Talk with Umar Fayyaz (Chemical and Petroleum Engineer)

This week we got a chance to interview Umar Fayyaz. A fresh graduate of chemical and petroleum engineering. He has a broad academic portfolio, where he has done his BSc in Chemical Engineering, and then has done MSc in Petroleum Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark. He even has done his exchange from University of Stavanger in Norway.

While getting his professional degrees, he has gathered some strong hands-on experience within different technical and non-technical areas. To name a few, he has worked as a Sales and Senior Sales Consultant to improve his sales skills. For his technical experience, he has strong experience of Process Engineer from working at Petrofac, where he brushed up his practical core technical skills. He has also demonstrated strong research capabilities by having worked on a project with R&D at Danish Hydrocarbon Research and technology Centre (DHRTC), where he showed some impressive and incredible results on the oil recovery with 47% during the spontaneous inhibition.

To say the least, Umar has a volatile engineering profile by having advanced professional degrees within both Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. Therefore, he has a very broad qualification, having worked with complex projects within R&D with commercial and practical aspects as well. He has a further robust understanding of R&D, pilot testing, QA, QC and production engineering. He has an impressive command core engineering topics such as thermodynamics, optimisation, process design, simulation, laboratory work and much more.

It would be correct to say that he is no ordinary engineer, but is a team player with proved multidisciplinary skills. He is a fresh graduate and is currently looking for employment within process engineering related areas and reservoir engineering related roles, both in the chemical and oil/gas industry. Given his portfolio, it can be said with certainty, that any industry and company will be lucky to have him as an engineer.

Education

Umar has done his BSc in Chemical Engineering, and then has done MSc in Petroleum Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark. He even has done his exchange from University of Stavanger in Norway.

How was the workload of your degree? What did you spend most time on?

Most of my time was used studying, but also spending time with family and friends

Was there a lot of chemistry in your curriculum? If yes, could you elaborate a bit on what type and level of chemistry?

I made sure to touch and go in depth with all the different types of chemistry fields i.e. organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry. In physical chemistry the focus was related to electrochemical cells, thermodynamics, phase diagrams for 2 and 3 phases etc. But I also managed to get in some project management related courses and mathematical courses as well. Furthermore, I took almost all the lab courses available and gained extensive lab experience and a keen eye for lab work in general, which helped me get good results on my B.Sc. and M.Sc. as well.

In which degree did you have to use more chemistry? In Chemical or petroleum engineering?

It was in chemical engineering and I took some chemistry in Petroleum engineering as well during my time in Norway, such as “reservoir chemistry”, which helped me use my chemical knowledge in the reservoir engineering discipline.

What topics did you find the most difficult during your degree?

There was lots of difficult courses but Mathematical Modelling for chemical systems was probably the toughest overall in comparison.

What line did you choose to focus during your degree? Why?

From chemical engineering perspective it was process engineering, lab work and analytical chemistry. From petroleum engineering it was on reservoir engineering with a focus on Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), Improved Oil Recovery (IOR) and petrophysical analysis and borehole logging. I find the relationship between practical work and theoretical work to be stimulating and I find it important and exciting to be able to put theory into practice.

Did you get your degree from your home country or did you go abroad? if yes, from where to where? How did you do it? How was your experience of going to study at Norway? Was the cultural difference significant?

Got my degree from Denmark but have international experience from 1 year in Norway. I went to the University of Stavanger and studied for 1 year. My experience in Norway was amazing, probably one of best decisions ever, and I really got to meet lots of new people with different nationalities and backgrounds and made lots friends. I applied through DTU exchange program and sent in my application to Stavanger and got an acceptance letter shortly after. The cultural difference was not too significant with regards to Denmark but none the less there was a few which I really enjoyed. All in all a positive experience and lots of memories and educational advancements I can took with me, would definitely look for an opportunity to work there one day.

Why did you decide to take Petroleum Engineering masters after chemical engineering?

Petroleum engineering was the field I found most interesting and fascinating with so many different things and disciplines related to one simple thing, extracting crude oil for commercial usage in the industry as well as every day lives of people. But mostly because of the type of work I get to do. And with a chemical engineering background I have a strong grasp on the chemical aspects of the oil and gas industry.

