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Geology is much more than studying rocks, says Aina Najwa Zeyad Zaim. Aina, who is based in Malaysia, believes it is about creating value. She tells us more.

When people think of geology, they think of the study of rocks. Yes, we do study rocks but it is more than that – we create value, especially for the oil and gas industry as we are the ones who conduct studies and assessments to find the hydrocarbons which in turn generates profit for the business.

We look at many different properties in a field to calculate the hydrocarbon volume in place and assess whether it is economically viable to proceed with a full field development. The process starts with the field being explored, followed by an appraisal stage where additional data is acquired to prove the presence of hydrocarbons. We use several seismic attributes to locate potential oil reserves (these use ultrasound waves to map geological structures beneath the seabed) – but the presence of oil can only be proved by drilling. Subsequently, post-drilling assessments are then conducted to assess the potential hydrocarbon volume the field could contain, based on structural geology and stratigraphic understanding (the study of rock layers and layering). Core and rock samples help to provide information on reservoir properties, for example, its permeability and porosity, and these are analysed in the lab. Imagine a rock – the void spaces between the grains are where our hydrocarbons are stored and these void spaces are what we call porosity; they can be connected to one another or they can also be isolated. Permeability is the ability of the rock to transmit fluid – the greater the permeability, the easier it is to extract oil from the rock. This is just a few attributes we look at, there are many more.

I was an intern at Petrofac in 2012 while I was at university studying Petroleum Geosciences. After my final year, I joined the company full time and during that time, we were busy with drilling activities. I went offshore as a well site geologist for the first few years before the downturn of the oil and gas industry. It was a great experience as we became familiar with drilling operations and it helped us to understand how data is acquired and which tools provide what information. I then worked on green fields appraising their potential and putting together overall field studies for full field development. Now, I’m more of a development geologist working on the West Desaru field, a brownfield that has been on production since 2014. Recently in May this year, we finished a drilling and workover campaign where I was in charge as the field geologist. I’m currently updating our static modelling of the field, before we then review the data with our partners and PETRONAS.

Drilling operations are mind blowing and I really enjoy going offshore. The methods used are sometimes ‘out of the box’ or not what you’d expect. One example is how data is transmitted to the surface through the drill using mud pulse readings – using pressure pulses in the mud system and converting the information into a binary system. But to be able to enjoy going offshore, I need to be adaptable, being one of the few women in a male-dominated industry and being away from my family for weeks at a time is tough. That said, I’m grateful to my family for the amazing support they’ve given me throughout these years.

Geology helps you to understand the world around you. When I go out and see nature, I can relate it to what I studied. A day out to the river with my son is not only fun for us but it helps me to understand the geological environment; the energy affecting the deposition of the sand which is all related to my work. As well as being a playground, nature is also a classroom.

“We create value, especially for the oil and gas industry as we are the ones who conduct studies and assessments to find the hydrocarbons which in turn generates profit for the business.”



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