jump to navigation

很親切 May 21, 2018

Posted by hslu in 石油, Life in Taiwan, Oil, Taipei, Taiwan, 台灣, 林口.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

沒想到林口也有 Mobil 的 logo。它很顯眼,很新,很乾淨,看起來倍感親切。畢竟我們家的孩子都是吃 Mobil 的奶長大的,你說是不是?

臺灣沒有 Mobil 的汽油加油站,只有賣 Mobil 潤滑油產品的私人汽車服務中心。

Mobil 在中國已經有百年以上的歷史了。其實,Mobil 的前身是美國的標準石油公司。標準石油在 1890 年就用”美孚”這個商標進入了中國。美孚是美麗,誠信,可靠的意思。標準石油後來分成 Exxon 和 Mobil,後來又合併為一。俗云:合久必分,分久必合了,就是這個道理。不過這是後話,容後再禀。

剛開始,美孚在中國賣煤油燈和煤油。很快的,煤油燈就取代了中國用了千百年的油燈,而中國就成為標準石油在亞洲最大的市場。美孚在中國各地修建儲油槽、倉庫與辦事處,用油罐車、火車與船隻運送石油到中國內陸各地。美孚以上海為中心基地,前後擁有上百艘各式各樣的大,小拖輪及油輪。隨後,汽車開始普遍,美孚研發出了首屈一指的機用潤滑油,於是,美孚也順理成章的在中國賣汽車用的潤滑油了。

二次世界大戰結束,日本戰敗,無條件投降。中國從日本手中接收了臺灣,美孚也開始在臺灣做潤滑油的生意,一直到現在,在臺灣各地還有賣 Mobil 潤滑油的商店。由此可見,美孚與中國的合作維持了一百多年,可謂歷史悠久,合作無間。

我離開 Mobil 已經很久了。在那之前,公司傳出一個謠言說 Mobil 要買 ARCO。幾年來,從 VA 總部那邊傳來的謠言通常都很準。好幾次公司要裁員,我們聽到的謠言說我們這個部門要裁員 20% , 25% 或 33% 都非常準確。我們覺得這一次的謠言應該一樣可靠,不過大家都不怎麽在意,因為如果 Mobil 賣了 ARCO,被裁的也應該是 Arco 的員工,不是 Mobil 的員工。ARCO 在那幾年油價上漲的時候擴張的比 Mobil 還要厲害。油價大跌以後,公司大賠,特賠,好幾年以來,都一蹶不振,股價低迷。他們會被別的公司買去,我們一點都不覺得意外。ARCO在阿拉斯加有油田。Mobil 沒有。ARCO 在加州也許多資產和加油站,跟 Mobil 相當匹配。ARCO 在南中國海有許多海底油田的開產權。Mobil 沒有。看來 Mobil 要買 ARCO 聽起來合理。

要知道,在那十幾年艱苦漫長的日子裏,WTI 油價慘跌。從一九八零年年初的四十塊錢一桶跌到一九八六年的十塊錢一桶。再往下的十幾年,油價都在 十幾塊到二十塊錢之間徘徊。石油公司一再虧損,每個石油公司的員工都度日如年,如坐針毯。我們這個部門,每隔幾年就裁員一次:每次少則 15%,最多的一次居然到 33%,真是悽悽,慘慘,戚戚,人心惶惶,慘不忍睹呀。

在 Mobil 要買 Arco 的謠言滿天飛的時候,WTI 只賣十三,四塊錢一桶。我研究的重油因為它的質量不佳,油裏面的雜質太多,提煉不出來太多的汽油,每一桶重油只能賣到九,十塊塊錢一桶,而我們的生產成本就要七,八塊。扣掉 overhead,根本不能錢賺。我們公司的外海油田更是虧本的厲害。可是,當油價低的時候,煉油廠的成本降低,加油站的生意就賺錢了。其實 Mobil 有很賺錢的 downstream operation,可是 upstream 就虧多了。這是其一。還有,Mobil 在中東的 Qatar 和印尼的 Arun 油田有非常成功而又賺錢的 LNG 計劃,還有十幾艄世界最大的 LNG 油船。這是 Mobil 在石油工業中首屈一指的技術。這些 LNG 有長期的合約賣到日本,韓國,臺灣和新加坡,是讓人家眼紅的資產。還有,Mobil 在非洲也有很多資源,也已經投入大量的資金和人力。只可惜,油價就是上不了,大家只有乾等著,熬一天是一天。

