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Julie Copland: The skills transition and inspiring the next generation

Julie Copland: The skills transition and inspiring the next generation

April 14, 2023

Decommissioning is a vital phase of the many elements of the global energy transition and will be a key focus for Elemental Energies for decades to come.

As Head of Production Technology and Decommissioning, Julie Copland leads our work in helping clients to plan and manage the decommissioning of assets while significantly reducing associated risks.  With 30 years’ industry experience, she is a senior member of the team that is actively transferring traditional well engineering skills to the challenges of decommissioning.

In the latest in a series of profiles on the people behind Elemental Energies, Julie shares her thoughts on the future of decommissioning, our agile engineering approach and her love of good food and fast cars.

Julie began her career at Shell focusing on completion design before moving to Talisman as a Production Technologist. She joined Senergy Wells in 2011 which went on to become Elemental Energies in December last year.

What excites you about the future of decommissioning?

The transference of skills is a big part of what makes this an exciting time for our industry. We are utilising our well engineers that have traditionally worked on exploration, appraisal and development wells and transferring their skillset to the decommissioning phase.

That’s something we’ve been able to do very successfully at Elemental Energies, with most of our engineers coming from a drilling or completions background. There’s also the longevity of decommissioning. Not only is it an important part of the energy transition, but it’s going to keep a lot of people busy for a very long time.

What expertise and experience does the former Senergy Wells team bring to Elemental Energies?

For the past 20 years our team built an impressive track record in successfully delivering varied projects, from full well project management to conceptual, desktop studies. Over those 20 years, we’ve had an amazing staff retention and built excellent relationships with a number of key clients, so the strength in depth of our experience is excellent.

Now being part of Elemental Energies, what are you looking forward to?

The fact that we’re now primarily a wells-focused business is the most exciting thing. This will allow us to really focus on what our strengths are, being more agile and able to respond to clients’ needs because we are a wells company. We’re very flexible in our approach, which perhaps not all engineering firms have, and our management team all come from wells backgrounds, so they understand the value of that.

As well as decommissioning, you are head of production technology. Give us some background to that role?

My background is primarily production technology and completion design, but over the years that role has expanded. After the well is drilled, everything after that point lies with me. Completions, well tests, workovers, interventions, well integrity, well verification and examination and then, ultimately, you flip over to my other role in decommissioning.

What drew you to decommissioning?

I sort of fell into it, accidentally! We started getting involved in the decommissioning space about 7 years ago with Petronas in Mauritania and I led that project. Because everything after the well is drilled is my responsibility, decommissioning fell into that and it is a very interesting area to be involved in. So, it was a happy accident!

What excites you about the future of the industry and wells projects such as CCUS and geothermal?

It goes back to the transfer of skills. We’re currently working with INEOS on the Greensand Project and if you look at our history, we’ve got a long track record of CCS projects going back 15 years. Two of our long-term senior engineers have been involved in numerous high profile CCS projects for the last 10 years.

Transferring the skills from typical oil and gas projects into energy transition projects like CCUS and geothermal is something that we’ve been able to do very easily. It’s also exciting for our engineers knowing that their expertise is going towards the energy transition and decarbonisation. We’re actively doing something to support the transition, which is very satisfying.

Outside of work, I hear you’ve got a passion for fast cars – tell me a bit about that.

Our whole family are petrolheads – myself, my husband and now our son as well. We like going out in the cars and visiting places where we can combine it with our love for good food. We’ll jump in the car and disappear off for a few days and tie that in with restaurants and hotels that we’ve heard have exceptional food offerings.

We’re into motorsports as well, particularly Formula 1 – the three of us went to the Montreal Grand Prix last year as a family which was a fantastic experience, and we’re hoping to get to another one this year at some point.

The industry is largely a male-dominated one – are you keen to attract more women to the team and the industry? And is there anything you’d like to see the industry doing to enable that?

Yes – I’ve been in the industry almost 30 years and I’ve seen a massive change, with more and more female leaders of operators and major service companies, which is fantastic to see. But I think in general there isn’t as much interest in this industry from students.

I used to be involved in a lot of STEM work with schools, even primary schools, and do talks about the industry trying to get them interested. Now, there’s an opportunity to have a different conversation about decommissioning and the energy transition to get them interested in STEM topics and I think this will be key in getting more young women into the industry: talking about exciting carbon capture projects, geothermal and decommissioning to youngsters before they make their career and subject choices.

Julie will be representing Elemental Energies alongside Chairman Martyn Fear at the Decommissioning & Abandonment Gulf of Mexico (D&A GOM), 19-20 April 2023.

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