Adrin Shafil

Petrofac Drilling and Completions Manager
Last Updated: October 19, 2017
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Career Development
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After 531 unanswered applications, and 11 other interviews blundered, you are desperate for a job. Any job. Ambling down the hall to the recruiter's office, a sense of foreboding looms in your psyche, your sweaty palms betray your inner-torture. Your lungs wheeze when the HR manager comes into full view, your knees suddenly weak with an involuntary spasm. You croak your name, and offer a limp handshake. You mouth an insincere greeting, while your facial muscles try to scrunch a sorry attempt of a smile. The tension in the air stifles your attempt to lighten the mood; The interviewer's visible boredom forges an invisible force field between you, an unfortunate by-product of insomnia and routine. The dialogue forges ahead with a flurry of attacks on your credentials, and the lackadaisical rhythm of your rebuttals cause the conversation to spiral into a familiar abyss of failure. Your hope vanquished, your defeat imminent, you leave with your tail between your legs.

So what's next? Resign to the fact that you'll have to opt for minimum wage or join a circus? Let's not wallow in your sorrow. Drag yourself up, dust your depression off, and let's get working on your interviewing skills. What, you thought that interviews are just Q&A sessions and dumb luck? Fortunately for you, I'm here to point out the mistakes you've made, and give you some tips to correct those opportunity killers.

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You Wore Failure on Your Face

You are guilty of letting your previous failures get the best of you. Yes, in difficult times, you were downsized. Yes, nobody from your old life appears to even care. Yes, you feel dejected and embarrassed. And yes, you thought you would never have to apply for unemployment cheques.

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Fortunately for you, no recruiter knows about your burdens. They don't know you haven't eaten for three days, and you are minutes away from being evicted. What they do need to know is, that they need you more than you need them. Make them believe this fact. Your belief and confidence in yourself, will expunge their doubts. Your credentials, while it might not entirely fit the job description, may not the end all be all, because they made the first gesture by calling you into the room. So, exude the confidence of somebody in control. I wrote another article on gaining confidence, "Command the Room: 5 Incredible Tips to Influence with Confidence and Charisma", but you don't have time for reading yet another article. You seek immediate relief. I'm not going to give that to you. Read that article, practice, and go to the next tip.

You Never Framed Your Message

The key to getting through person(s) who have a different view than you, is to disrupt their frame. How do you do this? What are frames? Frames are context of how the information is presented. For example, the method I am writing this article right now, is in an unveiled condescending manner, designed to nudge your ego so that you will feel compelled to better yourself. The idea of changing the frame of a person is to manipulate the way information is presented, to increase the chances to influence, alter decision making and judgement about that information. For the same message, different people will have different frames, or context that is dependent on their belief and conditions. At the start of an interview, both the recruiter's and your frames, are different. Your job disrupt the interviewer's frame, to fit yours.

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In the movie Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith shows up at THE interview, the one that will make or break him, in an outfit akin to a homeless man, streaks of paint all over his face, jacket/body. He even reeked. The managers scoffed and asked him what would others in the company say if the managers even considered hiring somebody that didn't bother wearing a clean shirt to an interview.

"He must've had really nice pants", Will's character answered with a straight face

So how did Will use a joke to his advantage? The frame, or the context that the recruiters had of him upon seeing his disheveled appearance, was that he was not suitable for the position. And they clearly stated that his choice of clothing was a non-negotiable requirement for them; what would people say? However, Will managed to divert their attention to his quick wit, by delivering a well timed retort. This in effect, changed the context of the recruiters, to frame the conversation around Will's intellectual capability, and not his clothing. Of course it didn't hurt that the joke got a laugh or two in the room, as you know even in real life, it's hard to stay bored, mad, or sad with somebody who makes you laugh. Humor is a great frame disruptor. I don't advise you to go full on Bozo the Clown on a poor recruiter, but try to lighten the mood with an interesting comment, something that might tickle the person's funny bone.

If you read online on frame disruptors, there are many other techniques of influence, but for now, let's just be patient and get the recruiter smiling and ready to listen to you. I'd advise you to limit yourself to a joke or two max, and move on to the next tip.

