A year at Merlin Energy

David WhitworthGraduate Geologist & PhD Student

As many young people will doubtless have noticed, competition for jobs these days is fierce. For many, stepping out into the world of work is also a stressful, daunting experience. This was made equally difficult in the last few years due to Covid, and the pandemic’s impact on the job market.

In 2020, I started a PhD in Sedimentology & Carbon Storage at Keele University in Staffordshire, after completing BSc and MSc degrees at Royal Holloway. I enjoyed the academic lifestyle, allowing me to work and learn at my own pace, and pursue other interests at the same time. For me this takes the form of professional singing, which I have done for over 20 years.

After two years as a PhD student however, I began to find the project evolving in a more industry-focussed direction; looking at petrophysical data from depleted oil fields, and attending industry-led courses on the Energy Transition. This sparked my desire to go and learn more about the industry, and to gain the skills that would enable me to produce a useful PhD thesis I could be proud of. It was then that I applied for a job at Merlin Energy.

Since starting at Merlin last October, I’ve had the opportunity to develop skills in a number of areas including reservoir geology, petrophysics, project management, and marketing. Given the fact Merlin very much believe in a learning-by-doing approach, much of this skill development has involved hands-on involvement in projects I could only have dreamed of as a graduate at a larger company. I’ve carried out petrophysical analyses on fields in multiple geological settings, presented to clients, attended conferences, and I’ve given talks in the community. I’ve also had the opportunity to help bring in new clients in the Energy Transition sector using specialist knowledge in Carbon Capture & Storage developed during my research, and attended conferences in this new and emerging industry.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, however. Transitioning from academia to industry brings with it a host of challenges such as a faster pace of working, and a requirement to ensure the client gets the product they require.  Rather than the endless QC support of academic supervisors, more responsibility is placed on the individual, albeit with support and QA from senior members of the team. Coupled with this, working for a small, dynamic, Employee-Owned consultancy, helps enhance a sense of ownership and pride in the work you produce. It also improves your ability to learn fast on the job. This is especially true at Merlin, which encompasses geoscience, data analysis, and reservoir engineering consultancy services.

Throughout my short career thus far, I have worked hard to build a strong professional network, but the kindness and support from those further along in their careers has been the biggest influence on my journey. I’m grateful to Merlin for the opportunity to join a busy, growing organisation – I’ve worked on some great projects, with wonderful colleagues, and I’m very much looking forward to more of the same over the next few years!