Student Organization Spotlight: American Association of Drilling Engineers


Editor’s Note: This is the fifth article in a series that will spotlight student organizations within the LSU College of Engineering. 

LSU’s Student Section of the American Association of Drilling Engineers gives petroleum engineering students the opportunity to learn more about the field outside of the classroom.

The organization, which has about 30 registered members, hosts several technical presentations each month that feature local and national leaders and executives in the oil and gas industry. Guests have included larger companies, like Shell and Chevron, to companies specific to the Gulf Coast states, such as PetroQuest Energy, LLOG Exploration, Energy Drilling and Sub Surface Tools.

During these presentations, the representatives speak about various industry-related topics, from recent projects and changes in the industry to entrepreneurship and idea development to tool maintenance.

“LLOG Exploration’s VP of Drilling Joe Leimkuhler came out and talked about the business model they use and how they keep everything very systematic with tool maintenance and quality,” said Ryan Barsa, a petroleum engineering senior who serves as president of the student association. “Because LLOG is a niche company—they go out into the certain reservoirs and areas that other companies may not want to go into—they offer that niche perspective of the industry.”

After each of these presentations, the company representatives and interested students have dinner at a nearby restaurant. “It’s important for [students] to meet these kinds of people now,” Barsa said, “… to further develop these connections for the future.”

The oil and gas industry is “tight knit,” he said, noting most people in that community are connected in some way.

“Everyone just sort of knows everyone. We’ll bring out a speaker, and they always recognize the name of another person we may have booked from a different company,” Barsa said. “It’s funny because they’ll say, ‘Oh, I knew them from 1983 or something!’ They all sort of started from the same place and now they are in the industry together.”

AADE also works with companies to host on-site visits and facilities tours.

“We’re trying to give students a chance to learn more outside of the classroom,” Barsa said. “So we’re going to drilling rigs, facilities, drill pipe manufacturing centers and just giving students a chance to see how the industry works and what the future could hold for them.”

The organization also offers current students the opportunity to gain relevant certifications to add to their resume, all while continuing their undergraduate studies. They recently coordinated a Wild Well Control training course. Through the WellSHARP program, a training and assessment program designed to teach engineers how to detect oil and gas blowouts, students receive a two-year certification in that specialized area.

“It’s kind of tough to gain access to this certification outside of our setting, and it’s a lot more expensive,” Barsa said. “We get discounts. These courses can range anywhere from a couple hundred bucks to a couple thousand. When we went to Houston for one of these trainings, we only charged students $165. And that covered the certification course, travel and two nights in a hotel.”

The organization attends two conferences each academic year, the Deepwater Symposium and AADE National conference. Barsa explained that attending these conferences is also a networking opportunity to develop connections in the oil and gas community.

“Being involved with the org also gives students a leg up in corporate or social settings, like conferences,” he said. “Coming to our meetings gives them additional talking points when meeting new people because they are already familiar with topics that industry members talk about.”

Though the organization does its best to coordinate presentations and events with companies and industry executives, they still run into some difficulty in getting students to take full advantage of the opportunities.

“Most of our struggle is getting students out of their comfort zone and getting them to talk to the speakers that we bring in,” Barsa said. “I have students that come out to every single event, and they make sure they get a business card every single time, and that’s what we want to see. On the other hand, we still have some come out to participate and then leave.”

Barsa said he explains to members that developing contacts is a process that takes time. “A student won’t always see result one or two months from now,” he said.

“I held onto a business card I received three years ago,” he said. “I reached out to the representative for a program, and he came to campus with a friend and hosted a great presentation.”

The rekindled connection resulted in a job for both Barsa and some of his fellow petroleum engineering classmates.

Moving forward, in addition to its standard events, AADE plans to experiment with some new programs, like an oilfield museum visit and a sporting event.

“We’re going to host our first sporting clay shoot this semester,” Barsa said. “It’s more of a social event to offer a more laid back networking environment for engineering alumni and current students. I’ve reached out to AADE New Orleans, our parent chapter, AADE Lafayette and the Houston Petro Tigers group.”

AADE has also partnered with Shell to take a select group of students to the Houston training facilities for a five-day drilling class.

“I think this is the most exciting event that our org has ever done,” Barsa said. “Shell has been so kind with us and basically allowed us to design the class the way we want to. We’re still developing the topics we’re going to cover, but they have a state of the art facility, and we get to be there for a week.”

Though the idea is still in the development phase, he said, it was not difficult to get all of the right people on board. He said that “95 percent of the industry really want to help and get involved; it’s just the matter of reaching out to them and coordinating the event.”

“The only time I’ve ever been denied is when I asked for an offshore trip,” Barsa said with a smile. “But my thinking is that you just don’t know until you ask.”

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