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Interview

J.F. Doddema – Managing Director, Seal for Life – Netherlands

07.05.2015 / Energyboardroom

Frits Doddema, global general manager & managing director of Seal for Life, discusses how the company is moving from equipment provider to being a larger service provider through coatings that can communicate. He details how Seal for Life’s coatings provide a guarantee for the life of a pipeline – in other words they are effective and (cost) effective in the long term.

Please introduce Seal for Life to our readers and explain its association with Berry Plastics?

Seal for Life is a corrosion prevention and control specialist with five core divisions – Anodeflex Cathodic protection technology, STOPAQ Self-Healing corrosion prevention and sealant technology, Polyken Tape technology, Covalence Heat Shrinkable technology, and Powercrete Liquid Coating technology – that stands as a subsidiary company within Berry Plastics. We produce 12 million meters2 of coating every year with a staff of 330 and six plants worldwide in the Netherlands, the United States, Mexico, Belgium, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Our heritage in the Netherlands arises from STOPAQ, which has its origins in 1970s in the domain of sealing technology and was formally created in 1988 as an anti-corrosion technology leader. The coupling of STOPAQ with Berry Plastics in 2012 has allowed us the opportunity to diversify our portfolio of services and products, grow through innovation, and gain necessary clientele in different market segments ranging from onshore pipelines to domestic bathrooms. Three years down the line, we have an exciting and fruitful relationship with Berry Plastics and an innovative corrosion specialist group that remains grounded to its Dutch roots of hard work, engineering and innovation.

Furthermore, the concept of ownership in the company has been a very important addition since STOPAQ’s acquisition by Berry Plastics. Seal for Life stands for doing more with less. Ownership of a problem is important to drive change in order to contribute to a safer and healthier coating world for our clients.

What strategic importance does the Netherlands office hold for the company’s global activities?

The company was started in the Netherlands and, although we have joined forces with Berry Plastics in the United States, I still like to approach our business strategy through the Dutch perspective. We are a company that believes in its origins, and we seek to maintain a professional relationship by leveraging the organization via Berry Plastic’s global contacts and strategy, but keeping in-tune with our vision of doing it right, doing it once by doing more with as less, as long it is SEAL FOR LIFE. Seal for Life is also geographically located near the North Sea and in Europe, where we have the ability to integrate ourselves to local innovation via subsea coating services and windmill maintenance services.

Seal for Life services a wide variety of industries including oil and gas, mining, wind, and petrochemical. What is the importance of the oil and gas industry to the Group?

Oil and gas represents the largest part of our portfolio, although the profits derived from the wider energy sector have increased more recently thanks to projects involving offshore wind farms. Seal for Life also prides itself on its ability to take on new areas also involving, but not limited to, underwater, infrastructure of utility companies, and geothermal projects. We cover both onshore for facilities such as refineries, as well as offshore installations and continue to develop sealing and corrosion prevention products, thanks to our ability to innovate and create around the globe. Our different sites give us the capacity to design and create new products that continue to meet the ever-evolving needs of our clients in various regions of the world.

Seal for Life offers a variety of proprietary technologies including Anodeflex, Covalence, and Polyken. What sets Seal for Life apart from the competition?

Seal for Life is morphing from a manufacturer into a one-place-meets all service company with our Dare to Care total package. We aim to cater to the needs of our clients by installing the products for our clients in a timely manner and maintaining these products throughout an asset’s lifecycle. Within our market segment, Seal for Life offers the broadest range of products and a holistic view with a total package and a fit for purpose application.

Our goal is for there to be no bottlenecks in the process arising from the coating process. Although coating only accounts for a small portion of the project’s total time and cost, any amount of unnecessary time spent in the coating stage represents a substantial amount of money. To this end, we have invested in training our staff to effectively coat. One of our key strengths is thus derived from our unique combination of innovation and time effectiveness.

Furthermore, our STOPAQ products are eco-friendly and have a longer lifetime than most of our competitors. We can guarantee our coatings for the life of a pipeline. In other words, what we put on does the job and does it safely; we have never had a product installed that was faulty or failed to effectively meet the demands of our clients. To give one very clear example of our effectiveness, our coating has been used by Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia since 2002. For all the pipelines we have rehabilitated, there have thus far been no case of failure. From our point of view, preventing corrosion helps to prevent disasters.

We also work closely with asset owners to ensure that our products meet their specifications, and when our tech experts install an anti-corrosion seal or coat to ensure a pipe’s durability, we aim to study and meet the needs of our clients by physically visiting the site first and studying the weather patterns. For example, the materials we use in Saudi Arabia are not any different from what we use in the North Sea. Both regions have drastically different weather conditions and by ensuring that we tailor serve our clients’ needs we create solutions which last in every environment ranging from -45 to operating temperatures of +95 degrees Celsius.

