One step ahead

Audrey Leon

November 1, 2016

Daniel Sack, of EMAS Chiyoda Subsea, has spent three decades in the oil and gas industry following and participating in the next big step changes in technology – one subsea project at a time. Audrey Leon found out more.

Daniel Sack

It’s not unusual to find an engineer who loves to travel. However, Daniel Sack, who took on the role of Chief Operating Officer at EMAS AMC (now EMAS Chiyoda Subsea [ECS]) in 2012, has definitely made a career of it. Sack was smitten with all the usual aspects of engineering: good pay and the ability to put theory into practice, but then, there was the travel bug.

His love affair with traveling the world led him to work for several industry leaders such as French oil major Total, Bouygues Offshore (now Saipem), Clough, Technip, and Schlumberger before settling in at ECS.

“In 1988, I went to Borneo to start my career as a reservoir engineer (with Total), but then rapidly evolved towards offshore facilities construction in West Africa and Southeast Asia (with Bouygues Offshore),” he says. While the subsea industry was evolving in the 1990s, he switched to installing conventional platforms and pipelines, and later moved to Australia in the mid-1990s, as subsea was starting to take off. He soon found himself in Houston.

“I was attracted to the sheer size and depth of the development in water depth multiple times the height of the Eiffel Tower and with a footprint on the seabed the size of Paris,” he says of the subsea field. “The scale of these projects was impressive and developing them was very challenging.”

Sack didn’t always think he’d be an engineer. “My earliest career aspirations were to be a truck driver or an architect,” he says. “You could say I was born with wanderlust. Truck drivers drove long distances from one end of Europe to the other and I always wanted to see the world.

“I was also drawn to structures, such as, bridges, buildings, infrastructure, and enjoyed building scale models of boats, airplanes, cars, etc.,” he adds. “The oil and gas industry has allowed me to fulfill most of my childhood dreams on a much larger scale than I could ever have imagined.”

Sack’s subsea journey continued at Schlumberger in 2006, where he helped lead the development of a deepwater subsea well intervention system and later developed the early production facility group. However, by 2012, ECS approached Sack with a new opportunity.

“This was a great opportunity to start-up and build a new company using the systems, assets, people and lessons learned from top tier contractors. It was very exciting to offer clients a reliable alternative to the very large and often bureaucratic contractors,” he says.

In terms of his attitudes toward technological developments, Sack says: “I’ve learned that it is important to anticipate needs and trends in the industry and listen to your clients. At ECS, we have invested in game-changing assets and technology, and we also work with our clients to help solve problems and save them time in the field.”

He proudly cites ECS’ first tieback job for Noble Energy in the Gulf of Mexico as a prime example. “We were able to execute three back-to-back tieback projects while setting a record for the highest tension ever recorded in the history of rigid reeled-lay operations,” Sack says.

What else is ECS eyeing in terms of technological developments? Sack says that this past year, the group participated in a joint engineering project with a super major to advance a proprietary free standing riser solution, which he says has cost and schedule advantages while improving risk and safety exposure over the life of the field.

“We anticipate further development in the area of subsea factories, advancement in thermoplastic composite pipes, high pressure, high temperature and corrosion resistant alloy pipes and enhanced welding and coating applications, just to name a few,” he says.

ECS has plenty of jobs, large and small, lined up so far, including a US$1.6 billion engineering, procurement, construction and installation project for the Hasbah field offshore Saudi Arabia in consortium with Larsen & Toubro, as well as a contract with Eni Ghana for the Offshore Cape Three Points development, slated to begin in early 2017.

“We are also working alongside our clients right now to find economic solutions for the next generation of ultra-deepwater developments,” Sack says. “Many of these developments are already beyond the edge of current technology or capability, and we take pride in finding solutions to these challenges that work for our clients.”