Drilling for oil, building a workforce

One year into a three-and-a-half year deal, Maersk Drilling is not only ahead of schedule in Ghana. It is also training and creating opportunity for newcomers, like Mark Ebbah, in a country where the industry – albeit in its infancy – holds great potential.

Drilling for oil
Mark Ebbah, recently promoted to Assistant Drilling Fluid Operator on the Maersk Voyager: “I believe that Maersk Drilling has all the tools available for anyone who wants to learn and is ready to move forward.”

“I believe that Maersk Drilling has all the tools available for anyone who wants to learn and is ready to move forward. I think that is what I took advantage of to rise quickly through the ranks,” says Mark Ebbah, emphasising his commitment to stay on a steep learning curve.

Ebbah is one of several Ghanaians that began working for Maersk Drilling last year. With a few years of experience in the industry, he stood out amongst his countrymen and starting as a roughneck, he quickly rose to become a lead roughneck. Recently, he was promoted again to Assistant Drilling Fluid Operator (ADFO).

“I set ambitious goals, looking to make the most of the opportunity at hand. My goal is to become at least an Assistant Driller before the rig leaves Ghana,” he says.

Seizing opportunity

Still only 32 years of age, Mark Ebbah now has a life where he works four weeks on the drillship followed by four weeks at home with his wife and child. As he also supports his mother, he is keenly aware of the importance of being employed as well as having the chance to strive even higher.

“I believe in the future of this industry. My long-term ambition is to become a driller by the time I turn 40. Of course, knowledge is key, so I’m looking to learn and get as much training as possible,” he says.

And training is exactly what Maersk Drilling is offering.

“It is difficult to find locals for some positions, so we take in people at lower positions and train them up,” says Ben Pomford, Unit Director of the Maersk Voyager, an ultra deepwater drillship.

“Apart from working out very well, it is also well-aligned with the ambition of the authorities to build a local workforce for the industry,” he adds.

We take in local people and train them up. Apart from working out very well, it is also well-aligned with the ambition of the authorities to build a local workforce for the industry.

Ben Pomford

BEN POMFORD, UNIT DIRECTOR OF MAERSK VOYAGER, IN GHANA

In June 2015, the Maersk Voyager began working on the Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) Project offshore Ghana for Eni Ghana Exploration and Production Ltd. The firm contract period is three-and-a-half years, with an option to extend by one year, and has an estimated revenue of USD 545 million.

After a year in operation, the drillship was working on well number 12 out of 18, i.e. six months ahead of schedule. It was also ahead on its targets for local employment, its workforce being almost half Ghanaian. 60% Ghanaian is what is required when the contract ends, up from an initial 25%.

“We had a steep learning curve with the addition of a brand new drillship, a brand new client and a brand new area to Maersk Drilling. This entailed a few challenges in the beginning, but we overcame them, and now the drillship is performing very well,” says Ben Pomford.

Well-positioned
While West Africa’s rich oil deposits are well known, particularly in Nigeria, the industry is young in Ghana. Nevertheless, the country is believed to have between 5 and 7 billion barrels of petroleum in reserves, which makes them the sixth largest proven reserves in Africa.

Also, Ghana has up to 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in reserves. Thus, Ben Pomford sees opportunities for Maersk Drilling as he seeks to give his client a “positive problem”:

“There will come a point where they’ll have to find something else for us to do, because we will be up to a year ahead of schedule. But I am sure that will not be a problem. Oil production and exploration will surely pick up here in Ghana. When they do, we’ll be in a good position because of our track record, our partner and employees and our name.”

The lower positions are not very complex and you are not expected to be in them for long, though you should expect to spend at least a year in each. Once you reach the higher positions, it can take several years before you are ready for a promotion. A Drilling Section Leader normally has at least 20 years of experience in the industry before reaching that level.

ANNE FRIFELT, HR ADVISOR FOR THE MAERSK VOYAGER IN GHANA