“When you look at where we are now with the fibre optic connection, we can FaceTime one another — which is pretty impressive considering Hibernia’s remote location.”

- Barb O’Rielly

Barb O’Rielly and Matt George had their first date on Valentine’s Day 2008 — they saw Rambo. In a scene when the film’s star expertly engineers a perfect propeller blade out of a piece of rebar with his bare hands, they both laughed, and, in that moment, knew they were made for each other. Fast forward to today and Barb and Matt are married and working on the same oil and gas project.

As a project engineering supervisor with the Hibernia project, Barb O’Rielly is fully involved in the day to day operations offshore, so she often knows what her husband, Matt George, a production maintenance mechanic on the Hibernia platform, is working on. 

“For the most part I understand what all of our daily operations are, and I get to see what he’s working on and have a conversation with him about it when he gets off shift… that keeps us connected probably more so than other couples because I get all the insider knowledge.”

Occasionally, Barb’s onshore role involved offshore travel to Hibernia and on those trips Barb and Matt would often meet for dinner in the galley between shifts.

“I always loved traveling offshore because you’re in the thick of things and you can see firsthand what’s going on out there. It’s a different lifestyle and a different pace than working in the office,” says Barb. 

The arrival of their son Jacob a couple years ago brought a new challenge for the couple – balancing their unique work life with family life. 

“It was a lot different before we had Jacob,” says Barb. “Matt would go away for three weeks at a time and on his time off, we traveled lots and had nice dinners and had time to ourselves. It’s a different dynamic when you have a family. I think that the things you miss are more palpable when you have a child growing up, and you are away for three weeks at a time. All that said, we’ve adapted and are in a great place as a family.”

Both Barb and Matt credit technological advancements for improving their ability to communicate, despite the distance between them when Matt is offshore. When Matt first began working offshore in 2011, he had to line up to take his turn on the satellite phone. Today’s fibre optic connections make communication a lot easier.

“When you look at where we are now with the fibre optic connection, we can FaceTime one another, which is pretty impressive considering Hibernia’s remote location. Luckily it has been around since we’ve had Jacob,” says Barb. “It’s certainly better than just getting a phone call, and I have the ability to call back if I miss his call, which we didn’t have before. It’s a lot easier to share pictures of Jacob because there’s enough bandwidth to get pictures and videos out there. It’s much better; it allows you to have a stronger connection while you’re away.” 

“Yeah, it’s been great,” says Matt. “When I’m off night shift, first thing in the morning, I’ll talk to Barb and Jacob. And if I’m on a day shift, I’ll usually talk to them before we go to bed. I still miss being with them in-person obviously, but it definitely makes life better out there.” 

Despite improved communications, there’s still an adjustment period every time Matt comes off a three-week turnaround. 

“He always needs a couple of days to decompress and I’m always in his face,” says Barb with a laugh. “I’m starved for adult company. I have us very over-scheduled with family activities the moment Matt is back onshore.”

“It’s definitely a challenge,” says Matt with a smile, adding though that it can be hard to come off night shift after three weeks and adjust to his family’s daytime routine. 

“I don’t know if there are any keys to success,” says Barb. “For me, the most organized I ever am is when Matt’s offshore, out of necessity.”

Both Matt and Barb are proud to be part of Newfoundland and Labrador offshore oil and gas sector, which allows them to stay in their hometown. They even see a career for their son in oil and gas in the future. 

“I’ve worked at Hibernia for a little over 11 years and in that time, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some really amazing things and with some really amazing people,” says Barb. “Both offshore on the facility and onshore in the office, the people are second to none.”

Contributor bio

Barb O’Rielly, Project Engineering Supervisor,
Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd. (HDMC).

HMDC operates the Hibernia project.

Contributor bio

Matt George, Offshore Mechanic,
Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd. (HDMC).

HMDC operates the Hibernia project.