Baker Hughes, a GE company

Apr 9, 2018 | Arctic, Oil & Gas

Tasha Anderson

Baker Hughes, a GE Company, is a leader in oilfield technology, such as the Auto Trak eXact high-build rotary steerable drilling system, which “combines the ability to provide advanced logging while drilling services with the ability to drill high buildup rates, eliminating the need to compromise between the two,” according to the company.

International oil and gas industry leader serves Alaska and its employees

Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE), is an international, full-stream oil and gas industry equipment and service provider and leads the industry in technological innovations, such as the Dynamus Extended-life Drill Bit, which according to the company “enables operators to keep drilling while using the most robust drilling equipment available. It protects the BHA [bottom hole assembly component of a drilling rig] by mitigating lateral vibrations. Its cutters are designed to prevent cracks and heat damage, and its body has been engineered for long life in extreme operations.”

In addition to its significant technological innovations, Area Manager of Alaska BHGE Oilfield Services Jon Rhodes explains, “Globally BHGE is a full-stream provider—and we are the only full-stream provider.” While many companies specialize in upstream, midstream, or downstream oil and gas activities, BHGE brings together capabilities across the full value chain of oil and gas activities. “We are the only company able to provide full stream capabilities, from reservoir to refinery,” Rhodes says. “None of our competitors can offer that, start to finish.” In fact, BHGE has recently been awarded its first full stream contract for Twinza Oil Limited to provide full-stream support on the Pasca A gas condensate field, located off Papua New Guinea in the Gulf of Papua.

The company provides a broad portfolio of services to the Alaska oil and gas industry, including oilfield services such as completions, coil tubing drilling, drill bits, drilling and evaluation, artificial lift, and upstream chemicals, as well as oilfield equipment such as wellheads and turbo machinery. “We have a larger portfolio in other global locations, but these are the services we focus on in Alaska at the moment,” he says. BHGE works throughout the state with all of Alaska’s oil and gas companies, including in Cook Inlet, but the bulk of their current operations are on the North Slope.

Wherever BHGE operates, Rhodes says, “It’s all about creating value for our customers.” While Alaska’s economy was particularly hard hit by the crash in oil prices and their long, slow recovery, worldwide the industry took a blow. “We’re seeing a bit of encouragement in the last couple of months—oil prices have gone up, so the outlook is looking better—but it’s still about how you can offer value to your customers to help them reduce their costs and be more efficient.” The more BHGE is involved in the oil and gas process, the more opportunities the company has to increase value for their clients. “We have the technology and experience to add value every single step of the way.”

And the company’s value in Alaska can be measured in many other ways. In Alaska BHGE employs about 175 workers and operates facilities in Anchorage, Soldotna, Kenai, and Deadhorse. Rhodes says BHGE hires locally when possible and that many of the company’s current staff instate are life-long Alaskans. Worldwide the company employs about 65,000 people, and Rhodes explains that naturally the company has an ongoing campaign to retain employees as well as bring new talent on board.

He says in particular the new generation of employees is concerned with more than just money. “Everybody is chasing the best talent; hiring the right people is getting harder and harder. Millennials interview the company quite often rather than the company interviewing them.” He says beyond an attractive salary, many of the best young workers are looking for a safe work culture and challenging opportunities, as well as opportunities for career progression, training, and travel, something he says BHGE can offer.

Rhodes himself has worked with the company for nearly three decades. He went to university and studied geology, he was hired straight out of university in 1990, and has worked in the company since. “At the time Baker Hughes was the largest recruiter of geologists in the UK,” he explains. “I found myself on a rig after a month’s intensive training offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.” Shortly thereafter he transitioned to working in West Africa for several years, and after that he moved to the Middle East and lived in Dubai for thirteen years. Following that period, Rhodes was back in the United States in Houston and the company’s headquarters before arriving in Anchorage on January 1 this year. “I like the culture of the company, and I like the people I work with. I enjoy the work variation from day-to-day and the opportunity the company have given me to travel and meet different people and experience different cultures and places.” While his stay in Alaska has been relatively short to-date, he says both he and his wife are enjoying the Last Frontier. “I never thought I’d live in a place with a ski resort thirty minutes away, and here I am, a Brit living in Alaska.”

In addition to changing physical locations, Rhodes also changed the type of work he’s done at the company, starting by working on “the rigs” in locations around the world for nearly a decade before moving onshore and now managing oilfield services in Alaska. “They’ve treated me well, and I’ve been very happy,” he says.

