Prashanthini Sunderan is a Subsea Controls Engineer on the Shell Graduate Programme. She worked on the commissioning and start-up of the Gumusut-Kakap deep-water installation off the coast of Malaysia, the first of its kind for Shell in the country.
“I did not picture myself doing what I’m doing now while I was at university, but I guess it pays to keep an open mind about career opportunities after graduation as the sky is the limit. I studied for a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons.) and a Master of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, and I thought I’d stay in a research-based role. The roles I’ve done on the Shell Graduate Programme have entailed the detailed designing, commissioning and starting-up of subsea controls systems, all the while interfacing closely with various other disciplines.
There were a lot of exhibitions done by Shell Malaysia at my university, so that’s where I was first made aware of the Shell Graduate Programme and became drawn to the company. Shell has a very good reputation in Malaysia, being a Fortune 500 company, plus it has a global presence so I felt there would be international opportunities for me.
Real work from day one
I joined the Shell Graduate Programme in 2011, but since then my development has come on a long way by working on different projects. When I first joined Shell I spent most of my first two years working on Prelude FLNG. When it is complete it will be the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas project and will help to unlock new energy resources off the west coast of Australia.
I found I was doing real work and making a contribution straight away. No one is thrown in at the deep end, though. When you’re new you’re given guidance and you can ask for feedback if you need help. I also had a technical coach assigned to me.
Problem solving up to 1,200 metres deep
When I worked on Prelude FLNG it was on the early stages of the execute phase, so my deliverables revolved around designing the integrated subsea controls system and rigorous testing. On Gumusut-Kakap, Shell’s first deep-water project in Malaysia, the depth of the water is up to 1,200 metres. We got to the point where all the design and reviews had taken place, and the subsea controls system package had been installed offshore. In October 2014 it achieved first oil.
I spent my time on the platform performing commissioning and interface tests to ensure that my package was ready and communicating seamlessly with the centralised control system when the platform was started up. That’s what gets me really excited, there’s always something to solve.
Gumusut-Kakap is expected to produce the equivalent of 135,000 barrels of oil a day. It’s a really big deal for Malaysia.