HOW COOL IS THAT!: Subsea Engineer
As a subsea wells supervisor with BP, Rigoberto Lopez divides his professional time between inland and offshore settings.
“I am on a rotational schedule working on the drillship in the Gulf of Mexico every three weeks,” Lopez told Rigzone. “I work in the Houston office during the planning stages.”
Lopez, who holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University and will earn a master’s in petroleum engineering from the same institution this spring, recently told Rigzone about what his job entails and provided a glimpse of trends in subsea – including the growing role of automation and artificial intelligence. Read on for his perspective.
Rigzone: Please tell us what you do.
Lopez: I work on the construction of deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico. Specifically my team is responsible for the installation of wellhead equipment such as tubing hangers and subsea production trees. Additionally, we support completions and interventions by deploying and operating the intervention riser. My day-to-day tasks involve installing and testing equipment, reviewing procedures, managing vendors and personnel on the rig, performing risk assessments on the task at hand and identifying continuous improvement opportunities to make operations safer and more efficient.
When he’s not on the job, Rigoberto Lopez stays active in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). He sits on ASME’s Collegiate Council and the Early Career and Awards committees of the organization’s Petroleum Division. Moreover, he engages in public affairs and outreach with ASME’s Early Career Leadership Intern Program to Serve Engineering (ECLIPSE).
Rigzone: How would someone get into this line of work?
Lopez: Anyone interested in a position like this needs to have strong technical, problem-solving, communication and leadership skills. This job requires a strong attention to detail to ensure equipment is installed safely and efficiently. Experience working with subsea production equipment at a manufacturing facility or in the field is the best way to gain the technical knowledge needed to manage operations on a deepwater rig.
Rigzone: How is the occupation changing and what does the future look like?
Lopez: Companies are continuously moving into deeper and deeper waters in search for new fields to develop, and this will require a lot of new technology to be developed to be able to drill and produce wells from reservoirs with higher temperatures and pressures. Continued innovation in subsea processing technologies is one area that will continue advance. Additionally, as with most other industries, automation and artificial intelligence will greatly change the way business is done, making operations safer and more efficient.
Rigzone: Have you had to face any particularly “hairy” issues on the job?
Lopez: I started my career in 2013 during the “good days” when oil was priced at over $100, and the drop in oil price has brought a lot of change to the industry. This is part of the cyclical nature of the business, but now offshore projects are in competition with shale plays for funding. Companies have adapted and changed their strategies to remain competitive.
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