From fjords to FPSOs

OE Staff

September 1, 2014

Stein Rasmussen, SBM Offshore’s new managing director of the Houston execution center, says he had a natural affinity with water since he was a child growing up in Norway. It’s fitting since he has spent his entire career working with floaters at companies such as Technip, Aker Solutions, and Keppel.

His career path was “a natural progression,” Rasmussen says. His father was an engineer, and he followed in his footsteps. Rasmussen pursued a degree in marine technology and then set off to America to work on a master’s degree in ocean engineering at Texas A&M University.

“The option for me was to go to Trondheim or to go abroad (to major in ocean engineering),” Rasmussen says. “I have always been a bit adventurous. If I was going to leave my home town, I might as well go far away to get more exposure and experience for something new.” Once Rasmussen graduated, he went overseas to work for Keppel where he was able to see firsthand how FPSOs are developed from the ground-up.

“It was a very eye-opening experience,” Rasmussen says. “It always helps when you’re going to use, or buy a product, to understand how it was built.

“The biggest lesson, for me, was the aspect of constructability. Engineers will always engineer the best they can, but that may not always be the most cost-efficient or fit-for-purpose,” he says. “In the yard sometimes when you see the final drawings, it’s impossible to build it.”

At Aker Solutions, Rasmussen worked primarily with semisubmersibles. It was here that he saw the significance of strategy. “It’s important to set a clear path and have it endorsed within your company,” he says. “We (SBM Offshore) are working very hard to be a bit more strategic in how we operate.”

And Rasmussen believes strategy will help continue SBM Offshore’s growth of the last few years. “One thing that has changed with SBM Offshore is that our products have grown in complexity, but also in capital value,” he says. “We have to be very good at what we do, to be successful. A small mistake on a small project is very different from five years ago than a small mistake on a much bigger project today.”

Several aspects attracted Rasmussen to SBM Offshore including the company’s commitment to technology development, as well as its wide product offering including semisubmersibles, TLPs, and FPSOs, which he says allows SBM Offshore to span a broad spectrum of the market. However, SBM Offshore is a natural fit because it’s a return to working with FPSOs. “I’ve always been fascinated with FPSOs,” he says. “That’s where I started my career and that was a good match for me.”

Rasmussen does see a demand for FPSOs in the Gulf of Mexico. “As you go deeper and deeper, you go farther away from pipeline infrastructure, and an FPSO is a natural transition,” he says. “Combining that with the challenge of the reservoir, you will need more power, more topside capacity, and then these other floater types become so big that the FPSO can be more attractive when compared with a semi.”

Currently, SBM Offshore is designing and building the deepest disconnectable FPSO, Turritella, in the world for Shell’s Stones project in the Walker Ridge area of the Gulf of Mexico. And Rasmussen says the company is focused on developing technology that will unlock potential in the Paleogene and Lower Tertiary plays. Having already won an award at this year’s Offshore Technology Conference for the Very High Pressure Fluid Swivel.

In addition to technology, Rasmussen says he’s a big believer in developing the right company culture. And in his role at SBM, he says the company must focus not only on the “Safety” in Health, Safety, and the Environment, but also Health. “A healthy employee is a happy employee, is a more efficient employee,” he says, noting that SBM provides employees with access to gym facilities and health screenings.

When reflecting on his career learnings, Rasmussen says in addition to have a focused leadership style, transparency is also important. “Open communication, and providing information is key,” he says. “The more you leave people to speculate, the more confusion you create. I want people to be clear about what we’re trying to achieve, and how we are going to do it.”

Image of Rasmussen