Secondment allows engineer Sara line of sight of technology for a net zero future

Sara Crighton, project engineer at Bilfinger Salamis UK, is currently on a secondment at The Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC), an industry centre of excellence based in Aberdeen. She explains how she's connecting her experience at Bilfinger with new developments in technology that will enable the industry to transform for a net zero future.

What is the OGTC?

The OGTC opened its doors in February 2017 with £180 million funding from the Scottish and UK Governments as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal. They aim to be the go-to technology centre for the oil and gas industry - both in the UK and internationally - providing an industry-led, focused and flexible approach to deliver, accelerate, stimulate and inspire innovation:

Driving – action through technology roadmaps to achieve the full potential of the North Sea and grow the supply chain.

Delivering – projects that move the dial on key challenges and opportunities across the UKCS and beyond.

Connecting – industry, governments, regulators and academia to drive technology investment and deployment.

This includes a specific focus on technology that will transform tomorrow for the net zero future.

Bilfinger are members of the OGTC.

What does your job involve?

There are seven Solution Centres at the OGTC, each with their own key focus areas: Asset Integrity, Digital Transformation, Decommissioning, Subsurface, Marginal Developments, Wells and Net Zero. Bilfinger is a member of the Asset Integrity Solution Centre.

Individuals and companies who are looking to develop and accelerate their technologies can apply to the OGTC for funding. So far, The OGTC has co-invested £140 million in over 220 industry-led projects, developing and deploying new technologies – while creating a broader culture of innovation.  Once a project is approved, it is assigned to a project manager/project engineer within the applicable solution centre (me) and we provide project management, support and guidance, ensuring the project is delivered on time and within budget. 

So how does Bilfinger benefit from being a member and having me based here? I have line of sight of exciting, up and coming technology.

Providing the developers are comfortable, I can feedback technologies to Bilfinger that could strengthen our services and business portfolio. Bilfinger has already been involved with a new Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) Software App and are currently providing fabric maintenance support for a robot project that is currently underway.

The OGTC also works in partnership with external organisations and delivers activities for both primary and secondary pupils across the region, working hard to promote science, technology, engineering and maths education (STEM), and the opportunities it opens to future generations. As part of the OGTC’s STEM initiative, we partnered up with a local primary school to enter the FIRST® Lego League Tournament. It was very rewarding to see the team’s development in robotics and engineering, and great to see how they enjoyed learning about the energy sector.

What does your career journey look like?

When I left school, I started a degree but after a few months I realised it just wasn’t for me and I wanted to start working and earning money.

I started as an operations administrator for a service company within their Non-Destrucitve Testing department, being promoted to recruiter shortly after. I then joined Bilfinger in a junior project role, which gave me exposure to project management, which I realised I enjoyed. I worked hard and displayed a willingness to progress, and was able to sit my APMP Introduction to Project Management.

Sometimes not having a degree can make progression more challenging, especially when you’re up against people who do have a formal qualification.  However, starting from the bottom and working my way up has provided me with invaluable experience and an extensive understanding and appreciation of how things work throughout the entire project lifecycle.

How do you feel a secondment has benefitted you?

My secondment at The Oil & Gas Technology Centre has been the highlight of my career so far. I’ve learned so much already and have met a lot of very interesting and knowledgeable people, whilst having exposure to elements of the industry that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and the experience will benefit me in my future career at Bilfinger.

Five Questions

  • What did you want to be when you were a child?

After initially wanting to be a dolphin trainer, I decided I wanted an office job where I had to dress up smart; I used to see my Mum and Dad getting dressed up for their work and wanted to do the same. I don't think I actually thought about what I wanted to do once I got to the office!

  • What’s your advice for someone entering the industry?

Work hard and be nice to people.

  • What's your greatest achievement?

Probably buying my own home. It's something I worked very hard to achieve, and I have loved making our house a home.

  • Is there something that you still want to achieve in your life?

As my career progresses, I would like to formalise the experience and knowledge I have with a formal qualification – perhaps in business management.

  • Tell us something we may not know about you

I lived in Germany for a few years when I was a growing up and could speak fluent German. That was almost 20 years ago so my German is very rusty now!