Collaboration, Bach and subsea processing

Elaine Maslin

September 1, 2016

Elaine Maslin profiles Statoil’s project manager technology development and UTC conference moderator Simon Davies.

Simon Davies. Photo from Statoil. 

Over the past three years, Simon Davies has been the genial and reflective moderator of the annual Underwater Technology Conference in Bergen leading us through from the agonies of the end of a sustained period of growth and cost escalations through to today’s focus on lean.

He’s also part of a Norwegian choir, singing the music of J.S. Bach in Norway and overseas (earlier this year they performed in Vilnius, Lithuania).

But, he’s also known for his time at Kvaerner and Statoil, where, at the latter, one of his achievements was to help initiate the process to unlock a tranche of marginal fields through the creation of Statoil’s successful Fast-Track subsea tieback program.

Fast-Track cut the normal development time for small subsea tiebacks in half from about five years to just 2.5, using simplified standardized equipment. Some 11 fields were targeted, containing around 700 MMboe, with 10 of those already in production, and the last field expected to come on stream in Q3 2016.

Davies wasn’t at Statoil long before he was thrown in the deep end with this project in late 2009. “I was someone new in the organization and didn’t know how things were being done and it meant I was able to bring in new thinking and challenge the team members selected to develop the Fast-Track principles,” he says. The key was a group of marginal discoveries that were not meeting investment hurdles on their own – as a portfolio, Davies says. “If you could treat them as a portfolio of standardized subsea tieback solutions, you could reduce the time it took to develop them and reduce the cost as well.”

It was an aggressive program. Even the process to formulate this idea was quick– just six weeks working day and night.

Subsea processing technologies, collaboration, networking and bringing people together, but always with a commercial eye, have been themes throughout Davies’ career – and maybe not quite the outcome he would have had if he’d taken his initial career choice as a weapons engineer in the Royal Navy.

Davies was born in Gibraltar and brought up in Malta in a military family: his father was in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. After being steered away from a career in the forces, he went for a degree in chemical engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

Heriot-Watt is well-connected within the industry and had an Institute of Offshore Engineering, where Davies first worked upon graduation. This job resulted in numerous connections with the Norwegian industry, but also in Davies helping to set up a water treatment and test facility for Conoco next to Occidental’s Flotta terminal, Orkney. Water treatment was a hot topic at the time, so the project also spawned various joint industry projects.

The job saw Davies living in Kirkwall, on the Orkney mainland and commuting to work by boat.

But, in 1993, after meeting his future wife, a Norwegian, he moved to Norway, and not long after, he joined Kvaerner Process Systems Group, overseeing technology development. “I was very lucky there,” he says. “When Aker Solutions and Kvaerner converged, I ended up coordinating technology across those two.” When Davies joined Kvaerner, the seeds of subsea separation and boosting were being sewn. It was an early contact with subsea processing that has kept Davies interested in the field ever since.

At Aker Kvaerner, Davies helped connect the dots, running the technology network within the organization, looking after license agreements, lifting the focus on IP and trademarks.

The next stop was Norsk Hydro, joining a research center in Porsgrunn, Norway, looking at a range of technologies, culminating in manager for Arctic technologies. However, when Hydro merged with Statoil, the Arctic team was split-up and Davies moved to Shell Technology in Oslo.

But, it wasn’t long before Davies was back at Statoil, joining in 2009 as a project leader in the subsea and marine technology organization. He currently works as a project manager in the technology efficiency organization.

For Davies, it’s all about new ideas and working with others. “Technology is about collaboration. Much of our focus at the moment is to use technologies that help us save time and money in Statoil, but it is also important for the suppliers that we work with to have their investment turned into income.”

Technology development and implementation can take time. “We have to stay focused on technology development, but we also have to work on the business case for it,” Davies says. “A good business case means that it is worth managing the risk of deploying something different that hasn’t been tried before.”