Total at Work


Meet Arjan! He works as a geology advisor for Total Netherlands. He’s had a varied career at Total, and says that creativity, perseverance and imagination are vital for success.


“Nature is very complex, and we only have a tiny bit of information when we start mapping deep underground structures based on seismic data. This is followed by designing a petroleum system, in other words a combination of hydrocarbon generating subsurface layers, migration pathways, and a sedimentological model with a couple reservoir/cap rock proposition inside such model based on surrounding well data. It’s like solving a jigsaw puzzle - except you only have a quarter of the pieces available. You have to be able to imagine the part you don’t see!” Working with a team that includes geophysicists and reservoir engineers, Arjan looks for hydrocarbon deposits for future oil or gas wells. As well as an open-minded approach, Arjan says that perseverance is key to success in his role.


“Based on limited data, we have to imagine where the exploration target is. We know that digging a well is costly, so we need to convince senior management to approve the investment. We present our findings and defend our conclusions, which requires perseverance.” So, what part of the process does he enjoy most? “The final stage is really rewarding because it is the result of 2 to 5 years’ work. Over that time, the project moves from acquisition to interpretation, to mapping of the structure, then the exploration and finally the results!”


Perseverance is something that he has also demonstrated in his personal life. Following an accident, Arjan now uses a wheelchair, as well as adaptive technology at work to enable him to do his job. He says, “I’m lucky to be able to work, using only my head and my creativity. My experience has a great value within the team because I know the job well.” It’s clear that a supportive work environment is important too. “Solidarity is key. My colleagues are very cooperative and enthusiastic to help and have shown great kindness.” He adds that, “Someone with restrictions like mine should be prepared to work with managers that are very enthusiastic, but there will also be situations where you have to prove your value to the team.”  


As well as this important support from his co-workers, Arjan has also worked with Total management to make the necessary adaptations to his workplace. This included making the building more accessible, including changing the elevator buttons so that Arjan could reach them. He also uses specialist voice recognition software and an adapted computer mouse at his workstation.


Arjan took the opportunity to share his experience with colleagues at a recent Diversity Day and answered questions from colleagues about how he has adapted to continue as a valued member of the team.


How has Total helped Arjan achieve his career goals? Reflecting on his 23-year experience with the company, he says that, “When I started in 1994 I had no idea of the opportunities available in a group like Total. Here one can develop very diverse career paths within different disciplines. In my case, I started in an exploration team and after a couple of years moved into production geology. I switched to field development and then worked as a petroleum architect.” Moving between countries and embracing mobility as part of the job is important for anyone considering a career as geologist, in his view. “You need to be prepared to work internationally. That can mean moving your family abroad, and to a new field or subsidiary every 4 years”.


Finally, Arjan considers what areas of the industry in The Netherlands are most interesting at the moment, and besides the natural gas, he believes one of the future growth markets could be geothermal, a very sustainable energy.