Illinois I-mark

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

BP Ultimate Field Trip winners make memorable trip to Europe

From England to Norway to Scotland, three undergraduates in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois took part in a two-week field trip that focused on the BP operational hubs for North Sea oil and gas exploration and production as well as some sightseeing of those countries.

The trip was part of the prize for winning this year’s BP Ultimate Field Trip, which is BP’s flagship competition that asks teams of undergraduates to solve real world energy problems. Sophomores Nicholas Connolly and Michael Richards and senior Akash Moradia won that competition, beating out other finalist teams from MIT, University of California-Berkeley, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

(From left to right) Akash Moradia, Nicholas Connolly, and Michael Richards in a briefing room in the BP Norway office standing in front of a picture of BP's Valhall Oil field.
(From left to right) Akash Moradia, Nicholas Connolly, and Michael Richards in a briefing room in the BP Norway office standing in front of a picture of BP’s Valhall Oil field.

This year’s participants were asked to address the growing demand for energy by developing a single technical innovation, which has previously not been demonstrated, to significantly reduce the cost of MPG per capita in their country by 2030. The Illinois team came up with a modular fueling system called the “UniPump” that could be efficiently implemented across American retail gas stations.

In early July, Connolly, Richards, and Moradia joined the winning teams from the United Kingdom and Trinidad & Tobago for the field trip at the BP operational hubs for North Sea oil and gas exploration and production in Norway and the Shetland Islands, north of Scotland.

“The BP Ultimate Field Trip was simply amazing,” Moradia said. “Not only was it a great experience meeting all of the different teams, but it was a lot of fun becoming friends with them all, and enjoying the different sites we visited.”

During the first two days of the trip, the teams worked together in an Exploration and Production Executive (EPEX) Asset Management Course, something primarily given to upper level management with BP. The team worked together to simulate five years of running an oil company looking at investing in technology, health, safety, and the environment to bidding for licenses and producing oil.

“Through this course and dinner time discussions, all of the winners became very close friends,” Richards said.

The BP Ultimate Field Trip winners standing atop Preikestolen (Pulpit) Rock overlooking Lysefjord in Norway.
The BP Ultimate Field Trip winners standing atop Preikestolen (Pulpit) Rock overlooking Lysefjord in Norway.

The group then traveled to Stavanger, Norway where the main BP office in Norway is located. They toured BP’s main offices and learned about their offshore operations in the North Sea and Norway’s oil reserves. They also visited the Norwegian Petroleum Museum.

“Seeing BP’s North Sea operations was phenomenal,” Connolly said. “I have a much better understanding of upstream oil, from license bidding and seismic data to processing the oil and getting it onto a tanker.”

“We hiked up Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen), which is a famous 600 m high cliff overlooking Lysefjord, one of Norway’s most spectacular fjords and went kayaking in the sea,” Moradia said. “It was a great time where we were able to learn a lot, while having a good time seeing the city and countryside and becoming better friends with the other teams.”

They spent three days in the Shetland Islands, Scotland to visit the BP Sullom Voe oil terminal that processes about one million barrels per day of oil and gas from North Sea fields of various oil companies. The teams also toured where tankers drop off and receive oil from the terminal.

The BP winners wearing their Personal Protective Equipment standing by an onsite fire truck at the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal in Shetland, UK.
The BP winners wearing their Personal Protective Equipment standing by an onsite fire truck at the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal in Shetland, UK.

The last part of the trip was spent at BP’s Aberdeen, England office as well as dinner and visiting some London sites including Piccadilly Square and a ride on the London Eye.

Connolly says his favorite activity was hiking to Pulpit Rock. “Looking off of Pulpit Rock at the water below was something I will never forget,” he said. “I also got to take a quick swim in a small pool near the top of the fjord, which was icing on the cake.”

The Illinois team said they were honored to go on the BP field trip and enjoy an experience of a lifetime.

“I loved being able to interact so closely with employees from all over BP’s global operations and talk to them about their experiences and roles at BP,” Richards said. “This trip was also fantastic because we had the opportunity to tour global BP operations, something that not many people get to do.”

For more pictures from the team’s trip, visit the Chemical Engineering Facebook page.