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Key North Sea geologist to retire after 40 years of service

A geologist who became the UK North Sea industry’s first point of contact for offshore licensing matters is retiring after 40 years in the civil service.

Jen Brzozowska, head of exploration licence management at the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), will leave a void when she puts away her coloured pencils and paper for the last time.

Since 1979, anyone who has applied for or administered a production licence in the UK will have come into contact with Mrs Brzozowska.

She has earned a reputation for being an encyclopaedia of offshore licensing and regulating knowledge.

Mrs Brzozowska is also known for her fairness, combined with a steely resolve to make the most of the UK’s oil and gas resources.

Many exploration managers have gone directly to the highly-respected Mrs Brzozowska for sage and authoritative advice on navigating the complexities of the system.

Though not one to blow her own trumpet, Mrs Brzozowska will look back on her career with pride.

She knows she did important work.

She has implemented many UK licensing rounds, with various aspects of the system now copied by other oil provinces around the
world.

She has always been a keen advocate of stewardship of licences and has done her utmost to make sure work programmes were delivered.

She led the Fallow Initiative, which resulted in the discovery and production of resources that would otherwise have been stranded.

Mrs Brzozowska made it her business to ensure that operators carried out work programmes on the licences they were awarded.

It’s fair to say her job required a degree of diplomacy, but she always tried to help if she could.

If a company said it was going to drill a well to a certain depth, then that’s what she expected to happen, unless there were good reasons for not doing it.

“I chivvied people along and tried to get them to do things,” she said.

“I can think of one instance when a company was reluctant to drill a well, but I persuaded them and they made a discovery, so I count that as something I achieved.”

She has been credited with involvement in many of the big discoveries in the UK Continental Shelf over the years.

Her contribution was acknowledged through the award of an OBE in 2015 and a Petroleum Group Medal award last year.

She said: “Getting the OBE was out of this world. It’s difficult to get that.”

Mrs Brzozowska, who holds an MSc in micropalaeontology, worked for Robertson Research in Wales and British National Oil Corporation in Glasgow before entering public service.

She anticipated being at the UK Government’s energy department for a couple of years, but ended up being there for the best part of four decades.

Mrs Brzozowska ran the rule over licence applications for the southern North Sea, before moving on to the central North Sea.

She said: “I got so many opportunities to do things, not just in the UK. I got to travel quite a bit and see how other oil nations run licensing rounds.”

By staying with the civil service, she got to see so much more than would have been possible at an operator.

Mrs Brzozowska did have stints offshore while on secondment in the early 1990s, and remembers working a lot on the Hutton field development project east of Shetland, which used the first ever tension-leg platform.

Mrs Brzozowska is now looking forward to her retirement and won’t miss the daily commute to the OGA’s London base.

She has worked hard to transfer her wealth of knowledge to her colleagues at a well-resourced OGA.

But things definitely won’t be the same without Mrs Brzozowska.

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