Amelia Antoh: A field technician's journey from Papua to North Sea

Date: 24 November 2017
In the midst of challenges and difficulties, Amelia Betty Antoh, or Amel to her colleagues, found her windows of opportunity. BP’s on-campus visit to the State University of Papua back in 2007 proved to be a starting point in her journey that has brought her to the North Sea area, United Kingdom.

“One day [BP] came to my university and held an on-campus recruiting program. I actually had no idea what BP was at that time, but I signed up anyway,” explained Amel briefly at the beginning of a recent interview. 

It seems that her curiosity about a company that was about to establish gas operations in her birth place has opened up a chance for a big change in her life. And despite her parents’ concerns of joining such a high-risk industry, Amel got through the whole selection process and decided to join BP. In the later years working at Tangguh LNG, Amel’s optimism and positive attitude worked in her favour, eventually landing her an unexpected phone call about an assignment opportunity at BP’s giant Forties oil field in the North Sea region.

“Actually, I have always wanted to study abroad. Well, how could I not? I’ve been in Jayapura since I was in kindergarten. But of all places, Manokwari was the furthest that my parents would allow me to go to,” Amel, 34, said laughing.

Being the first-born of six might not have been an easy journey for a daughter of a Papua regional police officer. In fact, Amel had to give up a lot to be where she is now. She gave up her dreams of studying abroad, while later dropped out of her post graduate course in University of University of Cendrawasih because of some issues arising in the family. She then had to support her five younger siblings who are still at school. Moreover, even obtaining a permission to work in the industry was difficult for her at first, given her father familiarity with the industry’s risks, having once worked for a Sorong-based oil and gas firm.

“Right after I graduated and worked for BP, I went to Bontang to get a training to be a field technician. It was from late 2006 until early 2008 where Tangguh was on its commissioning process,”   she said, adding that her role and position had already been determined at the time she got accepted to the company.  Although coming in from an agricultural agronomy background, these two years of training was a valuable stepping stone to help her understand operations of Tangguh.

The Tangguh LNG oroject first came on-stream in mid-2009. It was a heart-pounding moment for Amel to be able to witness and take part in the first gas activity on site. As an onshore receiving facility (ORF) field technician specifically in operation gas supply, she was responsible to lit the gas flare at night and make sure that no gas leaking from the LNG tank and pipeline.

For several years, Amel continued to deal with Tangguh’s outdoor field work. Until in 2013, she was developed to be a control room technician (CRT), or a distributed control system (DCS) operator – which is the position she currently holds. Her responsibility includes delivering gas from well to onshore, ensure normal running plant operation, start up and shutdown the plant, preparation for maintenance, reinstatement after maintenance and be involved in emergency situations.

And suddenly, that phone call came.

“Out of the blue, I received a call when I was off-duty. I remember it was in the morning that I was offered an assignment opportunity to the North Sea,” she said still in disbelief, while wondering about how cold the weather would be up there.

Headquartered in Aberdeen, BP’s North Sea Upstream business operates in the north-eastern sea of the UK. It is a growth region for BP since its discovery in 1970 as a globally significant oil and gas province, covering the entire industry life-cycle, from access and exploration, through resource appraise, drilling, commissioning, production and decommissioning. With a promising prospect, BP’s North Sea sets ambitious goal of doubling production to 200,000 barrels a day by 2020.

“At first, the position that needed to be filled was a field technician only. But then they wanted an isolation authority (IA) as well,” told her, further explaining that her assignment will last for six months, with a three-month work rotation.

Other than being told that the assignment would be a golden opportunity for her career, this Sorong-born woman hopes that living abroad could also help her improve her English skills along the way. The thought of having to live in the middle of the sea got her feeling anxious. However, at the same time realizing that not everyone can experience a full-time offshore job.

We have to be serious with our work, especially with the fact that we handle something dangerous. We should also be honest, disciplined, and never be afraid to speak up when something is wrong.
Amelia B. Antoh
For Amel, everyone she meets in her life is important in shaping her to be the person she is today. Family in particular, has become the main source of motivation for her to work hard and keep striving for the best. Amel married in 2014. Her husband is a local entrepreneur in Jayapura who fully supports Amel in her career.

When asked about future plans, Amel replied, “What is clear for now is to do what we can do in our job. In other words, to do the best. We should just do our part well and if there is any additional work that we can possibly do, give it a try. If later it is considered as a bonus point and leads us to other opportunities, well I think there is no harm in trying.”

Amel also left a few words for her fellow technicians and those who wish to join the oil and gas company. “We have to be serious with our work, especially with the fact that we handle something dangerous. We should also be honest, disciplined, and never be afraid to speak up when something is wrong. ”