You Were Always On the Receiving End

You got into the room, you sat down, and you waited to be asked. You wait for the moment the recruiter finds a folly in your experience, and you figuratively wait for a Spanish Inquisition. Why?

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What you should do is take charge of the situation. Shake the person's hand firmly. Smile and maintain eye contact. Acknowledge anybody else in the room, but focus on the decision maker. There's always a decision maker in the room. And ask that person a question.

"What, ask a question? That is absurd!", you say in disbelief. Why not? When I attend interviews, I often like to control the conversation, so I start with a question, that will lead the direction of the conversation the way I want it. For example, if I am interviewing for a General Manager's position in Uber, I would open with this question,

"So, how are you guys planning to retake market share from GrabCar in South East Asia? Seems to me they are eating your lunch."

It's a risky move, but a smart strategy. Not only have I disrupted the frames of the recruiter/managers, I have now made them be on the receiving end. If they are the people that I want to work with, they will come up with a quick intelligent answer, or they might just turn the question back to me, "We don't know, what do you think?"

And now I can elaborate on my well memorized answer, about my grand plans of trying to lower Uber Malaysia's overhead, tie-in with local partners, innovative ideas for marketing and be the first to market food delivery via UberEats, that Grab has not capitalized on. And if I've had my way, the total interview becomes my interview, where I ask the questions, and the recruiters are on the receiving end.

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Your success in an interview is always within your grasp. Do not concern yourself with the fact that there are hundreds of other applicants, that may or may not be exceedingly more qualified than you. Your battle is how you present yourself, how you frame your message and how you are able to control the conversation to your advantage. You can do wonders with the tools I just taught you, so please, do not despair and be ready for greater opportunities.

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Note about the author: Adrin Shafil is an engineer, currently working as a Drilling and Completions Manager in Malaysia. He finds that writing is a great stress relief tool and he finds joy in sharing his insights online and answering any questions from graduates, mid-career colleagues and even fellow managers. If you like his articles, please click 'like', share the article on your profile and connect or follow his feed for more great information and tips.

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January, 24 2020
EIA expects U.S. net natural gas exports to almost double by 2021

In its Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), released on January 14, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that U.S. natural gas exports will exceed natural gas imports by an average 7.3 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2020 (2.0 Bcf/d higher than in 2019) and 8.9 Bcf/d in 2021. Growth in U.S. net exports is led primarily by increases in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and pipeline exports to Mexico. Net natural gas exports more than doubled in 2019, compared with 2018, and EIA expects that they will almost double again by 2021 from 2019 levels.

The United States trades natural gas by pipeline with Canada and Mexico and as LNG with dozens of countries. Historically, the United States has imported more natural gas than it exports by pipeline from Canada. In contrast, the United States has been a net exporter of natural gas by pipeline to Mexico. The United States has been a net exporter of LNG since 2016 and delivers LNG to more than 30 countries.

In 2019, growth in demand for U.S. natural gas exports exceeded growth in natural gas consumption in the U.S. electric power sector. Natural gas deliveries to U.S. LNG export facilities and by pipeline to Mexico accounted for 12% of dry natural gas production in 2019. EIA forecasts these deliveries to account for an increasingly larger share through 2021 as new LNG facilities are placed in service and new pipelines in Mexico that connect to U.S. export pipelines begin operations.

Net U.S. natural gas imports from Canada have steadily declined in the past four years as new supplies from Appalachia into the Midwestern states have displaced some pipeline imports from Canada. U.S. pipeline exports to Canada have increased since 2018 when the NEXUS pipeline and Phase 2 of the Rover pipeline entered service. Overall, EIA projects the United States will remain a net natural gas importer from Canada through 2050.

