Jonathan Foster: what’s your story?


In the first of our series of “What’s your story?” posts, we heard from Lee Petts, Chief Executive of the OESG.  In this post, you can get to know founder member Jonathan Foster.


Q. What does your company do?

Petroleum Safety Services Limited (PSSL) specialises in the planning of petroleum exploration and production operation onshore UK, including safety and environmental management systems, land acquisition, planning applications, environmental permit applications, wellsite design and wellsite construction supervision. Employing a team of highly skilled and qualified personnel, PSSL delivers a competent and comprehensive service to its clients, ensuring they meet and exceed regulatory compliance.


Q. How long have you been working with the onshore oil and gas industry?

I established PSSL in 2006, having previously worked for a number of oil and gas exploration companies.


Q. How did you start?

I started at the bottom, as a labourer on seismic drilling rigs overseas. When oil exploration was being undertaken in the eighties in North Yorkshire a number of men from my village were offered employment and they never looked back. Likewise, when the opportunity arose, I too took it. I worked my way through the various roles, gaining a reputation for hard work, reliability and accountability. I progressed into management, working initially for geophysical survey companies then working for oil companies planning deep borehole drilling operations. I went on to establish PSSL in 2006.


Q. What do you enjoy most about your work?

Proving people wrong.

The petroleum industry is perceived to be a dirty and dangerous industry that is only interested in profit. This perception leads to much opposition when it comes to planning applications for exploratory drilling. Whilst we work hard to allay people’s concerns from the outset, until they physically experience it first hand, it is difficult for them to appreciate how un-intrusive drilling operations can be.

For example, I was planning an operation in the north of England early in the 2000s, which had much opposition and media coverage. Planning permission was granted and we went about building the wellsite. As the site took shape the locals commented on how well the site was constructed. When we drilled the well the locals commented on how quiet the rig was. Unfortunately, the well was not successful in encountering petroleum and the site was restored. Prior to restoration, I had a conversation with the main objector to the drilling operation. He said “had I known then, what I know now I would not have made such a fuss about it”. That’s when I know that I and my company have done our job right.


Q. What motivates you?

Respect. Not money. Granted we need to make a profit so we can reinvest in our people and their continued development but ultimately it is respect that drives me. Firstly, respect from our clients as we demonstrate we can deliver a competent service. Secondly, respect from the Regulators as we demonstrate we can operate within regulation and thirdly, most importantly, respect from our stakeholders who live and work alongside our operations. They are unlikely to see the effort we put in to ensure the operations are carried out without incident or significant impact.


Q. How do you see the future of onshore oil and gas developing?

I see future of the onshore oil and gas industry developing at a slow pace initially. We are still some way off returning to the level of activity we have previously seen in the seventies and early eighties.  That said, once the industry can demonstrate that extraction of gas from shale can be carried out without pollution or damage to the environment, and that developments are not as harmful as some opposition groups and commentators would have us believe, the industry should pick up pace. Only then will we and the rest of the UK have an understanding of the likely economic impact shale gas may have on the UK economy.