North Sea oil and gas – an industry for the long term

Investment in the North Sea oil and gas industry continues to increase and this is particularly true for Maersk Oil. Martin Rune Pedersen, Managing Director of Maersk Oil UK, tells DNV GL Forum why this sector continues to be a stronghold for the Danish operator and how it has become even more attractive for new recruits since he joined the industry 16 years ago

Maersk Oil was founded in 1962, and over the past 50 years the international operator has focused on turning marginal and challenging fields into commercial success. With production of around 600,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and 3,900 staff, the firm has operations in Denmark, the UK, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Algeria. Exploration activity is ongoing in the UK, Angola, Norway, Gulf of Mexico and Greenland.

Martin Rune Pedersen joined Maersk in 1997 as a well site engineer and has risen through the ranks to become Managing Director of Maersk Oil North Sea UK. He joined the firm after graduating from university and spending time in the Danish army. During his career at Maersk, he has worked onshore and offshore in Qatar, Denmark and now Aberdeen.

“After completing my Master’s degree in engineering from Aalborg University, Denmark, I was attracted to work at Maersk Oil. It sounded extremely exciting to work offshore and I saw it as a bit of an adventure. It is a fascinating industry because we deal with hugely challenging areas and we are at the front line of technology.

“I draw on some of the challenges from my time in the military in my role. The army was advanced in the use of leadership techniques. There is always a need for people, whether soldiers or offshore workers, to understand the bigger picture and how their role helps achieve the overall objective. Clear communications and direction from leaders helps motivate people and get the best out of them.

“Oil companies have the purpose of providing energy to ensure the world can thrive. They need to ensure that we all have energy available to us and that it is provided in a sustainable manner. The future of the industry relies on new blood coming in and the sector is more attractive than ever – from a Maersk Oil point of view, we are enthused by some of the incredible talent that we see joining us and it is vital to our business that we see this trend continuing.

“At present, there is a drive throughout the industry to highlight the opportunities that are available to young people and to show them the fantastic prospects and that they can easily have a long-lasting and successful career. At Maersk Oil, we regard engaging with schools and investing in the next generation of oil and gas professionals as a priority.

“This is not an industry in decline as some may think. One only needs to look at the investment we are putting into our projects in the North Sea and globally, and those of other oil and gas companies, to see the longterm aspect of this challenging but rewarding sector.”

Challenges in a harsh environment

Heading up a major oil company has its challenges and the UK market has its own unique quirks. Maersk Oil is a full exploration and production company that employs some 4,000 people around the world.

“I think Maersk Oil is a good size in both the UK and globally. We are not so big that we don’t know our colleagues, but we are big enough to play with all the exciting toys.

“During my tenure here in Aberdeen, the biggest challenge for us as a team has been the Gryphon FPSO incident. However, what we were able to take away from this was that our initial processes and procedures worked as they were supposed to; no one was hurt and the subsea clusters were shut in effectively. The journey was one where we faced challenges and learnt something new every day, both internally from each other and from our contractors, which in turn has given us a good grounding for the future.

“The main aim in the immediate aftermath of this unwelcome event was the safe reinstatement of the facility. However, we also used this as an opportunity to undertake life-extension work on the wider Gryphon area, which is an important asset for our North Sea business and for Maersk Oil globally.

“There were a number of challenges in implementing a project of this scale at short notice. Without the usual extensive planning time, we were running various parts of the project in tandem. Our staff, partners and contractors played a vital role in making that possible. DNV GL was a key partner in the Gryphon area redevelopment project and has had a productive relationship with our staff at all levels, from the construction yard workers to management. Working in this way was vital to the success of the project.”

Soon after the incident, a DNV GL team of offshore experts provided engineering advice to temporarily reconnect the FPSO, recover the original moorings, and tow the vessel to Rotterdam. Once docked, the DNV GL team assisted with commissioning Gryphon’s marine systems and transporting new moorings.

During the redevelopment phase, DNV GL provided classification and verification services for the Gryphon project, ensuring compliance with UK offshore safety regulations and supporting asset reliability for its remaining lifetime.

When returning the vessel to operations, DNV GL engineered and superintended the mooring pre-lay and hook-up operations, and provided towmasters and marine representatives for the return towage and sea trials.

“Gryphon is now back on stream, having had a safe start-up. Safety is core to our operations and staying on top of that is a priority. Our organisation is focused on this aim and we have a strong safety culture. That said, it takes relentless effort and a clear sense of vulnerability to successfully continue our safety journey.”

Fulfilling ambitions

“I look forward to getting to work in the morning and I want everyone in the company to feel that way. I find it fulfilling in my role to see the team coming together to deliver on our project ambitions.

“It’s important to us to realise our investments in the North Sea and take those projects to fruition, as is having a culture so that we can take on the challenges we face in the industry in a positive way. Our safety mindset, in particular, has matured and the safety leadership throughout the team is very encouraging.

“I like to be challenged as well, and encourage everyone in the business to do so with me – I am a firm believer in the mantra of ‘two heads are better than one’. That is the way to improve, by challenging your perceptions. As an industry, we need to do this and I think DNV GL has certainly helped us see things that otherwise may have been overlooked. It’s all about partnership in our industry and that’s why we have a good working relationship with DNV GL.

“With its overview of the industry through its engagement with operators and duty holders, DNV GL is in a unique position and is part of the driving force moving the agenda in many areas. We need to engage and challenge each other to ensureimprovements across the sector.”

Gryphon FPSO