U.S. pipeline exports to Mexico increased following expansions of cross-border pipeline capacity, averaging 5.1 Bcf/d from January through October 2019, 0.5 Bcf/d more than the 2018 annual average, according to EIA’s Natural Gas Monthly. The increase in exports was primarily the result of increased flows on the newly commissioned Sur de Texas–Tuxpan pipeline in Mexico, which transports natural gas from Texas to the southern Mexican state of Veracruz. Several new pipelines in Mexico that were scheduled to come online in 2019 were delayed are expected to enter service in 2020:

  • Pipelines in Central and Southwest Mexico (1.2 Bcf/d La Laguna–Aguascalientes and 0.9 Bcf/d Villa de Reyes–Aguascalientes–Guadalajara)
  • Pipelines in Western Mexico (0.5 Bcf/d Samalayuca–Sásabe)

U.S. LNG exports averaged 5 Bcf/d in 2019, 2 Bcf/d more than in 2018, as a result of several new facilities that placed their first trains in service. This year, several new liquefaction units (referred to as trains) are scheduled to be placed in service:

  • Trains 2 and 3 at Cameron LNG in Louisiana
  • Train 3 at Freeport LNG in Texas
  • Trains 5–10, six Moveable Modular Liquefaction System (MMLS) units, at Elba Island in Georgia

In 2021, the third train at the Corpus Christi facility in Texas is scheduled to come online, bringing the total U.S. liquefaction capacity to 10.2 Bcf/d (baseload) and 10.8 Bcf/d (peak). EIA expects LNG exports to continue to grow and average 6.5 Bcf/d in 2020 and 7.7 Bcf/d in 2021, as facilities gradually ramp up to full production.

monthly natural gas trade

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Natural Gas Monthly

January, 24 2020
EIA forecasts U.S. crude oil production growth to slow in 2021

In the January 2020 update of its Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that U.S. crude oil production will average 13.3 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2020, a 9% increase from 2019 production levels, and 13.7 million b/d in 2021, a 3% increase from 2020. Slowing crude oil production growth results from a decline in drilling rigs during the past year that EIA expects will continue through most of 2020. Despite the decline in rigs, EIA forecasts production will continue to grow as rig efficiency and well-level productivity rise, offsetting the decline in the number of rigs until drilling activity accelerates in 2021.

Figure 1. U.S. crude oil production

EIA’s U.S. crude oil production forecast is based on the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) price forecast in the January 2020 STEO, which rises from an average of $57 per barrel (b) in 2019 to an average of $59/b in 2020 and $62/b in 2021. The price forecast is highly uncertain, and any significant divergence of actual prices from the projected price path could change the pace of drilling and new well completion, which would in turn affect production.

Crude oil production in the Lower 48 states has a relatively short investment and production cycle. Changes in Lower 48 crude oil production typically follow changes in crude oil prices and rig counts with about a four- to six-month lag. Because EIA forecasts WTI prices will decline during the first half of 2020 but begin increasing in the second half of the year and into 2021, forecast U.S. crude oil production grows slowly month over month until the end of 2020. In contrast, crude oil production in Alaska and the Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is driven by long-term investment that is typically less sensitive to short-term price movements.

In 2019, Lower 48 production reached its largest annual average volume of 9.9 million b/d, and EIA expects it to increase further by an average of 1.0 million b/d in 2020 and 0.4 million b/d in 2021. EIA forecasts the GOM region will grow by 0.1 million b/d in 2020 to 2.0 million b/d and to remain relatively flat in 2021 because several projects expected to come online in 2021 will not start producing until late in the year and will be offset by declines from other producing fields. Alaska’s crude oil production will remain relatively unchanged at about 0.5 million b/d in 2020 and in 2021.

The Permian region remains the most prolific growth region in the United States. Favorable geology combined with technological improvements have contributed to the Permian region’s high returns on investment and years of remaining oil production growth potential. EIA forecasts that Permian production will average 5.2 million b/d in 2020, an increase of 0.8 million b/d from 2019 production levels. For 2021, the Permian will produce an average of 5.6 million b/d. EIA forecasts that the Bakken region in North Dakota will be the second-largest growth area in 2020 and 2021, growing by about 0.1 million b/d in each year (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Monthly U.S. crude oil production by region

