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Tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?
Growing up in Delhi, India and raised within a family that was heavily involved in the oil and gas sector it was only natural for Tejaswy Appalla to pursue a career in Reservoir Engineering.
“My father worked in the finance department for a petroleum exploration firm in India,” said Tejaswy, “Growing up I was surrounded by, engineers, geophysicists and geologists. You could say I was raised with a solid industry foundation.”
“ I even recall as a toddler being the naughty one of the family – I would go into the offices of my father and his friends and rip out all of their Contour maps, Well head designs, Reservoir development plans – tearing them apart, drawing and scribbling all over them. Spending my formative years within these surroundings it was natural, over the years, for me to develop an affinity for the industry.”
It was this background that planted the seed for Tejaswy and provided him with the inspiration to study diligently at university and gave him a strong insight into the oil and gas industry.
What did you study and what was your career path?
“Before arriving at AWT International to take part in their graduate program, I already knew how to start a well from inception to abandonment and how to refine crude oil to right up to CO2 emissions of the car.”
At just 27 years of age, Appalla has already finished the first year of the graduate program. He completed his Bachelors of Plant Operations in India and then completed a year-long intern-ship with India’s premier refining and marketing major HPCL in their supply and distribution department.
“At this stage I still desired further studies and I thought to myself, ‘With the economy still suffering and jobs about as easy to come by as a winning lottery ticket, getting a masters degree might just be the trump card that you need.’ So I chose to complete a Masters at Adelaide University in Petroleum Engineering due to its reputation for competitiveness and good research background.”
Immediately after completing his Masters he gained a position with AWT International as a Graduate Petroleum Engineer and has now been with them for one year. In this capacity he has been able to work with many departments within the company including drilling, production and geology.
Tell us about your work
“I am learning a lot. Throughout the year AWT has given me the opportunity to work with different projects and problems. We work on a variety of wells, from production to CO2injection and geothermal wells. We combine the knowledge from all these technologies to solve problems. I have seen other companies do similar things but with AWT I have had the chance to do new things all the time. This constantly adds to my skills set and is providing me with a broad set of knowledge within reservoir engineering.” For Appalla, being able to constantly learn and apply new knowledge is most rewarding.
“The opportunity to be constantly innovative and working on a plethora of different wells and pipelines as well as reading through the back logs to solve the situation at hand provides for a constant learning environment. On top of this I am being mentored by amazing, qualified and experienced people, some who have over 40 years experience and these guys are so good to watch and learn from.
“For example, our completions engineer began his career before I was even born. This puts things into perspective and I respect what these guys can do. In some larger firms we would not be able to approach the senior petroleum engineer due to compartmentalisation, but here I am able to. In the larger companies you simply do not have access to do this.”
How is your work in Australia different from what you did in India?
When Appalla was studying in India his focus was more on processing and refining as opposed to upstream. In Australia he has in the most part been a researcher working for a Professor with the Adelaide University.
“There were certainly differences between the countries; however, trying to compare them for me is like comparing apples to oranges. From a social perspective Australia has a more laid back lifestyle, so it’s much more fun here than in India, as India in some ways is more restricted. As a result, this last year has flown by.”
What are your future plans?
In the future Appalla sees himself eventually completing a PhD sometime in his 40s and said that he would consider doing this at Adelaide University when he feels he has worked enough.
“I think I would be accepted to do a PhD and if not I would complete an MBA. Possibly when I have enough experience in reservoir engineering I could then look at other aspects of the business. I will look at this more seriously in the future, but for now I am content.
“For me it is not all about money and I would like to do some further research at some stage. My Masters’ project was a substantial project and at some point I would like to develop that research further as I spent so much time on it.
Advice to students?
“I would encourage any person, including my own children, to pursue this line of work. It is stable, it offers money, and apart from that there is always something happening. For example, right now we are trying to put capture CO2 and geologically sequestrate it and that is going to be something to look forward to, it is most innovative. We capture CO2, and pump back down into the reservoir, that will be a great achievement. The technologies are being developed and there are still a lot of things to be worked out, but it is demonstrative of the exciting times we’re in.
“We are also looking at technology to exploit hot dry rock geothermal energy, where you drill two wells into hot rocks above 1000C, then pump water into one which is converted to steam as it circulates through the hot rocks, and out of the second well, from which you can run a steam turbine. So yes, petroleum engineering is a great and exciting field to be in. It is often only the media that portrays the profession in a negative light.
“The petroleum industry is interesting because in some ways everything comes back to the petroleum industry, from turning on lights, making coffee, to putting petrol in your car. It is energy. There needs to be a balance though, and these days we are seeing companies become more and more green. Caring about the environment and safety are now paramount, and part of a company’s social licence.
“Australia has been incredibly good to me and from day one it has been fun here. The study was tough but when I finished I got a job straight away and I was profiled in my research. I would definitely encourage anyone to pursue Masters in research in any field that they are in. It is a real eye opener and different to regular studies. You also gain an opportunity to ascertain if you are PhD material or not.
“I think I am PhD material now but I guess I will still have to wait and see how it all goes. At the moment it is a great time to be working in the industry. You get to travel a lot and see a lot of reservoirs. With AWT I get to see how various companies have differing policies on well construction and oil production. And it has been a massive learning curve for me.”