US energy giant Chevron opened its first R&D centres outside North America last year. The firm considered a number of global locations before deciding upon Aberdeen and Perth, Australia.

The new R&D facility in Aberdeen is part of Chevron’s energy technology company, which provides the group’s global operations with specialist technical support as well as research and development into new technologies.

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The global search for oil and gas reserves requires exploration into increasingly deeper waters, which in turn becomes heavily reliant on technology.

Global growth

“We needed to grow due to demand from our operating partner organisations so we thought global centres would open up our ability to hire in local markets,” says technology centre manager David Wagner.

Chevron had an existing business unit of about 14 staff in Aberdeen, which continues to operate the oil fields in the North Sea. The technical centre of excellence is looking to hire between 100 and 120 new staff over the next three years and currently employs 60.

“Our global support remit means we do a lot of travelling, so people often asked why we didn’t move to London as it is a major transport hub,” says Mr Wagner.

But the sheer concentration of energy industry in the region including service providers, vendors and energy technology firms was central to the decision-making process.

“Our staff can really integrate with the oil field community by getting out to vendor yards, for example, to look, touch and feel equipment,” says Mr Wagner.

The company’s existing business unit means new hires are also much more easily integrated into the greater Chevron company culture, according to Mr Wagner.

“We are also able to utilise some of our existing business unit’s back office support functions,” he adds.

Long-term view

The decision to locate a high profile facility such as a research centre for excellence in Aberdeen speaks of Chevron’s long-term commitment to its North Sea operations.

Recruiting staff with the specialist, high value skills needed for the R&D facility is not a problem, according to Mr Wagner, who hired more than 20 staff in the first year.

“We’ve had good success with recruiting a mixture of experienced hires and campus graduates,” he says. “It’s always the same story – it’s a tough sell getting people to come to Aberdeen, but once they get here they never want to leave.”

The lifestyle benefits for Aberdeen’s employees are clear, but Chevron was competing with other major firms to capture the best of the talent pool.

“The business unit means we can move staff around so they get a deeper technology understanding if they come from a business background and visa versa for those with a technical background, which is attractive to graduates still deciding on their career direction,” says Mr. Wagner.

Because the Chevron technology company is focused on attracting candidates with specialised skills and degrees, it is logical that the firm develops links with Aberdeen University, which may soon be offering a petroleum engineering course.

The main focus of the R&D work carried out at Chevron’s Aberdeen centre for excellence will be around sub-sea technologies.

“Aberdeen has a skill set that is nurtured and grown within the North Sea operations, especially sub-sea engineering, which is now very important in other areas of the world,” says Mr. Wagner.

“The city gives us access to a UK and European skills market which we can then use to export to the world’s major oil and gas hubs.”