with Carl-Petter Halvorsen, Business Development Direct, Flexlife
What was the vision behind Flexlife’s creation?
Flexlife is a 19-month old company started by Stuart Mitchell, John Marsden, and myself, with an aim to enter a niche market and provide consultancy, engineering design, and delivery management of flexible pipe. At the time of the company’s creation, there was basically nobody in the industry with a focus on that market niche.
Since the company’s inception, how has the uptake been for this niche, and what would you point to as Flexlife’s most important milestones and achievements?
Flexlife already has some major achievements within delivery management of flexible pipe, for example to companies like Apache PA Resources in Tunisia, among others. What changed very quickly in the market were the importance of integrity management and the requirement for users of flexible pipe to be able to monitor and detect the flexible pipe’s condition. Delivery management involves the delivery of flexible pipe for new field developments, while integrity management is very much in the opex market, i.e. the maintenance market. Flexlife has already developed a few products, one of which we launched in October 2008, for which extensive onshore and offshore testing has been performed, and the results have been absolutely 100% successful, this new scanning product will increasing the life of flexible pipe. Basically, Flexlife started off as a delivery management company, and has now turned its focus more toward integrity management, although is still keeping the delivery management business segment, which we will continue to develop. In this way, Flexlife is pursuing two directions within the flexible pipe market.
Within these directions, which Flexlife products would you like to highlight?
The product I just mentioned involves a new scanning system for flexible pipe, the IP developed in-house by Flexlife, which again, has tested with 100% success rate. In that respect, the company has also been approached by the likes of HSE to give a paper on this topic later in November, because they want to highlight that there is existing technology that can be used in detecting potential failures within flexible pipe.
This ground-breaking new application, developed over two years, will help prevent the failure of flexible risers and flexible flow lines and thereby minimising lost production and associated environmental impact of a leak.
Flexlife already has a number of international contracts; what is the importance of Aberdeen as a location from which to do business?
None of the founders are from Aberdeen. I am Norwegian and have been in the UK for seven years, and the other two founders are from the North East of the UK. Aberdeen is the hub for the North Sea, and for a lot of international projects developments taking place in Brazil and West Africa. For Flexlife, Aberdeen is basically the best place to be to interface with clients, and if we want to talk about West Africa, the North Sea, or Norway, we need to be here. For us, there was no question as to where the head office would be.
You mention a project in Tunisia, and locations including Brazil and West Africa; what geographic areas are Flexlife’s current focus?
The focus at the moment is on three areas: the North Sea, Brazil, and Asia Pacific. Flexlife is investigating opening an office in Perth, Australia, and in Rio de Janeiro, both by the end of 2008.
Already opening offices around the world at a relatively young corporate age, how has the human resources side of the equation kept up?
Flexlife started off with two, and has since expanded to seven people at the present day, and more will soon be brought onboard, but it’s a tricky thing to do. However, as a small, privately-owned company, Flexlife has the possibility to give incentives to gain key people of interest, and we have certain ways of attracting them.
Attracting is an important aspect, but so too is retention. As a fairly small company growing quickly, how would you like to form the management stile, and how would you characterize Flexlife’s internal culture?
Flexlife maintains a very open and practical approach to whatever problem needs to be resolved. That has been appreciated by clients, in arriving at a number of innovative, niche ideas to solving problems.
For what other reasons is Flexlife the partner of choice?
We know what we’re doing. Between our seven employees, we have over 50 years of industry experience working on flexible pipe, and breaking and bursting flexible pipe under controlled circumstances; we know all the details. Flexlife is different from other companies in having a unique approach. In coming to Flexlife, we will find a solution to clients’ problems, then find the people and products to implement the solution, and make sure the solution keeps working in the long term. There is no other consultancy or agency in the field that does that; find, fix, and maintain. That’s the difference. It’s a totally well-rounded solution.
What is your vision for Flexlife over the next five to 10 years?
Flexlife is currently positioned at a turnover of Ј3-3.5 million in 2008, and we will grow this figure, and increase headcount in the next couple of years to around 15 people or more. In the longer term, the goal is for Flexlife to become the partner of choice when you talk about flexible pipe, while growing staff and turnover.
What is your final message to OGFJ about achieving this partner of choice status?
Bearing in mind that Flexlife is one of very few independent consultancies in the flexible pipe niche today. There are very few who can give independent advice, and that’s especially why there’s a place in the market for Flexlife.
The market for flexible pipe is growing, and the role Flexlife will play, with new products that can serve any geographic sector around the world, is potentially huge. There are an estimated 3,000 flexible risers around the world, and by 2011 this figure will increase to approx.5,500. This market growth and additionally there are the market of maintenance and integrity which will become more and more important. With the credit crunch, and oil prices falling, maintenance and integrity management will be important to maintain production, avoid failures and Flexlife will be able to support our clients with maintaining their production in a safe manner.