The Thai Oil Company PTTEP: Scandinavians are in high demand

The Thai Oil Company PTTEP is one of the largest corporations in Thailand – and they keep growing. But they can’t do it alone and are seeking expatriates to jump on the wagon.

By Rikke Bjerge Johansen
Photo: Disraporn Yatprom

The two Norwegians, Helge Ivar Sognnes and Svein Tore Opdal have a lot of things in common.
Not only have they both been working for the same oil company Statoil in Norway. They have also recently decided to move to Bangkok to work for the biggest Thai oil and gas company PTTEP.
It’s a part of PTT group and one of the largest corporations in Thailand. All over the world, more than two thousand employees are working for PTTEP. But only 137 of the company’s employees are expatriates – and only a handful from Scandinavia. And that’s something the Thai oil company is eager to change.
The Vice President for PTTEP, Luechai Wongsirasawad, explains:
“Today we are seeking expatriates from everywhere around the world to come and work for us. Of course Scandinavians are really wanted, because they have so much experience. Our company is only 22 years old but the last couple of years we have grown radically and are now in 14 different countries. We are growing so fast that we haven’t prepared ourselves for this development. It means that we’re a young company and a lot of our technical staff is under 30 years old. So we need some more experienced people from the outside. Not only to work for us but to transfer their knowledge and experience to our young staff, for example from big company like Statoil,” Luechai explains.

Easier to get influence
And experience is exactly what the two Norwegians have.
Helge Ivar Sognnes is 37 years old and have been working 13 years for oil companies in Norway as a geophysicist –the workers who use seismic technology to make subsurface maps to locate good places to drill. After some years working both in Norway and North Africa, Helge decided to move to Bangkok last year.
“On one of my business trips to Bangkok I met my girlfriend who is Thai. But I still worked in North Africa and it quickly became too much travelling going between Algeria, England Thailand and Norway,” Helge says.  
So he decided to quit his job with Statoil and join PTTEP instead, so he could stay in the oil business. Here, he has been working since August last year. And the shift has been pretty smooth and easy.
“The company is a lot smaller than Statoil, so I find it easier to get an overview here. It’s also easier to get influence and more responsibility. And on top of that, it’s a lovely country with very friendly people,” Helge says.
He works in a small group consisting of six people: Three Thais, one from Indonesia and one from Britain.
“It’s interesting to work with people with so different backgrounds and it gives good results,” he says.

Children with Thai roots
His Norwegian colleague, 45 years old Svein Tore Opdal, has just moved to Bangkok the 1st of February this year. He has been working for Statoil as a reservoir Engineer for the past 17 years, mostly in Norway with a couple of years in Venezuela. But like Helge, he recently decided to leave Statoil and join PTTEP.
“I met my Thai wife 15 years ago and we have two children together. They grew up in Norway and they only speak Norwegian. My wife and I have always wanted them to get to know Thailand and their Thai grandparents. So when I saw an advertisement for PTT in a Norwegian newspaper last year, I contacted them and got an offer I couldn’t refuse. So the decision wasn’t difficult,” Svein tells. 
And the move itself was a positive experience for the whole family.
“I must admit that PTTEP has done a lot. They have helped us with moving, to get an apartment and a school for the kids. It has been a lot easier compared to when we moved to Venezuela,” Svein remembers.
And it’s no coincidence.
The Vice President for PTTEP is aware that the oil business is booming and that people with experience, such as Svein and Helge, are wanted everywhere.
“We do a lot to attract outsiders to our company and it’s very important for us to provide our foreign employees with help so they feel welcome here and can concentrate on their jobs. Not only do we offer a competitive pay to attract them to work for us, but we also provide them with the help they need to get settled, so they don’t feel lost when they arrive to the country,” Luechai says and adds:
“We know how lucky we are to have these Scandinavian talents in the company and want them to keep coming.” 
A typical day for the two Norwegians is very identical to a day back in Norway. They usually start at eight in the morning and finish at five in the afternoon.
“But lunch is more of an event here. You have all these food stalls with all different choices,” Svein says with a smile.
And since the arrival, the Norwegians have both settled and are not missing anything from back home – apart from a few, good things.
“Sometimes I miss the cool, fresh breeze you get back home,” Helge says.
Svein agrees and adds:
“And some good Scandinavian bread. But that’s about it.”


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