Graduates of Saint Petersburg Mining University have different career paths to choose from. They can stay in St. Petersburg and work in an office. Or, they can leave to the Far North of Russia and work in a field – onshore or offshore. They can apply for a job in a Russian company. Or, they can be hired by a foreign organisation. One of the graduates is Viktor Feller.
Viktor studied the development and exploitation of oil & gas fields. This programme had existed until the mid-20th century, but then it was closed. In the late 90s, the first higher technical university in Russia re-opened the programme and started admitting students.
Considering global trends, it became evident that in the Petroleum Age, specialists in hydrocarbon extraction would enjoy high demand, especially in a country with vast reserves, like Russia. Initially, students were enrolled in the Department of Ore Mining (1996-1997), with the next groups studying at the Department of Underground Mining (1998-2003) and the Department of Oil and Gas Well Drilling Technology (2004-2005). In 2006, the Department of Development and Exploitation of Oil and Gas Fields was established to improve the quality of education.
Viktor Feller entered the university in 1999 and was one of the first students in this speciality.
“When I started my education, the university had almost zero oil & gas lab facilities to offer. The department of drilling was the only one to stand out from the rest. At the same time, thanks to the university’s contacts with oil-producing companies, we could undergo field internships. Thus, after my second year, I got training and was certified as an oil & gas production operator, grade 3. And upon completing the third year of studies, I went to Nefteyugansk to earn some field experience at one of Yukos’ subdivisions,” Viktor says.
“It was mainly fieldwork, but still, we gained numerous competencies: teamwork skills, the ability to think systematically and take responsibility for one’s own actions. But most importantly, we got such a push. We became encouraged to progress further through the advice of professional oil workers, physical labour, millions of tons of oil underneath our feet, and swarms of mosquitoes and midges,” Viktor adds.
“By the end of my PhD studies in 2007-2008, the university had changed completely. The teaching process, laboratories, scientific activities — everything had been modernised and brought up to date. For instance, the laboratory of enhanced oil recovery was equipped with installations for core testing. Fundamental research of this kind has since become a common practice when evaluating the geophysical properties of reservoir rocks. But back then, only one research institute in Russia had such a sophisticated device in its possession,” says Viktor.
“The rocking machine delivered to the Neftyanik training ground of the Sablino facility generated a not-so-little buzz,” he recalls.
“Nowadays, the university houses several scientific centres focusing on various disciplines. This means the students can choose pretty much any area of the oil & gas industry they would want to specialise in. The quality of postgraduate education has been taken to a whole new level, and research papers of PhD students have become of academic interest,” says Viktor.
“Young researchers – and these are often students, supervised by the teaching staff, are helping with R&D work. One notable example is the work carried out under the long-term contract with Gazprom Neft. It aims to select and develop new fluids for killing oil wells. The company thereupon tests the formulations and uses them at its extraction facilities,” he adds.
“I think it is safe to say that current graduates have a significantly stronger academic background compared to 10-15 years ago,” notes Mining University’s graduate.
After earning the PhD degree, he spent the next two years working as an assistant professor at the department he graduated from. Despite his great interest in science, he realised that he should “dive into the real world” to develop professionally. Since then, he tried himself in various projects until becoming the Chief Expert at the Department of the Expertise of Offshore Projects in Gazprom.
Viktor Feller is a regular guest to his alma mater. During the visits, he talks to future oil & gas specialists about working in the industry and shares his own experiences.