EIA expects crude oil prices higher than $60/b in 2021 will contribute to rising crude oil production because producers will be able to fund drilling programs through cash flow and other funding sources, despite a somewhat more restrictive capital market. Financial statements of 46 publically-traded U.S. oil producers reveal that these companies generated sufficient cash from operating activities to fund investment and grow production with WTI prices in the $55/b–$60/b range. The 46 selected companies produced more than 30% of total U.S. liquids production in the third quarter of 2019. The four-quarter moving average free cash flow for these companies ranged between $1.7 billion and $3.5 billion from the fourth quarter of 2017 through the second quarter of 2019. The third quarter of 2019—the latest quarter for which data are available—had less cash from operations than investing activities, but this figure was skewed by the large, one-time acquisition cost of Anadarko Petroleum by Occidental, valued at $55 billion (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Cash flow statement items for 46 U.S. oil producers

Results for these 46 publicly traded companies do not represent all U.S. oil producers because private companies that do not publish financial statements are not included in EIA’s analysis. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Energy Survey sheds some light on the financial position of a broader set of companies. Released quarterly, the bank’s survey asks oil companies about business activity and employment and asks a few special questions that change each quarter. The number of companies that participate varies each quarter, but generally the survey includes about 100 exploration and production companies. In the most recent survey (from the fourth quarter of 2019), 75% of survey respondents said they can cover their capital expenditures through cash flow from operations at a WTI price of less than $60/b. In addition, 40% of survey respondents plan to increase capital expenditures in 2020 compared with 2019, while 24% of respondents expect to spend about the same (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Selected questions from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas' Energy Survey

Since about 2017, large, globally integrated oil companies have acquired more acreage in Lower 48 regions, particularly in the Permian. These companies have announced investment plans to make Lower 48 production an increasing portion of their portfolios. These companies can typically fund their investment programs through cash flow from operations and are generally less susceptible to tighter capital markets than smaller oil companies. The financial results of the public companies shown in Figure 3 and the Federal Reserve survey support EIA’s production forecast and suggest that U.S. crude oil production can continue to grow under EIA’s price forecast for 2020 and 2021 because many companies are less dependent on debt or equity to fund investment.

U.S. average regular gasoline and diesel prices decline

The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price fell more than 3 cents from the previous week to $2.54 per gallon on January 20, 29 cents higher than the same time last year. The Midwest price fell over 5 cents to $2.39 per gallon, the Gulf Coast price fell nearly 5 cents to $2.23 per gallon, the Rocky Mountain price fell more than 3 cents to $2.57 per gallon, the East Coast price fell more than 2 cents to $2.50 per gallon, and the West Coast price fell nearly 2 cents to $3.18 per gallon.

The U.S. average diesel fuel price fell nearly 3 cents from the previous week to $3.04 per gallon on January 20, 7 cents higher than a year ago. The Rocky Mountain price fell nearly 6 cents to $3.01 per gallon, the East Coast price fell nearly 4 cents to $3.08 per gallon, the Midwest price declined almost 3 cents to $2.94 per gallon, the West Coast price fell nearly 2 cents to $3.57 per gallon, and the Gulf Coast price dropped more than 1 cent to $2.80 per gallon.

Propane/propylene inventories decline

U.S. propane/propylene stocks decreased by 1.4 million barrels last week to 86.5 million barrels as of January 17, 2020, 17.1 million barrels (24.6%) greater than the five-year (2015-19) average inventory levels for this same time of year. Midwest, East Coast, Gulf Coast, and Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories decreased by 0.7 million barrels, 0.4 million barrels, 0.2 million barrels, and 0.1 million barrels, respectively. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 6.9% of total propane/propylene inventories.

Residential heating fuel prices decrease

As of January 20, 2020, residential heating oil prices averaged nearly $3.07 per gallon, 3 cents per gallon below last week’s price and 10 cents per gallon lower than last year’s price at this time. Wholesale heating oil prices averaged almost $1.96 per gallon, more than 7 cents per gallon below last week’s price and more than 7 cents per gallon lower than a year ago.

Residential propane prices averaged almost $2.01 per gallon, less than 1 cent per gallon below last week’s price and more than 42 cents per gallon less than a year ago. Wholesale propane prices averaged more than $0.60 per gallon, nearly 4 cents per gallon lower than last week’s price and 20 cents per gallon below last year’s price.

January, 24 2020