Samuel Rocher – President, Cybernetix – France
Marseilles-based Cybernetix, which was acquired by Technip in 2012, provides innovative asset integrity management and operational enhancement solutions based on monitoring, robotics and non-destructive testing capabilities. Learn more from President Samuel Rocher on his intentions to further develop the company.
Following career spells at Technip, you were recently appointed President of Cybernetix. What does your mandate consist of?
Cybernetix is providing to the industry innovative asset integrity management and operational enhancement solutions based on monitoring, robotics and non-destructive testing capabilities to allow our clients to optimize the design of their assets and operate them in a safer and more efficient way.
My mandate as President of Cybernetix is to further develop Cybernetix as an independent and self-sustainable company, able to strengthen its position as a global leader on its markets. We will do this through innovation and geographical expansion, leveraging both Technip’s access to operators as well as Forsys Subsea, the newly created JV between FMC Technologies and Technip. Two key success factors will be, on one hand, our ability to continue raising the QHSE standards of the company while maintaining its agility, and, on the other hand attracting, developing and retaining the best talents.
When we interviewed Thierry Pilenko, Technip’s Chairman & CEO, he mentioned that he would only acquire companies that would give Technip a leading technological edge. In that regard, how has the acquisition of Cybernetix subscribed to this vision?
Technip has always positioned itself as a technology pioneer as for example with flexibles or umbilicals. The acquisition of Cybernetix clearly fits Thierry Pilenko’s road map through the expertise the company has on robotics, be it remotely operated or AUVs, or monitoring, which offer new opportunities of development such as in-service riser inspection robots, built-in or retrofitted monitoring systems on flexibles or umbilicals that allow operating Technip products in a safer and more efficient way. I have to be clear that while some Cybernetix solutions are specific to Technip products, most of our portfolio is compatible with third party products.
If we now look at the current context where cost-reduction is raised as a priority to the industry. I strongly believe that the requested level of cost-reduction cannot only be achieved by only putting pressure on costs and that technology will play an essential role as there has to be an increase in efficiency, which require a deeper collaboration between operators and suppliers.
In that environment, our role is to deliver disruptive technologies to foster genuine change in the industry and achieve major savings. Robotics have already encouraged oil and gas companies to explore in ways that were formerly unimaginable. As a system integrator, I believe that Cybernetix can help the industry do a lot more in terms of ROVs and AUVs, and play a role in reducing costs at the investment stage. Similarly, I I think that asset monitoring and inspection can enable oil and gas companies to remove uncertainties at the design stage of the assets, and hence, generate savings at the investment stage.
Cybernetix shares several partnerships notably with Total, SBM Offshore, CGG or Principia. How do you capitalize on these partnerships to generate tangible results for your clients?
We have had successful partnerships with every player you listed. It is very important to nurture these partnerships because it allows Cybernetix to be on the oil majors’ radar. Thanks to these partnerships, we had companies such as Total seek our advice to develop AUV or monitoring concepts. These partnerships are vital to foster collaboration and increase mutual understanding to ensure we develop the right products for the needs of the market. As our customers are most of the time operating our systems after we deploy them, their feedback is absolutely essential on how to improve our products and solutions and these lasting partnerships create a safe and efficient environment to share information and increase our awareness. The more Cybernetix and its partners are able to share, the better the solutions we come up with. Trust and business go hand in hand.
Technological expertise and research and development are the main drivers of the company’s success. But in concrete terms, how do your innovative solutions enable your clients to reduce operational costs and enhance their operational performance?
The first aspect is to allow companies to improve their operational efficiency. The second is to reduce risk by monitoring and inspecting assets without human presence. One of our solutions was for example introduced on a major development in Brazil, where the field architecture is based on steel catenary risers, which are decoupled from the FPSO by mean of large submerged buoys. A failure of the buoys to hold the tension generated by the risers or of the tethers to hold the buoys in place would result in a catastrophic incident. It is therefore essential to have ways to monitor the integrity of these critical assets throughout the life of the field as there is no room for accidents. Historically, operators have achieved this through conducting regular ROV inspections, which is costly as it requires mobilizing a vessel, but also intermittent and mostly based on visual inspection. On this project, Cybernetix has installed a permanent system, which is continuously monitoring the tension and the bending in the tethers holding the buoys in place. Once commissioned, ROV inspections are no longer required or very sporadically, which generates savings, and, an incident such as a leak appearing in a buoy can be instantaneously detected. Our systems therefore permit faster warnings and faster interventions. In addition, data are available for analysis to confirm engineering models and optimize designs for future fields.
Is technological progress simply not advanced enough to accommodate the ambitions of the oil and gas industry?
I do not think technological progress is what could prevent the industry meeting its ambitions. The oil and gas industry has historically been relatively slow to embrace new technologies compared to other industries. The current context is calling the industry to look sideways and to transfer and adapt the technologies that are already widely used elsewhere. This may take a bit of time but it is happening. The deeper we explore, the more hostile the environment becomes, and the more cautious we must be. In the offshore sector in particular, operators must anticipate challenges and contingencies and make sure they are adopting the most suitable technologies for every project they undertake.
Safety is broadcasted everywhere in the industry. Yet companies, as you mentioned, seek operations in ever more remote locations and challenging environments. As a champion in hostile environments, what is Cybernetix’s role in accompanying oil and gas companies in these extreme circumstances?
In order to allow operators to operate safely in these challenging environments, Cybernetix needs to continue innovating and developing solutions that will either make human operations safer or that minimize requirement for on-site human presence. In order to achieve this, we have to provide them with products and solutions that are more reliable than the assets they have to monitor and inspect.
Could Cybernetix genuinely sustain itself without the support and financial backing of Technip?
In particular, the oil and gas industry is currently building huge assets and the magnitude of projects is unprecedented. The backing of Technip is essential to allow Cybernetix to be a strong player on its market and to deliver these large projects in good conditions. In addition, Technip support is essential in expanding our geographical footprint and speeding up the development of our portfolio.
This being said, some of Technip’s competitors – which used to conduct business with Cybernetix – are now proving to be more hesitant, we must highlight that we act and operate in an independent manner and accept business from any client.
Cybernetix has been labeled one of France’s 100 companies with a global market leading position. Do you symbolize the success of French SME’s abroad and how do you explain that so many young unknown French companies are world leaders in their segments? Lastly, what is your personal objective for the future?
Sciences and technology are deeply rooted in the French culture. There is also definitely an entrepreneurial spirit in France. When these two worlds meet, France can generate very competitive SME’s. On the other hand, Frenches are historically less gifted for communication, which may explain the fact our SMEs remain under the radar, though the younger generations and fast development of social networks may alleviate that. I am extremely proud that Cybernetix is part of this group. My objective is not only to ensure that the company will remain in this group through expanding our business but also to ensure that Cybernetix will play a key role in bringing disruptive technologies to the oil and gas industry and be a world reference in that regard.