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Interview

John Young – CEO, Twister – Netherlands

28.07.2015 / Energyboardroom

The CEO of Twister highlights the Twister Archetypes that offer a clear step change for the industry while also having ten years of history and a solid operations track record, the growing global acceptance and growing global footprint of the company’s technology especially through partnerships with the likes of Petronas, Petrobras, and Shell, as well as the way in which Twister’s technology optimizes costs throughout the entire life cycle of projects. 

Please give an overview of where the company stands today, and describe what the focus of your leadership directives have been as CEO.

Considering that Twister dehydration and dewpointing technology has been in operation for more than 10 years now, my role as CEO is to identify and capitalize on the vital areas in the industry where Twister’s separation technology brings value. We’ve been able to accumulate a steady reference list of successful operating examples over the years—now getting to the point where we need to leverage our core capabilities to focus on scaling the technology across key segments in the market. Currently, many players across the oil and gas value chain are adjusting to the downturn in oil prices, facing a relatively stringent economic environment. We, however, see this a real opportunity for Twister. Having the potential to considerably impact an operator’s bottom line, our proprietary supersonic gas processing solutions were developed on the basis of optimizing the holistic cost of operations. Partially in conjunction with a few of our strategic partners, we’ve also been working very hard in the last few months on developing various Twister archetypes—key applications that we believe will definitively differentiate the company from its alternatives. We’ve done quite well for ourselves so far, but we’re even more excited to build upon our existing capabilities and further strengthen our presence in the industry.

In terms of resources, capabilities, and strategy, what is the relevance of basing the company’s operations here in the Netherlands?

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the Netherlands is the people. They are an inherently innovative breed of highly skilled professionals with mindsets that of explorers. Under the Dutch psyche, we’ve managed to implement constant incremental innovations to our products and services, while simultaneously catering to clients all around the world. The origin of Twister’s technology came from Stork, and was developed further as part of Shell’s Technology Venture Fund. So, we’ve always been a part of a longstanding heritage that has truly pushed the frontier on innovation, allowing us to come up with some very unique and cost-effective solutions.

What are the competitive advantages of being associated with such a global flagship brand such as Shell?

Since Twister’s inception, our relationship with Shell has been instrumental in the company’s overall development. The first commercial application of Twister’s Supersonic Gas Processing technology was strictly as a result of Shell’s B11 contract in Malaysia. With the support of Shell’s Technology Venture Fund, we’ve been able to further penetrate global markets such as Colombia, Brazil, and even Nigeria, where, together with our local partner Fairshores, the Twister system has been used for the dehydration and hydrocarbon dew-pointing of 160million Standard Cubic feet per day (MMscfd) of gas in Bayelsa State, as part of the Federal Government’s desire to reduce flaring and also increase electricity supply. If nothing else, the sheer association with Shell has already helped us establish a layer of credibility, which has proven to be valuable resource, especially when operating in such a traditionally conservative industry.

From your perspective, how has the E&P landscape evolved over the years? And what are the primary concerns across all the operators in the industry today, especially here in the North Sea?

Health and safety have and will continue to remain top priorities for everyone in the industry. People are our most important asset and we have an obligation to keep them safe. Part of the reason why Twister was selected for B11 was its safety capabilities in processing acid gases, resulting in much lower inventories of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) levels. We’re proud in our ability to further our clients’ HSQE initiatives and facilitate an overall safer working environment.

Collaboration is also a key factor in moving forward with complex and costly projects. For instance, we’ve worked in the past with Honeywell’s UOP, also a shareholder in Twister, in creating a marketing alliance and helping both parties expand their suites of natural gas processing solutions. Recently, we’ve also been working together with Frames—another Dutch innovator in separation technology. We are cooperating to develop some of our more recent high-tech separation capabilities.

Especially now with the current slump in oil prices, we’re also starting to see companies adopt a more scrutinized focus on the total P&L of a project, stretching margins to the greatest degree wherever possible. Although the cost-conscious mindset starts with reductions at a CAPEX level, we encourage taking that view further into the supply chain and into the specific costs of operations so the whole lifecycle of the technology and its applications get taken into consideration. With the increasingly reinforced emphasis on health and safety, along with current economic factors, the relevance and cost-saving implications of Twister’s technology will continue serving as vital importance for not only the company’s own growth, but also that of our strategic partners in the industry.

How have you structured the business to effectively weather the constant supply and demand fluctuations in the market?

We’ve worked in that environment for much of the company’s lifetime. I believe innovation and developing applications for technology are challenging in an environment that’s always been traditionally conservative. There will be a number of applications where the Twister archetype truly fits the business model, and as we move back into the traditionally cyclical dynamics of the oil and gas industry, we’ll have several more operating examples in place—further establishing our credibility and brand in the market. To effectively preserve that momentum, we’re always continuing with innovation. Our traditional business is gas dehydration and dew-pointing, in which greatest demand has been experienced in the offshore sector. Together with Technip, we’re also looking at more subsea applications—where the technology can be used on the seabed. Clearly, one of the issues with the lower oil prices is that it has forced people to take a step back with regard to deepwater processioning. But research shows there’s clearly a developing interest there. From the work that we’ve seen done to date, Twister could be a part of that trend, among others including the work we’re doing with Petronas in CO2 separation which will enable companies to monetize gas fields that in the past were unavailable to them.

The company recently signed a partnership agreement with Petronas in providing supersonic gas processing solutions for developing the K5 Gas Field. What is the importance of this partnership to the company’s overall portfolio?

