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The Netherlands’ International Reach

The Netherlands has a long history of international exploration, production, and exports, and that has filtered through into the attitudes in the industry today. This article forms part of EnergyBoardroom’s 2015 Netherlands Report – click here to download the whole report.

“We are a small country, but the Dutch are everywhere. If you are on some spot in the world, there will most likely be a Dutch man there,” claims Kraaijeveld of VSF. “The way the Dutch people see business opportunities brings them all around the world. The country boasts a plethora of those types of individuals with an inner hunger for self-improvement and professional development in the context of an increasingly globalized economy.” Indeed, the Netherlands boasts the world’s largest maritime cluster and ranks fifth in terms of global exports, with 70 percent of GDP resulting from these exports. For many local oil and gas companies, even more than 70 percent of business is destined for beyond Dutch borders.

Royal Dutch Shell has embodied this Dutch ethos since 1907, and the company’s office in the Hague hosts Shell’s international upstream business and one of Shell’s three global research labs. As Dick Benschop, president director Shell Netherlands, explains, “many new innovative developments in Shell often have Dutch origins, such as gas-to-liquids, which started in 1973 in the lab in Amsterdam and was developed into the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar, from where products are now coming back to Rotterdam. Another example is the Prelude FLNG facility, which is destined for Australia, and is currently being built in Korea by Samsung Heavy Industries: the first design and some of the testing of water conditions were done in the Netherlands.”

Australia, with its LNG developments, is one area where the intrepid Dutch are flourishing. The Shell Prelude FLNG will be the world’s first FLNG development and the largest floating offshore facility in the world, with 260,000 tons of steel used to complete the facility. More than just massive for Shell, this project provides business for a host of other Dutch innovators, such as SBM Offshore. This leading player in the FPSO market “was actually started through a patent of a mooring system for the world’s first FPSO for another Dutch flagship, Shell,” according to CEO Bruno Chabas, and is now supplying a large complex turret mooring system, which itself is as large as the Statue of Liberty, to Shell’s landmark Australian FLNG venture.

For other LNG developments in Australia, companies like Heerema have “built Aegir, an extremely versatile vessel for (ultra) deepwater markets, currently active on the Ichthys LNG project in Australia, and performing better every day,” notes Klaver, the company’s CEO.

The Far East has been a Dutch target since the heyday of the VOC (Dutch East Indies Company), and today Dutch energy players are actively expanding their Eastern footprint. Balance Point Control has a strong in-house engineering team that can provide rapid and complex solutions for well interventions as “a fire brigade for Europe.” It is now looking to spread its model of technical excellence globally, alongside mother company Superior Energy Services. “Through joint-venture operations, we’re currently working on several long-term contracts in Africa and the Middle East. We’re already established ourselves in Thailand within the past two years, but now we’re looking to further expand our presence in Asia with a regional office in Kuala Lumpur,” details general manager Lammert de Wit.

“Asia and Africa, which have traditionally sat at the lower ends of the market, now encompass the same level of quality, capabilities, and regulatory requirements as tighter jurisdic- tions such as the UK or Norway, certainly when the interna- tional oil companies are involved,” claims Hugo Heerema, president and CEO of Bluewater Energy Services, an inno- vative Dutch FPSO company. Dutch service providers are thus taking their high-end expertise to new markets, as they advance in terms of technical difficulty and maturity.

“Bluewater is turnkey supplying two very large turret mooring systems to Saipem for Total Angola’s Kaombo FPSOs. Our efforts have not only focused on developing technology on the back of a project, but also individuali- zing our specialties to bring some truly unique patents to the market, whether it’s in the areas of LNG loading and offloading systems or floating production and storage facilities,” details Heerema.

Even more exciting than Africa for Bluewater is the Gulf of Mexico, which has seen a resurgence of activities with the opening up Mexico’s oil and gas industry to valued-added outside expertise. Bluewater’s consistent positioning as a te- chnology leader for the FPSO market has it poised for new opportunities in this effervescent market. “We’re actually now close to signing a contract in Mexico, where our FPSO will be operating on a ten-year basis with production acti- vities spanning 20 different wells, averaging half a year stay per well. In these cases where installing mooring systems for multiple half year productions incurs massive capitalized costs, DP serves as the more cost-efficient and economical method for production,” adds Hugo Heerema.

Nonetheless, all of these exotic locales should not distract from the continued Dutch commitment to the region whe- re the Dutch have grown and refined their expertise – the North Sea. This holds all the more true today as the decommissioning market heats up.

As Jan-Pieter Klaver explains, “the North Sea has been extremely important for Heerema, both throughout its history and in recent times, having gone through something of a revival over the last five years. We expect the North Sea to continue to be an important basin for our activities, not just in green field projects but also in decommissioning. The knowledge and experience that Heerema has built up in the North Sea are crucial to our global activities: as one of the most difficult environments on the planet, we can transfer the knowledge gained here to other markets.” Meanwhile players like Allseas maintain their strong presence in the North Sea through such ground-breaking vessels as the Pioneering Spirit and the Amazing Grace, slated to be delivered in 2021.

Bluewater Energy Services, another traditionally strong North Sea player linked to a Heerema brother, secured the engineering, procurement, construction, and integration contract for the turret and mooring system of the UKCS Rosebank field FPSO in late summer 2015. Measuring 80 meters in height and 34 meters in diameter, this turret and mooring sys- tem will stand as one of the largest in Bluewater’s history.

Finally, it is not simply in the upstream that Dutch companies flex their global muscle. Dutch independent storage provider VTTI has spread its brand of Dutch service to Manhattan, which Dutchmen will gleefully inform you was once New Amsterdam.
“We filed for an IPO with the SEC to be able to take advan- tage of the strong and experienced investment base for the midstream market in the US, and, in the process, we have become the first global terminal MLP company in the US. There are massive growth opportunities availa- ble globally in a very fragmented midstream market, and VTTI decided to undertake the IPO to help bolster our role in facilitating more consolidation,” says Rob Nijst, CEO of VTTI.

Royal Vopak has also focused major efforts abroad, not far from Malacca, the key Asian trading port the Dutch conquered in 1641. Today the Dutch independent sto- rage leader has expanded its network via the Pengerang Industrial Complex (PIC) at Malaysia’s Southernmost tip. The PIC is Malaysia’s first independent terminal complex and is located in the same development zone as the currently under construction Petronas Refining and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) complex. “We’ve proven that the location is indeed very suitable,” argues Royal Vopak CEO Eelco Hoekstra. “We see this as a major step in our development in Southeast Asia. We now have land available for further growth, and if we have our way in the next decade, it will serve as a tactical asset in our expansion efforts moving forward.”

This article forms part of EnergyBoardroom’s 2015 Netherlands Report – click here to download the whole report.



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