Tuesday, January 11, 2011 – Houston, TX

Exxon Mobil Development Group – Houston, TX

With Exxon Mobil’s Development Group, we were able to meet and learn from many Exxon Mobil employees and attend four different thought-provoking presentations. To begin, we were given an overview of Exxon Mobil’s corporate structure and an in-depth look at their Development Company.  Next, we were submerged into a real life project management scenario during an ‘Early Career Leadership Module’ presented by award winning instructor Steve Vaughn.  During this true to life ‘choose your own adventure’ we discussed options and made decisions based on the information available at each step.  At each step Vaughn explained how our decisions fit or did not fit with what happened in real life.  At the end Vaughn revealed that the training project was actually from his personal experience and capped off the learning experience with personal anecdotes.   Following this module was a presentation by Brad Currie, and Diana Brinkman, two young Exxon Mobil employees that have been working with this company for 7-8 years. These two employees spoke about their roles as young engineers and how their roles have changed as they have gained experience working on various jobs. Their focus, however, was on a project called Kizomba C, the construction, transport to location, and start-up of a FPSO (floating, storage, production, and off-loading) designed to produce 600 million barrels of oil from an oil field roughly 145 km off the coast of Angola.  Currie and Brinkman shared with us the challenges of managing a project that included workers speaking many different dialects, the experience of working month-on month-off shift rotations, and the challenge of projects costing in the billions of dollars.  Lunch was shared with several Exxon Mobil employees (many Illinois alumni!).  During/after our lunch, Kristen Hallberg presented on a pipeline project currently underway in Papua New Guinea.  She shared with us how Exxon is working preserve regional ecosystems and address the challenge of re-locating those native to the area of the new pipeline and introduced us to the myriad challenges of projects in remote areas.

FMC Technologies Inc – Houston, TX

After learning about deep-sea drilling from Exxon Mobil, the GLCM group headed over to FMC Technologies Inc. to get a first-hand look at the equipment used to pump oil from deep below the ocean’s floor. While we were there, John Lyons of FMC, gave an in-depth presentation about the intricacies of the pump equipment that rests on the ocean floor, drills for oil to as far as thirty-thousand feet below, and then pumps the oil to floating tankers at the surface.  We learned that this unit is referred to as a ‘tree’ and later we would observe how FMC manufactures these ‘trees.’  As we walked the floor of the manufacturing facility we observed milling, assembly, and testing of drilling equipment with a price tag of between $4 million and $7 million per unit.  FMC specialists explained how this drilling equipment is manufactured in Houston, and then floated out and installed through the use of ROV- remotely operated vehicles, sometimes five thousand feet below the ocean surface.

Exxon Mobil Upstream Technical Training Center – Houston, TX

To close out our day, the GLCM group visited one of Exxon Mobil’s research facilities.  There we met several upstream researchers and attended a demonstration of Exxon’s 3-D visualization laboratory.  Their 3-D Viz Lab includes four projectors (3 walls and floor), and with the use of 3-D glasses we were able to ‘tour’ an oil tanker that had been retrofitted to pump oil to a secondary tanker for off-loading.