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Thu, 24 April 2014 14:50:55
Sri Lanka oil exploration unit hunts for people
04 Mar, 2008 18:55:03
Mar 04, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka's petroleum exploration unit has started to build up its staff as the island waits for offshore exploration work to get underway, a senior official said.
The petroleum resources development secretariat (PRDS), set up under the petroleum ministry to search for oil, has begun to look for oil industry professionals as bids for offshore exploration by foreign firms are being evaluated.

"We’re going to take bright, young graduates from Sri Lanka and train them," said Neil de Silva, director general of petroleum resources development.

Training Ground

Some of the island's universities already have programmes to produce graduates with basic qualifications in geology and geophysics, some of the required skills in the burgeoning oil and gas industry.

"We can take them from local universities and recast them," de Silva explained in an interview, recalling how he himself graduated from the Peradeniya University, in the central hill region, and then went abroad for more advanced training.

De Silva said the PRDS has an approved cadre of 60 people who would be hired according to the pace of exploration work.

Sri Lanka is building up an industry from scratch and lacks people with skills in oil and gas exploration and extraction.

Such skills are now required as offshore seismic surveys have revealed promising hints of oil or gas deposits in the Mannar basin, off the north-west coast.

The government received bids from three firms, mainly regional players focusing on India and south Asia, for the exploration blocks last month. These were ONGC Videsh, Cairn India, and Niko Resources of Cyprus.

The few people with the skills in the island who worked on initial oil exploration activity 25 years ago have long since retired.

De Silva said he may have to hire foreigners on short term contracts if local expertise is not available but added that the exploration programme provided for foreign operators who win bids for exploration blocks to train Sri Lankans.

"Not many people in Sri Lanka are trained in oil and gas exploration and drilling," de Silva said.

"But many countries started in that position," he added recalling that Canada, where he worked, when the first discovery was made hired experts from the UK and US and they too had a 'benefits plan' to train locals.

New Field

The oil industry is expected to throw up a lot of new job opportunities once exploration activities get under way.

Operators who bid for offshore exploration blocks last months must provide for employment and training of Sri Lankans as well as technology transfer.

They must employ Sri Lankans with suitable qualifications and experience to the maximum extent possible.

Operator have to set up and carry out an annual training programme for Sri Lankan in every phase of petroleum operations , both technical as well as management, with the aim of giving employment to Sri Lankan nationals and a progressive reduction of foreigners.

They must also sign technical assistance agreements with the PRDS to transfer technical information and expertise.

In addition, contractors have to give preference to buying and using goods made or supplied in Sri Lanka provided they are available at a price and quality equal to or better than imported products.

They must also employ Sri Lankan sub-contractors having the required skills to the maximum extent possible, or where such sub-contractors are not available, give preference to non-Sri Lankan sub-contractors who use Sri Lankan goods.

Operators must also ensure that Sri Lankan suppliers are given adequate opportunities to compete to supply goods and services.

De Silva said the PRDS is filling vacancies as and when it needs people.

"At the moment we have enough staff to do the work we need to do. There's no need to have the entire 60 from day one. Of the 60 people, 22 are to be filled in two years and we've already filled 11."

Meanwhile Sri Lanka's central bank has also advertised for oil industry professionals, causing some unhappiness in the ministry of petroleum, according to media reports.

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READER COMMENT(S)
1. Dulip Jayawardena Mar 05
It is a comedy to learn dr Neil De Silva has woken up from his slumber after 2 years and is talking of recruiting techincal personel to the almost defunct PRDS.This is after the Central Bank stepped in and is trying to recruit staff to provide advice to the Government.

Upto last week the petroleum exploration and development was the exclusive domain of Neil De Silva and I would like to question him whether he at least contacted his old Geology Department at Peradeniya and discussed training of personnel.

Is it true that Neil de Silva has not recommended an extension of a very senior official who was involved in oil exploration for the past 25 years? This official also held the Post of Acting Director General before Neil De Silve came to Sri Lanka.

It is indeed sad tjhat a man who assumes to know everything on oil from exploration financial evaluation and contract negotiations wants no one to challenge his authority.Such actions would ultimately lead to a complete breakdown and coordination .Why is Neil De Silva not work as a team with the others for the benefit of the country.

Is it because he is a Canadian citizen who is here on a visa which is extended every year ? Is he protected by others who have a hidden agenda as far as oil exploration is concerned?.Neil De Silva should realize that there are other expatriates as well as locals who as qualified as him in the oil industry or even better qualified and should be more humble and not arrogant