In your experience, did having a BSc in chemical engineering help you within getting your petroleum engineering degree? As in were the topics covered in MSc assisted by the skills and knowledge you had gathered from chemical engineering?

Yes definitely. Having a chemical engineering background made understanding the why’s and how’s in petroleum so much easier and answered lots of questions for me. Furthermore it gave me a deeper and broader understanding of things which sometimes people with a different background didn’t have.

What have you specialised within the Petroleum Engineering degree? Why?

I specialized in reservoir engineering with an emphasis on petrophysical analysis as well. Reservoir engineering is related to reservoir where the oil is located, this is where all the interesting things happen and this is where we get our product, Increase the recovery and you have more product. But there are so many chemical and physical aspects involved and that is whats exciting as well as Reservoir monitoring and calculation of different properties as well. That’s why I’ve focused on reservoir engineering with Enhanced Oil Recovery in mind.



Many students are adamant nowadays to study ahead in Petroleum Engineering due to the ongoing climate crisis and move from oil to electric and so on? Do you think that these things have any influence on the career of petroleum engineering graduates?

Yes due to the change in the world and being helped by corona virus I believe the change from fossil fuels to others sources of energy has been given a push. With that said the petroleum engineers for now will get to work in the field somehow, but it will gradually become smaller. But I don’t believe it will disappear completely due to the magnitude the oil industry fills up our daily lives. This transition will take a long time and we petroleum engineers should also be able to convert/adapt and use our knowledge in other energy industries.

If you could list the major technical skills which you have garnered from your chemical and petroleum engineering degrees?

Chemical engineering: critical thinking, taking all scenarios into account, data analysis and scientific approach.

Petroleum engineering: Putting theory into practical usage, conveying huge amounts of data and making it understandable, presentation and project management.

Did you have student jobs during or between your education? How did you get them? Where did you work? How did it help your education or future career?

I had an internship in the UK at petrofac after finishing my studies as a process engineer. Worked on a project for optimization of flair and new pump installation systems. (check linekdin for tasks)

Work Experience

As mentioned, Umar is a fresh graduate and is currently looking for employment.

You have two professional degrees, both of which lead to a vast career path? What industries and roles are you interested in working for?

I have an interest in both industries in the chemical industry with analytical laboratory work, technical related to manufacturing and optimization. In the oil and gas industry I have interest in working in upstream or downstream sector.

Many people automatically connect petroleum engineers with middle east countries. Have you have had any plans to go and work there or would you also like to work at western countries with expertise in oil refinery?

That’s true but I would like to work in western countries as well and working for an oil refinery is definitely has a big interest for me.

What skills do you think you have acquired which are valuable to the industry?

Technical understanding and ability to learn. Diversity and being able to work across multidisciplinary teams. I have my education and work experiences with me, but I’ve also acquired strong communication skills, ability to adapt easily to different environments and drive to be a high performer.

If I can say it, I think you have a very impressive and unique profile. In your opinion, what makes you stand out compared to the other job hunters?

I think what can and will make me standout is my willingness and strong determination. When I want to do something, I make sure to get it done and I work hard. I might not have all the answers but I can promise you that I will find the answer. One example I would like to share is my passion for football, I started playing in a club at the age of 12 where most people had already been playing for several years. In less than 2 years I managed to get to an elite team and later went on to play semi-professional, all through hard work, putting in extra time and pushing myself beyond my limits. Although I don’t play serious anymore I still work out in the gym 4 times a week and more if possible.


How have you been looking for the jobs? What platforms have you been using?

Looking for jobs actively on LinkenIn and a lots of other platforms i.e. energyjobonline, rigzone, Indeed jobindex and ofcourse on company websites as well.

Do you think it has been easy or difficult to look for jobs, especially during this Covid crisis?

Yes for me at least. A few of my applications even got pulled back due to the crisis and there were much less jobs showing up for graduates.

Any suggestions for future graduates? Something they should be doing while they are still in university getting their degree.

Start looking for jobs asap. Also I would suggest people to gather some good work experience, while they are still studying.
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