process that involved interviewing applicants.

Kuwait Energy Egypt also organized a competition for writing articles about the “Applications of Conventional Core Analysis”. First place winner, Ahmed Haitham, will receive a summer internship with the company, while second and third place winners Mohamed Ali and Khaled Mohamed received special reward packs.

BHGE followed its technical sessions with a test on “Drilling Bits and Pressure Control”. Out of eight contesting teams, two were selected for a summer internship. Eslam Abdelaal and Abdelhalim Ahmed were the members of the first team, while Ali Reda, Abdelaziz Mohamed, and Mohamed Fotouh were the second winning team.

Schlumberger conducted a competition on “Unconventional Solutions to Overcome Production Decline Challenges”. Out of eight competing teams, with each comprising of three college seniors, two were chosen after presenting their ideas. Mohamed Sobhy, Ahmed Azab, and Ahmed Farhat, as well as Mostafa Gamal, Osama Radwan, and Mennatullah Lotfy, were granted summer internships. The third winning team of Mohamad El-Faramawy, Mohamad El-Falaky, and Mohamad Hesham will enjoy a visit to the company’s yard.

Similarly, ADES Egypt’s competition involved a test on “Drilling Operations”. Seventy-five students were admitted to the competition. The top four will receive a four-week operation internship, two weeks at the company’s office, and another two on an offshore rig.

New at PACE 2019

This year witnessed the introduction of panel discussions as an addition to the conventional technical sessions with one speaker. “We are trying to mimic the Egypt Petroleum Show (EGYPS). The aim was to provide inspiration to students by giving them a hope for better opportunities in the market as well as sharing the success stories of the industry leaders,” said Essam Mohamed, SPE Suez Student Chapter treasurer. “Other events range from covering the technical needs of university students to developing their soft skills,” he added.

One of the student activities was the technical club, which provides an opportunity for students to share with each other their experience in training. Another one was the research school, sponsored by Kuwait Energy, to educate young people on how to develop their ideas and write a paper. The student-led activity has also organized many yard trips to the fields of many companies, such as Halliburton, PetroServices, and National Arabian Petroleum Services Company (NAPESCO).

“The event allowed me to know about the newest technologies, such as pressure control (PC) and a new development to rotating control (RC), which I would not have known about without attending this session,” said Mazin Alaa, a third-year exploration and production (E&P) undergraduate in the Faculty of Petroleum Engineering at Suez University.

“Competitions are encouraging us to read and understand more topics thoroughly…. I think these events could help shape the mindsets of participants to make them ready to learn and develop, which is clearly what companies are looking for when they recruit fresh graduates,” Alaa added.

“The topics discussed are more relevant to third and fourth-year curriculums, especially when it comes to equipment, techniques, and field life. Overall, PACE has exceeded my expectations, and kept me updated with the newest market developments and trends,” Alaa pointed out.

University Students Collaborative Efforts to Organize the Event

The SPE Student Chapters in Suez University, Cairo University, and the AUC, who cooperated to organize the event, told Egypt Oil & Gas about their motives.

Omar Abaza, President of SPE-AUC, said that each student chapter contributed to around 10 to 15 organizers. “Despite the challenges we faced, we were honored as panelists, who lead the market’s biggest companies, were impressed with the event, which encourages us to do even more.”

Mohamed Tharwat, SPE-Suez University President, said that there were times when they feared that the event could be canceled, especially with challenges in bookings and obtaining authorizations.

Omar Abd El-Dayem, SPE-AUC Vice President, agreed, noting that they were able to overcome many challenges they faced last year, adding that the biggest challenge they face in the organization of the event is the fact that they are all students from different universities. Having a common goal, however, helped them overcome the difficulties.

Ahmed Mokhtar, SPE-Suez University Vice President, said that the event did not start from scratch this year as the first edition was a strong base that eased marketing the event to sponsors and participants.

Khaled Mostafa, SPE-Cairo University Vice President, said that they aim to be the first and biggest event organized by students in the oil and gas industry, providing a platform for students to have an opportunity to meet with company representatives and executives, and interact with them. “I also hope that we offer more diversity in our sessions with an increased number of covered subjects to include other specializations,” he added.

“We hope to establish the name of this event on the calendar in March of each year, as everybody now anticipates EGYPS in February, and I also wish that next year we will have the Minister of Petroleum attending our opening ceremony,” said Mohamed Sobhy, SPE-Cairo University President.