Wednesday 22 November 2017, Mr Laurence Smith, Oilfield Engineer
Mr Smith began by describing his early career as an apprentice in Harland Wolf before joining British Steel in 1985 at a time when new oil platforms were being constructed in the North Sea. He recalled the gas “blowout” on the Ecofisk Field and how experience gained in controlling the resultant flare proved invaluable in extinguishing the fires in Kuwait following the first Gulf War. In 1978 he joined Solus Schall in the Middle East where his first job was the construction of 3 offshore Natural Gas Liquefaction complexes in Qatar. He stayed with this company until 2001 during which time he worked on numerous projects acquiring managerial responsibility for testing and quality control. The risks involved in pumping liquefied natural gas under high pressure from source to ship meant no compromise was ever made regarding the safety of personnel and equipment. In 2009 he joined the French petroleum giant Total and was posted to Nigeria where he was confronted by corruption at all levels in the oil construction industry. From 2010 – 2015 he was based in Yemen where a deteriorating security situation made the hazards of working on desert pipelines even more hazardous. Eventually it became too dangerous and the company was forced to evacuate its work force at short notice. Now retired and living in Kesh he has no objection to fracking, satisfied that gas can be safely and profitably exploited in Fermanagh. Throughout Mr Smith enlivened his talk with entertaining anecdotes about his working life as an oilfield engineer. A vote of thanks for his engaging talk was proposed by Probian Alex Cameron.