Torgeir Olsen: The drill floor robots are coming!

Odfjell Well Services (OWS) is a leading international company with long history and rich experience, providing world-class petroleum services. This significant player in tubular running, rental and well intervention services, established in Europe and the Middle East, is expanding rapidly to all the other regions.
We talked to Torgeir Olsen, Country Manager and Business Development Manager – Iran and Special Projects, former Operation Manager and BD Eastern Europe, with Odfjell Well Services, about OWS pivotal facts and figures in 2016, the high priority projects for the future and the way to go from good to outstanding performance.

Mr Olsen, how did you pick the industry you choose to work in? What are the key data of your professional experience?

Torgeir Olsen: Actually, both my parents worked in the offshore oil industry in Norway since 1979, but I choose to learn to be a carpenter, with carpenter craftsmen certificate and specific education. The ‘80s was a very good period for business and I had already worked as foreman with a big company in Bergen, Norway by age of 21. In 1988, I was a year in the UN forces in Lebanon, and when I returned home, the crisis started and I wondered if I should begin an offshore career, but I still had a very good job as foreman carpenter.

In the ‘90s I decided to attend the offshore safety course, 14 days at that time, and I heard about a company which needed personnel. On Monday I went to their office and asked for any job, and on Wednesday I was on a helicopter on the way to a platform, as a scaffolder, and I never looked back! On my first trip, I saw the drill floor at that rig and, when I returned home, I took the Roughneck courses and the teacher recommended me to go to his drilling company and ask for a job. Next, I worked for that drilling company! Later, the personnel coordinator with this company took over as a HR manager with another company and he phoned me to make an offer to start work on the semi-submersible Polar Pioneer, so this was ‘my rig’ from ‘91 until I started with Odfjell at the end of ‘96. I understood that I did not want to work as a roughneck all my life and I attended the Drilling Technical School for engineer in ‘92 and concluded the courses in ‘95. There were long days, as I was still working offshore and I attended school when I was home and I also had to catch up the 14 days off school when I had been offshore!

I worked as roughneck, derrick man, assistant driller, driller, tool pusher, drilling engineer and in ‘snubbing and well control (live wells)’ as choke operator, BOP operator, jack-operator, supervisor and superintendent before I was asked in June 2005 to go to the Netherlands to set up our office and the branch for Odfjell Well Services (I was working for Odfjell corporate until that moment) together with two colleagues and friends. I worked as assistant Country Manager there and, since the end of 2006, I was Country Manager until the end 2008. I was called back to Norway to continue building up there, in charge with the development of equipment and tools and tender/contracts.
I visited Romania first time in the autumn of 2008 to look for possibilities regarding operations and since 2009 we actually started to provide several companies with downhole tools via our base in the Netherlands. In May/June we were working on the big tender for OMV Petrom and, at the beginning of July 2011, I was in Bucharest as a relief for my VP Europe at that time and I took over the country operations and have worked here since! I’ve been then Operation Manager for Eastern Europe with responsibility to win contracts and start build up the company. The rest is history with nearly 6 great years in Romania, learning what a great country it is, with its great people and now I’m married here with a great lady! I have now handed over the responsibility to my apprentice Alexandru Gomoescu (Operation Manager Romania), Romanian local, so he is continuing by doing a great job in Romania and in the region!

You spent more than ten years with Odfjell Well Services. What are the main areas of your responsibility within the company?

Torgeir Olsen: Actually, I have worked for Odfjell for over 20 years! Now, I’m actually Country Manager for a big country in the Middle East region, holding one of the world’s largest oil reserves. In addition, I am also taking care of the Business Development side and the Product Line Management for Tubular Running Service (TRS) and Casing while Drilling (CwD), so I call it ‘potato’ for the corporate Odfjell, by representing our fine company and all the fine personnel and the rigs/equipment we have. You always have to do ‘all in’ for the company which has been your great family for so many years!

As Business Development Manager for Eastern Europe you have an overview on the market development. What is Romania’s position in the region in regard to your business plan?

Torgeir Olsen: Romania is very important to us and also the main area for the whole Balkan region! As you know, Romania is the key area for the energy security in the region and Romania has turned from a large importer a few years back to self-sustaining last year and can now support the neighbouring countries with gas, etc. The great and skilled people of Romania benefits from these, we see this as a permanent opportunity where we hope to continue working with the companies in the region, building together from good to great.

Currently, progressive businesses take the high road toward a flexible and dynamic service model, where everyone and everything is connected. How do you manage to remain competitive in this very challenging environment?

Torgeir Olsen: Pricing is still one of the main focuses in the Balkan region, but this should not be the main driver since good cooperation and operating as one team are the key to success, to keep the total well cost down for oil & gas and to understand this region, as it now comes for majors in other regions.