It’s hugely important. They are a major investor in innovation. They’ve shown a high amount of trust in us to partner and be a part of the technology development. The CO2 challenge they face is significant. We were recently announced as one of the technology partner for the K5 demonstration platform. We’re thrilled to be a part of that. Innovation and technology development is part of the core of Petronas. For us to be included in that terminology is a real honor.

How do companies stand to benefit from utilizing Twister’s supersonic gas processing solutions, as opposed to what some of your peers may be able to offer?

There are several areas, especially in capital and developmental costs. The Twister supersonic solution is a mechanical separation device with no rotating equipment or chemical requirements—boasting low operator intervention. The costs associated with implementation in an offshore environment, whether its concerning equipment count, inventory requirements, or logistics, are significantly reduced. With all those in place, the total overall cost of operation during the lifecycle becomes a very compelling argument. That’s where the value is being found in the operating examples we have so far. Based on historical analysis, when employed in an offshore environment, our dehydration and dewpointing technology has been able to identify up to a 25 to 50 percent reduction in the total platform costs. In conjunction with that, the operating costs of the Twister technology are a fraction of the alternatives on the market, primarily due to its reduced operator intervention needs, chemical, and heating-free operation.

With regards to CO2 separation, we’re looking to develop the same level of value-added advantages. So in the future, looking towards operations with a large presence of acid or CO2 containing gases, Twister’s Supersonic Gas Processing solutions will prove to be of unparalleled value. We’re very satisfied with the 10+ years experience we have operating offshore. Such a track record of success further enables our future clients to take satisfaction that they’re investing in a technology that’s been well applied in other areas and a step-up from its market alternatives

Twister technology is currently used in both onshore and offshore applications across three different continents. How the company’s portfolio currently segmented?

We’re primarily focused offshore, where the key archetypes reside, but we’ve seen growing demands onshore, where chemical-free operations are valued. Twister’s technology is generally applied to larger volume gas fields, where there are increasingly amplified savings with each additional metric volume.

From a geographic standpoint, Southeast Asia remains a key area. One archetype in that area is processing sour gasses, which contain high levels of H2S. Then we look at regions with high volume gas fields including Brazil, Russia, Africa, and even countries around the Caspian Sea—further highlighting the fact that Twister technology truly transcends global boundaries, capitalizing on various region specific trends such as shale, and subsea arctic production. Currently we’re aligning our momentum with that of the industry’s—which is relatively timid at the moment due to the slump in oil prices. But there has been a lot of talk regarding the arctic, and the need to protect individuals and operators and minimizing processing equipment on topsides. Twister provides the opportunity to do that. Some of the work we’ve done suggests that we can significantly, if not completely, remove chemical requirements, so that serves as a potential upside for the business. Although not an immediate trend, it’s a future opportunity down the line that we’ll stay in tune with.

A subsequent generation of this technology was introduced back in 2006. What type of R&D projects are currently in the company’s developmental pipeline to ensure that this technology remains relevant in the future?

As we get more units in operation, there will be a greater standardization approach with regards to Twister technology, which will improve the way we can bring the technology to the market. We’re also undertaking a manufacturing efficiency improvement process that will focus on expanding our physical infrastructure in tandem with the employment of more local capabilities to improve upon the current levels of efficiency.

The industry focus on environmental sustainability for all players in the oil and gas value chain is self-evident, especially here in the Netherlands, where there’s currently an energy transition under way as a result of the energy agreement for sustainable growth. How can E&P operates use Twister’s technology to further their green agendas?

Zero venting needs are relatively groundbreaking aspect of Twister’s technology that help our clients reduce their environmental footprints, especially when compared to traditional technologies that depend on regeneration and venting to operate. Our solutions also boast high levels of availability and uptime, eliminating the need to shutdown or depressurize well operations. We’re looking at ways we can use our technology to support reduced flaring environments. At the moment, that’s more focused in Nigeria, but that’s something we’re very excited to be a part of. So, there are many ways that our technology can have a positive environmental impact.

Given your extensive experience and various roles in the industry, what are you personal philosophies on chartering success for a company like Twister, as opposed to perhaps some of the other companies you’ve led in the past?

Working for a Dutch organization by definition means working in a consensual environment. Executives such as myself have to always be prepared to sit with staff members to explain and deliberate approaches or methods, and then adjust accordingly. There’s no room for dictators in the Dutch working environment. So that to me, especially coming from a process engineering background, has been a very exciting part of working here—aligning the team with mutually agreeable solutions then moving forward. The extent of our peoples’ capabilities is simply limitless. Once everyone has had a chance to voice any worries or concerns, off they go. Twister, considering its nature, is a smaller organization by design and boasts a very close-knit environment that invests in the personal ambitions of each and every individual. Together with their valuable contributions, I’m very excited to further refine our in-house capabilities and take Twister through its next stage of development.

Where would you like to take Twister in the next five years?

It’s all about global acceptance. We’re at a position where we have a number of successful operating examples. We’ve received a significant level of recognition regarding the high availability and chemical-free nature of our technology. Now it’s a matter expanding our reach on an international scale. A portion of my efforts will focus on developing strong relationships with some of the major oil companies to help us in achieving a new echelon of success. As Twister becomes more established in the industry, the awareness and benefits of our other high-tech separation capabilities will also start coming into an industry-wide focus—the next phase we’re striving towards. Gas is only getting bigger, so I think Twister is well poised for future growth.

Click here to read more articles and interviews from the Netherlands, and to download the latest free oil and gas report on the country.

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