A petroleum engineer's ecological dream

Isaías Justino was born in Brazil, studied in the USA and has now been invited to take the Galp and Heriot-Watt master's degree at the School of Sciences

Isaías Justino used to watch tourists arriving on the streets of Natal. This was the commerce that sustained the small coastal city in the state of Rio Grande do Norte. The sea provided another option: the oil rigs. “Due to a question of proximity, these were the two areas in which to get a job”, he tells Energiser, sitting on a wooden bench outside the University of Lisbon School of Sciences.

Isaías Justino is studying for a master's degree in Petroleum Engineering, and has been in Portugal for eight months. Now aged 32, he has had an unusual career so far: he began working as a petroleum technician on an oil rig at the age of 19, decided to take a course in engineering when he was 22, travelled to the USA, worked in human resources in Brazil, and is now in Lisbon. Confusing? He himself explains: “It's common to find people working in this area in Brazil. They normally have a more comfortable background and family situation. I knew that work in the petroleum sector was hard and very time-consuming, but something was spurring me on. I took a technical course to enable me to understand basic scientific concepts.”

The petroleum and natural gas technician course paved his way to a company in the sector. And while his studies provided him with the theoretical knowledge he needed, his experience on the rigs changed all his perspectives. “I worked in the fracturing and cementing of wells. Basically, we would prepare the mixture of a number of chemical elements on the surface, including cement, which would then be pumped into the well. This is what renders the piping to be installed sustainable and ensures that the following drilling stages are conducted in safety.”

The trips out to sea and the permanent contact with the ocean were what triggered his environmental awareness. “These boat trips make you realise just how much plastic there is in the ocean”, he states by way of example. This was what made him give up his job and take a degree in Petroleum Engineering. But always with one thing in mind: “My work would involve the quest for solutions geared to improving the environment associated with this industry.”


Isaías Justino recently took part in Innovathon, a technology marathon, on Carcavelos beach, an event which involved 120 students from different areas tasked with creating projects for the economy of the sea. A member of one of the Galp teams, his group's idea consisted of a self-sustainable aquaculture system with no human intervention, low maintenance costs and its own source of energy: the power of the waves.

“People here are more open-minded in relation to the issue of environmental awareness. When I finished the 5-year Petroleum Engineering course in Brazil, I was invited to take an 18-month internship at the American universities of Utah and Idaho. I had access to certain environmental issues that are not really discussed in Brazil, such as plastic in the oceans, widely debated in western countries, but which goes unnoticed in less developed countries, in addition to the question of sea life. It isn´t due to a lack of knowledge that these problems aren´t addressed, but due to the fact that Brazil has equally important issues that end up relegating environmental matters to second place.”