As an example, I can tell you a one team story from the new Johan Sverdrup field in Norway 2015/2016 and the achievement we had there. This is a One Team strategy with Odfjell Drilling with the 6th generation in semi Deep Sea Atlantic (DSA), Odfjell Well Services, Baker (directional and fluids/cementing) and Statoil – we all sat down in the planning phase for the subsea wells. Odfjell is part to designing the drilling module for the fixed platform in phase two of this field. We were set up to beat the old-World Record for 17 ½” section from 108.4 meters Gross ROP. The new World Record set by DSA and One Team was achieved to 156.9 meter Gross ROP, the old record was beaten by 48.5 meters Gross ROP and a net ROP of 203.8 meters! The record has been beaten 2 more times by Odfjell and DSA after that and are now The Rushmore Benchmark for drilling 17 ½” section with semi-submersible! We are now about 200 days ahead the whole project and with this we have huge savings for the oil & gas companies! With this, Odfjell being a big contributor to these savings, Statoil’s numbers for 2016 are: 70% increase of meter per day, decrease of 40% time used per well and 30% less spend per well!

What strategies and tools do you recommend to move the performance from good to outstanding in your field of activity?

Torgeir Olsen: As mentioned above, I strongly believe the One Team approach is the future way of working with the Oil & Gas companies from the planning stage, the execution stage to final delivery, is the way to go from good to outstanding performance and this goes together with putting Safety First so again it goes together with people being conscious and focused on what they are doing and doing the right thing from the first time!

What are OWS’ pivotal facts and figures in 2016 and the high priority projects for the future?

Torgeir Olsen: 2016 was a tough year for most of the companies around the world and 2017 will also be a though year, if things don’t turn around as fast as we all wish!
The good thing for Odfjell is that we have a great corporate management who started to take the right decisions back in 2013 in order to prepare us for the future, which has turned us into a very strong company for the future and enabled us to focus on continuing to build the company as a preferred supplier of services. This is continuing to be the high priority for the future, with safety and personnel in focus!

Some people say the oil and gas industry has been slow to embrace new technologies. How do you fight this myth?

Torgeir Olsen: As we all know, oil industry has always been somehow conservative, but things are changing now, although it’s a little bit slow, the progress is going forward and we will see more changes ahead in order to be able to keep the well costs down and to keep the development costs per barrel lower than the sale price so that the industry is sustainable and registers growth in the future.

Last year, on the occasion of the 8th Annual SEE Upstream Conference, you introduced us to the world of robots for offshore oil drilling operations. You said the drill floor robots open a new path and change the game in the oil and gas industry. Which of the benefits these robots bring are the most important?

Torgeir Olsen: The main benefit of these robots is that they tremendously increase the rig floor safety and efficiency! The rig floor personnel can focus more on having the tools maintained and prepared while the robots take care of the operations in a hazardous area, in a consistent, highly effective level. There will be several deliveries of these systems/partly these systems in 2017 and it can be viewed here.


The robotic system

The drilling industry discusses more and more that digitalization will be the key factor to get exploration and production prices down to a level that can match the current oil price level. However, in order to introduce digitalization, the industry has to develop the right tools. Digitalization will be hard to obtain with the conventional semi-automated, hydraulic equipment mixed with numerous manual operations. At Robotic Drilling Systems (RDS), we believe that the right tools are precise and flexible, electric robots, which are easy to integrate.

When using the full robotic system from RDS on the drill floor, the robots perform the required work tasks in a fast, seamless, consistent and hands-free manner for improved efficiency and safety.


To boldly go where no one has gone before, where do you see the biggest opportunity for OWS in the years to come?

Torgeir Olsen: Odfjell Drilling and Odfjell Well Services as ‘One’ company have several focus areas around the World, but there are not many places ‘no one’ has been before! Maybe the robots to drill on Mars in the future? That is not a joke and can actually be done in the future to reveal more the history of the planet. The main thing, as stated before, is to perform the operations and introduce our rigs, the remote operated equipment, the robots and our excellent personnel to Oil & Gas companies around the world with the approach as ‘one team’ to achieve outstanding performances together.

As oil prices are starting to creep up, are we seeing the start of a recovery? What form this recovery could take?

Torgeir Olsen: One thing I can predict is that the oil industry and oil prices are unpredictable! With the changes around the world, as governments and situations change in some regions, it is very difficult to predict what is going to happen. I don’t think we will see any ‘Bonanza’ times again since that will not be sustainable for the future with changes in the ‘green’ technology and in the demand by type of energy in the coming decades.

What’s your management style? How do you motivate your team? Useful tips for beginners…

Torgeir Olsen: Show appreciation to your people and treat all of them the way you want to be treated yourself! Nobody can be great alone and this can only be achieved by working together as one team. Safety first is the most important issue in the mental build-up, as we all want to come home in one piece and this also makes us think about any consequences for what will be done and people take care of each other. With this approach, things will be done the correct way from the very first time and they will also take care of the customers in the same way.

As I always say: “As long as you are honest, you don’t need to remember what you are saying”.


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