Finally, we collaborate with industry players locally to better serve our clients, including Falck Safety Services in terms of supervision, Boskalis for divers, and DNV GL for education.

Overall, our products are effective as a total barrier and proven in the long term. Indeed, for rejuvenation projects of oil and gas assets onshore, our products have proven themselves to be 42% cheaper than blasting and painting. This saving is initial. Considering a recoat window of 5 years, the savings are 60%. SFL offers safe, easy and energy-efficient solutions providing initial operational cost savings and cost avoidance.

How is Seal for Life diversifying globally and what geographies are you targeting? 

Seal for Life has seen immense growth within recent years and decided to set up offices overseas as our clients locally wanted our products and quickly. We thus now have a geographic presence in the United States, Seoul, Buenos Aires, New Dehli, Westerlo, Belgium, Dammam, Saudi Arabia, New Dehli and Baroda, India and, more recently, KL, Malaysia and Beijing, China. What we see is a growing market in Asia, and we hope to be able to capitalize on various markets by promoting ourselves as a responsible and efficient organization.

In parallel, there is an expanding need for tailor-made services. For example, in the Middle East, the soil conditions of an operating pipeline is much more aggressive because of subkha saline environment and sulphur content of the soil versus milder, and dryer climates. Hence, being effective by studying our clients’ requirements is helping us expand globally.

What emphasis does Seal for Life place on research and development? How do you encourage the innovation needed to move the business forward?

In Dutch, research translates to “search again.” Onderzoek is the Dutch Word, which for me has a more expansive view of what research actually means. As managing director, I aim to gain a better understanding of the industry needs by collaborating with local and international players and universities to learn and innovate beyond the basic requirements. It is essential to remain involved with young talent by offering courses and sponsoring events at universities, such as the University of Leon in Mexico and the University of Zagreb in Croatia. This allows us to work with local talent working and studying corrosion and potentially recruit young   up-and-coming individuals.

Seal for Life’s mission relies heavily on sustainability, as “long-term viability and success can only be founded on the sustainable production and offering of environmentally friendly sealing and anti-corrosion solutions.” What strategic actions is Seal for Life taking to ensure sustainable projects?

Seal for Life has become involved in a variety of projects worldwide located in habitats that need to be protected. This is something we take very seriously because we want to ensure that the projects we become affiliated with are safe for people and the environment. Safer business practices in the oil and gas industry can lead to less accidents and less oil spills. We are committed to assuring that all the projects we take on are studied by our technical experts and completed in a manner that is well suited to the environment. Seal for Life believes it is our duty and contribution to ensure the longevity of our work in order to ensure greener practices. This also creates added value for all our clients who believe in promoting environmentally conscious and sustainable business practices.

Your Seal for Life Industries Experience Center welcomes many visitors, including business partners, students, and governmental authorities. How does this Center help your positioning in the local community?

The Seal for Life Industries Experience Center is a one of a kind venue where individuals can learn about what we do. It is a unique total experience including training and outdoor testing facilities. This not only helps promote interest for the next generation of scientists, technology experts, and creators of innovation, but also ties into our goal to remain cooperative and innovative via the inclusion of communities. Furthermore, our vision states “safe and easy-to-apply applications are inherent in our products, reflecting our belief that it should be safe for anyone to apply them.” Having a center where business partners, students and governmental authorities visit and visually feel and see the good work we are producing allows us to engage with local players and promote sustainable awareness of anti-corrosion products. Finally, we are part of the Energy Valley initiative to stimulate Northern Holland as an energy and export hub, and we believe the Experience Center can play a key role in informing the public of this process.

What major trends do you see as most impacting the corrosion prevention industry?

The corrosion industry is of two minds. In the US, the cathodic protection lobby is very strong and constantly pushes for new legislation in their favour. The legislation they are looking to implement will make the industry overly complicated. Whereas more often in Europe and here at Seal for Life, we favour using a truly effective and protective barrier such as a coating with cathodic protection as a second line of defence—a just in case backup. In this sense, we favour stopping corrosion rather than simply controlling corrosion.

What is your ambition for Seal for Life in the next five years?

I want to make the company more communicative via Information Technology and visible about our offering and our contribution to the lifetime of safety for assets. As of now, many of our pipelines are underground, and we act more as an invisible contribution to the sustainable world. We offer a great coating for the next generation, and we want to spread this message and make our products more visible. This means offering our services to a wider variety of industries from aquatic pipelines to windmills to insulation and even household use. This also means evolving in terms of digitalization. We are now on the path to developing coatings that can communicate to users when a problem has arisen, and for further quality assurance, we are also looking into setting up an online monitoring system. In all of this, we aim to maintain our mix of Dutch pragmatism and enthusiasm from the heart about the solutions we can offer.

 

To read more articles and interviews from the Netherlands, and to download the latest free report on the country, click here. 

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