沒多久謠言沒了,看來 Mobil 是不會買 ARCO 了。再過幾個禮拜,一個晴天霹靂的消息公佈了:Exxon 要買 Mobil。新公司叫 Exxon Mobil。這真叫每個人嚇一大跳。很顯然,又要裁員了。不過像我們這種跟生產石油也直接關係的正牌工程師和其他有關的技術人員是不會讓我們走的。畢竟, Mobil 的油田和資產還需要我們經營管理,你說是嗎?許多部門要合併,精簡,我們在 Dallas 的幾個部門所有的員工都要整個搬去 Houston。

這就是我在 2000 年離開 Mobil 的時候。

如今十幾年過去了。時過境遷,人去樓空。當初,我們那個部門去 Houston 的只有 40% 左右。許多人退休,許多人厭煩了常常裁員的日子,離開了石油的行業,去別的工業找工作了。如今,以前的 Mobil 早已成為歷史,除了美國的 Mobil 加油站以外,就只有零零星星的小商店賣 Mobil 的潤滑油了。我們也一家從 Dallas 附近的 Plano 搬到 Northern Virginia,好幾年以後再搬到臺灣的林口。在林口看到 Mobil 的商標還有點懷舊的感傷也帶著一絲絲的親切感。

不知道 Dallas 城中心一個大樓上代表 Mobil 的 Pegasus 還在不在?

Mobil 1 January 15, 2011

Posted by hslu in China, Energy, Global Affair.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

Saw this in a supermarket in Taipei.

Mobil has been in China for more than a century now.  It is known as 美孚 in China.

Exxon may change its mind and drop the brand some time in the future though. We didn’t know whether there was any agreement on keeping the Mobil brand name between Exxon and Mobil at the time of take over in 2000.

I hope the brand can survive another one hundred years.

SAGD September 28, 2009

Posted by hslu in Energy.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

SAGD

Ever since I left Mobil, I have continued to subscribe to two petroleum publications: Oil and Gas Journal (OGJ) and World Oil. I was hoping that one of these days I’ll be able to go back to the profession I loved and perhaps work as a consultant or professor in China. On a recent issue of OGJ I saw something that warmed my heart: I saw SAGD being applied at many fields in Alberta, Canada.

Picture 005

Picture 006

SAGD stands for Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage process which relies on two parallel horizontal wells 15 to 20’ apart to recover oil from heavy oil reservoirs. Steam is injected into the top horizontal well. It enters the formation and rises to the top of the formation. The mobilized oil and condensed water flow into the bottom horizontal well and are produced to the surface. An enhanced version of SAGD is SW SAGD, or Single Well Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage process, in which a single horizontal well is used instead of two. A tubing is inserted into the horizontal wellbore for steam injection purpose. Oil and condensed water are produced from the annulus to the surface. SW SAGD was particularly important because without such a process, many of these thin heavy oil formations are not economical viable with vertical wells even at current price level.

SAGD was first field tested with funds from the government of Alberta. Many companies participated in the project which was pilot tested in a shallow oil sand formation in Athabasca area of Alberta, Canada. It was practically an oil mining project using steam instead of mining machines. The horizontal well pairs were drilled from a large underground shaft which was drilled from the surface to the oil formation. After several years of testing, the project was deemed a technical success because WTI (West Texas Intermediate) was selling at mid teens while heavy oil was selling below $10 a barrel.

