Women in Engineering – Dawn Morley

Here is the latest, and penultimate post, in our series of stories of females engineers. We have Dawn Morley a chemist and engineer who has spent years working in the oil and gas industry back in our very own Scotland!


My name is Dawn Morley.  I work in the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen as a production chemist.  This was not my plan when I left school as I originally wanted to be a vet (although some might say I still work with monkeys!).  Unfortunately I was not clever enough to get the grades for this but having taken 3 sciences then it was natural to move into a scientific role.  I left school and did an HNC in General Science at Aberdeen College and got my first job at the Macaulay Institute (now called the James Hutton Institute) as a Research Assistant working in the analytical laboratory. While working at the Macaulay, they put me through my BSc in Applied Chemistry as a day release student at Robert Gordon Uni.  I loved this job however after 6.5 years I got bored a needed a new challenge!  I decided I wanted to be involved in the oil industry as it sounded exciting and varied (and also paid a lot more!).  So I got a job with a small independent chemical company as a well engineer.  This involved writing chemical clean-up programmes for new oil wells and then travelling offshore to carry out the work.  I gained many new skills and most importantly offshore experience which stood me in a good stead for my next job.  After 2.5 years (I got itchy feet again!) I got my next job with my current employers, Nalco Champion.  I was part of the analytical laboratory team which analysed samples of oil and produced water from offshore platforms and recommended chemical treatments for the customers.  I also had frequent offshore trips doing various jobs until eventually I became a part-time offshore chemist on the Chevron Captain platform.  The 2 full-time chemists worked a 2-on 3-off rota which left 1 spare week and the spare week was the week I did!  I loved this and it gave me so much knowledge into how offshore systems work and trouble shooting various process problems and offshore chemist activities.  I did this for one year and during my 4 weeks onshore I was based in the Chevron office in a customer facing role.
I have now worked for Nalco Champion for 13 years and have had customer facing roles for many of the big operators in the oil industry – Chevron, Britannia, ConocoPhillips, Shell and ExxonMobil.  I also did an expat role in Stavanger for 2 years which was a great experience and again I learned a lot which helped me when I came back to the UK (and gained me a promotion!).  My company supply production chemicals to treat oil, water and gas on the platforms.  These chemicals include corrosion inhibitors, biocides, scale inhibitors, H2S scavengers and demulsifiers (used to separate oil and water).  My role involves ensuring that the chemicals being injected offshore are being injected at the correct rate and will advise if they should be turned up or down depending on how the process is affected.
I am currently working in the BP office as a production chemist for the Magnus platform.  I start work about 6.30am each day and firstly catch up on emails from offshore.  At 8am we have a video conference call with the platform to check-in with them and find out how things went overnight and if they have any issues they need our help with.  There is an offshore chemist who I regularly liaise with on a daily basis and discuss any sample analysis they have done and chemical treatments to make sure everything is optimised.  They will take samples for me if required and analyse them or send them onshore for analysis so we can see what is causing any problems if any.  I may also need to plan chemical trials to find better performing chemicals or start injecting a new one.  I still have to travel offshore about 3 -4 times a year.  Usually this is just a management visit to do audits however sometimes I am involved in chemical optimisation trials or lab tests.  I also have regular contact with our manufacturing yard so ensure the chemicals which the platform have ordered are delivered on time to avoid any platform shutdowns.
My job is very varied and you never know what might happen from day to day!  It’s always busy and there are frequently new challenges (sometimes good and sometimes bad!) to get my teeth into!  It can be stressful as quite often customers want something “yesterday” and of course as everyone knows the customer is always right so everything must be dropped to deliver what they have asked for!  However as with any job there are good days and bad days but the good definitely outweigh the bad!

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