Q&A: U.S. shale plays are being watched around the world



Natalya Sachivichik’s life revolves around oil and gas. Her family’s, too.

Since graduating from Karaganda State Technical University in 1996, Ms. Sachivichik has lived in Kazakhstan, Holland, England and the United States. Her son, Alex, is studying petroleum engineering at Penn State University. And she and her husband, Alexey, whom she met in college, even worked for the same companies until earlier this year.

The couple moved to Western Pennsylvania in 2012, and both ended up as engineers at Chevron. In May, she changed it up by taking a job with Range Resources.

“We decided, OK, maybe we should split our ways because working for the same company sometimes becomes too stuffy,” she said.

Ms. Sachivichik is a senior development engineer at Range. She formulates business plans and schedules midstream processes. She was attracted to Range because of its growth potential, which is 20 to 25 percent each year.

“I always envision in my mind, it’s like a spiderweb, and the schedule is down in the middle,” the 41-year-old said. “There are a lot of connections to different groups. You pull on one, and the whole system has to shift if something changes.”

Before moving to Pennsylvania, Ms. Sachivichik and her husband were engineers with the oilfield services company Schlumberger. During that time Ms. Sachivichik worked in countries such as Poland and Belarus, and her family lived in Alaska for about three years. It wasn’t until the couple had their now 6-year-old daughter, Alisa, that they decided to look for opportunities elsewhere.

That’s when Ms. Sachivichik caught wind of the Marcellus Shale.

“It was perfect from so many perspectives,” she said of the area. “New play, a lot of opportunities to grow professionally, but also a good place for children.”

Q: How do you feel about U.S.-made energy opposed to a dependence on foreign oil?

A: It’s always good to have your own energy and be independent in absolutely any country. Especially having huge resources here and being the leader in developing technologies because shale is not developed anywhere in the world. People are still trying to get shale gas or shale oil but they haven’t done it yet. So everything the U.S. has done right now, people all over the world will be reliant on and learn from. Only here you can count thousands of wells.

You want to be independent, but you also have to know the whole world is looking at places like Marcellus, the Permian, and some other shale plays, because this is training and research and development ground for the rest of the world. It's good to be here. We're right in the middle of the developing future for the rest of the world.

Q: What has been your experience with merging cultures in terms of safety and contractors?

A: Working in developing countries like Kazakhstan, I can tell that any progress which brings any sort of benefit would be taken very, very well, and it would be welcome. The safety culture at the company where I worked in Kazakhstan, they had great technologies, worldwide technologies, but their safety processes and procedures were much lower.

But very quickly the whole company realized that if you want to work for operators like Shell, Texaco and Mobile, it’s going to be beneficial for everybody. It’s a one-way street. People never go back on safety standards and say, ‘Oh, it’s not required anymore by our client or by our regulations so let’s go back to lower standards.’ It only progresses up and up because everybody wants to work in a safe environment.

Q: If you had to describe your industry in one word, what would it be and why?

A: I would say it’s somewhere among ‘achievement,’ ‘resilience’ and ‘relentless.’ I remember the situation in 2007, 2008 when the whole news world was saying, ‘We're running out of oil. China’s going to take over.’ People were panicking, and right then Marcellus came out. It felt to me at that time, and even more so now, people will find the solution.

Something like shale, which was always a nuisance, was never a producible type of rock. We found a way to do it. If this resource will disappear, there will be another one. That was a great example for me. People in panic were representing a very dark future for this oil-rich country, and we’re again the top producer in the world, the top reserves in the world and future for the next 50 years of drilling and developing hydrocarbons. It’s there. Already, it's proven. So I don’t know what the one word is ... you tell me.

Madasyn Czebiniak: mczebiniak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1269. Twitter: @PG_Czebiniak

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