When I was transferred to Canada in 1989, Mobil Canada started to work on SW SAGD in a deeper (1,000’+) heavy oil formation. The traditional SAGD was not technically viable because horizontal well drilling technology was still in its infancy and we were not able to drill two closely spaced horizontal wells with 1,000’ displacement in a relatively thin heavy oil formation. In fact, our single horizontal well was the very first one drilled in a heavy oil field. The details of our SW SAGD process, its operating data and technical information were heavily-guarded secrets because our project was the first of such project ever. We worked long and hard in the field and in the office and our project was getting very good results. The operation was smooth with very few operating problems and oil recovery was better than our earlier calculation. After I was transferred back to the research lab in Dallas, I continued to work with my Canadian colleagues to perfect the operation guideline and to increase its profitability. As we were ready for a much needed expansion, I was informed by my friend in Canada that our project was shutting down by Mobil Canada because our pilot test was losing money because the heavy oil from our field, a lower grade oil, was selling below $10 a barrel. In fact it was so bad that our project became a drag to Heavy Oil Department’s budget.

At that time, Mobil Canada was under order from Mobil HQ to re-organize the entire Canadian division, reduce operating costs and reduce headcount. The light oil field won the budget fight and our SW SAGD project was the first on the chopping block because the short-sighted Mobil management couldn’t see the value of such a process. To save the project, I, with the backing of my manager at the research Lab, proposed to take over the pilot test and folded it into our own research project. But our proposal could not win back management’s blessing because our research Lab was also under headcount reduction and the SW SAGD project was moss-balled and eventually abandoned. While we were shutting down our projects, words were out about the success of our pilot through word of mouth from field hands and the patent we filed. Other companies picked up the process and tried it in their fields.

It was so sad that Mobil managers, many of them bean counters, were so short-sighted that they could only see one quarter at a time. They do not have the fore sight to nurture cutting edge technologies when they were in front of them which contributed to its ultimate demise with the sell of our company to Exxon in 2000.

Well, at least I felt that our SW SAGD team was vindicated with so many SAGD projects going on in Canada. A project like this often takes 8 to 10 years to mature. I was very confident that we will see our day under the sun because light oil will eventually be in short supply and we have to tap the vast amount of heavy oil in Canada one of these days. That day is now and I am happy.

1973 Oil Embargo and Me August 17, 2009

Posted by hslu in Energy.
Tags: ,
add a comment

1973 Oil Embargo and Me – Aug 2009

Interestingly enough, 1973 oil embargo also changed my life; to the better, I might add. In 1975, I graduated with a MS degree in civil engineering specializing in hydraulics but couldn’t find a job because the US was still reeling from a recession. In the mean time, just one floor above the Civil Engineering Department, seniors in the Petroleum Engineering Department were getting ten or more offers even before they got their BS degrees. Coming back from Taiwan in the summer of 1975, I gave up a full fellowship from University of Houston studying fluid mechanics of artificial heart and enrolled in Petroleum Engineering Department without any financial assistance from the university.

In the next semester, I got a scholarship with Chemical Engineering department studying alternative energy from coal thanks to a generous grant from DOE. Although I got paid diddly squat from my advisor and spent 3 years building and testing the apparatus and conducting dangerous laboratory tests, the work I did under the alternative energy project was the primary reason why I was hired by Mobil in Dallas, texas. It began my 20-year career with Mobil. And working for oil companies in the early 1980’s was the envy of new graduates: our pays were the highest among all engineering fields; we got several years of double-digit raises thanks to ever increasing demand of qualified petroleum engineers; we got very generous benefits in vacations, matching 401(k) and medical and life insurances. The boom and bust cycles of oil prices also put major oil companies on a quest for newer and better technologies and a lean work force. Eventually my retirement came after Exxon took over Mobil in 2000.  Without oil embargo, I would probably still be working in a lab for a research or drug company on adjusting valves for artificial heart pumps. Hmmm, that would be quite different from working in oil fields. Life is full of unexpected events and oil embargo certainly was one of them.

%d bloggers like this: