The drive to improve

OE Staff

August 1, 2016

Brazilian native Luis Araujo became CEO of Aker Solutions in 2014, after joining the business in 2011. He has a BEng in mechanical engineering and an MBA. We asked him about his career and outlook on the industry.

Luis Araujo Photo from Aker Solutions.

What attracted you to a career in the oil and gas sector?

I’ve always been curious about new technologies. When I began my career as a mechanical engineer, Brazil was at the forefront of deepwater exploration and just starting to build an industry. This provided huge opportunities for someone with the right background and ambition. The deepwater record was just above 300m. There was a lot to explore and I knew I could have an exciting technical career. Also, the industry is multicultural and I wanted to be part of that.

What did you aspire to do when you were younger?

I’ve been an athlete most of my life, playing water polo at quite a high level. I enjoy the challenge of competing and the drive to improve. I found the oil industry stimulating because it had the same push to excel and it also let me be part of a team.

Was there a key turning point in your life that changed your course in a different direction?

I had progressed from offshore work to engineering subsea design. I had been part of pushing technical boundaries with some patents to my name. But, I wanted to learn more – to understand the whole – so I took an MBA in Scotland in parallel to my job as an engineering manager. That was a turning point. I took on more commercial roles, learnt more about project management and eventually decided that I wanted to run companies.

The market has changed dramatically since you took over as CEO. What’s been your response and how do you see this developing further?

There are tough choices to be made, but also opportunities, in the current environment. We’re now able to make changes that our customers simply weren’t ready for two years ago. These include changes in how we approach both field and technology developments. There is a huge push to cut costs and find more effective ways of working. At Aker Solutions we’ve reduced costs for some developments by as much as 50%. But, we need to do even more as an industry to improve and implement changes so that we can see standardization on a broader scale and move toward needed industrialization. This means making a major change in how we work together. Aker Solutions has formed partnerships with peers, such as ABB, Baker Hughes, MAN Diesel and Saipem, where our capabilities complement each other in key areas. Together we’re generating ideas and solutions that we couldn’t have done individually. We’re also finding more collaborative ways to work with clients.

You have a lot of experience in the subsea business – at Wellstream, GE, ABB and FMC. What moves does the wider industry need to make to thrive in the volatile price world?

I’ve mentioned the need for greater collaboration. But, collaboration won’t mean much unless it leads to innovation and technological progress that drives our industry forward. As an example, our alliance with MAN Diesel is building on the technology developed for the world’s first subsea compression system. We’re developing slimmer, more cost-efficient systems that can be used at even the smallest subsea fields. Our calculations show that we can reduce the size and weight of these systems by as much as 50% without changing their core functionality.

Innovation needs to address the market challenges. But, we also need to be on guard and ensure that the current focus on cash flow doesn’t stifle the industry. If we stop investing in new solutions, processes and technologies it will become much harder to win the improvements needed.

What exciting technologies or trends is Aker Solutions keeping an eye on?

We’re increasing our efforts in digitalization across the company by enhancing our process efficiency using knowledge-based engineering tools. Smart and connected products are being developed that will enable new service offerings for life-of-field performance management and technologies are developed that enable automated and remote operations.

We’re also seeing growing interest in our carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. CCS needs to be part of the toolbox to reach global emissions reduction targets and our technology is qualified for cement plants, coal and gas-fired power stations and now recently, for the first time anywhere, waste-to-energy production.