And Rhodes isn’t the only one. At a recent Baker Hughes event, he met employees that had been with the company for thirty and forty years and whose children had started careers with the oil and gas corporation. “That reaffirmed my decision to stay with the same company. I know other companies actively like to have a high turnover to bring new people in. We obviously want to keep the pipeline full and bring new people in and up, but we also value experience,” he explains.

During his career, Rhodes says BHGE has both given him opportunities to travel and opportunities to stay put, such as the long period of time he and his wife spent in Dubai. “I spent thirteen years in Dubai when, really, if I’d been more willing to move sooner, I could probably have progressed better, but it was my choice. My wife and I enjoyed Dubai and we were allowed the opportunity to stay.” He says choosing to reside in one location may run the risk of missing out on certain opportunities, but the ability to stay put is more important than upward mobility to some. “At the end of the day, if you’re good at your job and you deliver value, the opportunity to ‘stay put’ is always there.”

BHGE regularly surveys to ensure its employees are being paid competitively and has other common attractive employee benefits. “But it isn’t always just about money. Money is important, but we want people to want to come to work, and we try to create that kind of environment.”

Jon Rhodes, Area Manager Alaska Oilfield Services, Baker Hughes, a GE Company

BHGE, in turn, is looking to attract intelligent employees who exhibit the company’s culture and values. Qualities such as integrity, the ability to work in a team, care for the environment, and a desire to provide customers with quality products and services are all important qualities for prospective employees to possess. “We want people who are willing to think out of the box, people who don’t just come to work, punch a card, and go home at night,” Rhodes says. Investment in the company and its clients is a key value.

These employee qualities echo the company’s culture pillars:

  • We drive customers in everything we do.
  • We connect and invest in each other.
  • We lead in all ways.
  • We are inventors.
  • We collaborate without boundaries.

These pillars also inform BHGE’s high safety standards. “In Alaska we are very proud of our safety culture,” Rhodes says, adding that the company has been recognized by ConocoPhillips in Alaska for its safety record and culture, winning its Safety Excellence Award for 2017.

A significant part of BHGE’s safety policy is making every day a “Perfect HSE Day,” which Rhodes explains is a day in which there is no significant injury to any employee or to the environment. As of February 28, in Alaska BHGE Oilfield Services has achieved a record of a little more than two years without incident—789 Perfect HSE Days.

“We want every employee to get up in the morning, go to work, do their job, and go home at night safely: do no damage to the environment, no damage to themselves, and no damage to a fellow employee. That’s it, simple. That’s what we’re aiming for. We count them day by day so everybody stays focused on it every day,” Rhodes says.

Another fundamental aspect of the safety culture is the idea of Stop Work, whereby any employee who sees something unsafe is not only allowed to stop the work, but is expected to do so. “If I saw someone walk past something I thought was dangerous, there’d be a serious conversation as to why the employee didn’t say something.” He says Stop Work action is fully supported by BHGE, and, in Alaska, the oil companies also fully support every worker’s right and obligation to work safely. “When you’re talking about the oil and gas industry, there is a huge cost involved in stopping; every minute costs. But we want our employees to have the wherewithal and confidence that they will be supported when they highlight something unsafe and Stop Work for an unsafe activity, and we will support them 100 percent.”

Baker Hughes has a solid foundation in Alaska, operating in the state since 1980, but the company recently experienced a significant change. In July 2017, it completed a transaction that combined Baker Hughes with GE’s oil and gas business, creating BHGE. A July release stated, “The new company is the first and only to bring together industry-leading equipment, services, and digital solutions across the entire spectrum of oil and gas development.”

Rhodes explains GE is the majority shareholder—owning 62.5 percent of the new company—and the remainder of the shares are quoted on the stock market. In the July release, new BHGE President and CEO Lorenzo Simonelli said, “BHGE has proven technologies and experience with the spirit of a startup, and our leadership team looks forward to quickly demonstrating the strengths of the new company.”

In addition to the company’s excitement and optimism moving forward as a newly-combined organization, Rhodes says he is also cautiously optimistic about the oil and gas industry in Alaska and elsewhere. “Overall, I’m optimistic about the long-term outlook for the industry. We are seeing companies investing in Alaska, and they are investing in longer-term projects.”

Tasha Anderson is the Associate Editor for Alaska Business.

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