– Sander Vergroesen, Managing Director – Netherlands
Sander Vergroesen describes how the IRO represents its members in the international sphere, attending trade conferences to highlight the strengths of Dutch industries supplying the oil and gas industry. He cites synergies as a key strength of these businesses, who capitalize on the Netherland’s rich commercial heritage. He also gives examples of where Dutch companies are pushing boundaries so far, new markets emerge, allowing companies to lift more or move further.
Domestically, E&P activity is threatened by dwindling resources and declining production. How have Dutch service providers adapted to this new reality?
Alongside an increased effort to minimise this decline, we do see a number of new developments here in the North Sea. One aspect is renewable energy, which is a political issue here in the Netherlands, because our government is very much focused on renewable energy and renewable energy sources, such as offshore wind. IRO has quite a few members that have developed techniques and capabilities in the oil and gas industry, and have translated it to offshore wind-farm installation, for example. We are an association of suppliers for the upstream oil and gas industry, with one exception: installation of offshore wind farms: because it is so closely related to the equipment that they already have and the expertise they have already developed, developing wind turbines offshore is a logical step, especially for the North Sea area right now.
What responsibility does the Dutch supply chain have here to help the country meet its 2030 objective of producing 30 BCM of gas annually, and what responsibility do equipment providers have with regard to seeing this ambition achieved?
We do play a role in this, of course. We are also participating in workgroups to see what is possible, and to see how we can develop solutions together to get more out of existing fields. What we are good at is innovation, so if we find a solution here, it will be a solution that is applicable elsewhere as well. The gas market is changing rapidly, and this is why we are so willing to participate with these kinds of approaches.
What role is innovation playing in furthering the Dutch oil and gas chain’s capabilities to improve cost effective recovery of hydrocarbon resources, and what factors do you think contribute to the ability of Dutch companies here in the Netherlands to innovate?
IRO was founded in 1971, essentially day one of the Netherlands oil and gas industry. Furthermore, we have a maritime history that goes back centuries. We are a very small country, but we have been sailing the oceans for hundreds of years. The maritime aspect of the upstream oil and gas and the offshore part is linked to our maritime heritage as well. We are sailors and we are merchants; and when oil and gas appeared on the scene, it was the next step.
Over the years we’ve developed as an industry, and since we are used to coming up with solutions all over the world, we are constantly trying to improve every day. It is true that innovation is key nowadays, but environmentally-friendly and cost-effective solutions are important as well. This is what we are good at, because since the beginning we have been used to develop together. Synergies are very important, from the scientific part to the operators and from suppliers to shipbuilders.
IRO has organized engagements in Australia, Mexico, the United States and Norway. Where are Dutch companies seeing principal opportunities in the global supply chain, and do you think that there are any typical characteristics shared by Dutch companies that give them a competitive advantage in this context?
We provide and arrange Holland pavilions at all the major oil and gas exhibitions, in the US and other countries. The larger companies have their own contacts there already, yet sometimes they still want to be on the exhibition floor. Many details on board of their vessels come from the smaller companies that are also IRO members, and since they cannot afford to build large booths they come with us. We arrange the square meters, and facilitate the building of the booths, which gives them the opportunity to be there and make contact with potential clients. That’s how it all starts; we give them the possibility to be there. We represent the whole ecosystem, the broad spread of Dutch companies, and as an association we represent every opportunity that comes our way.
Another way we offer support is by arranging trade missions with our embassies. Sometimes it’s the initiative of the embassy in a specific country, like our recent contact with Mexico, for example. I would have to say that one of the greatest strengths of the Dutch supply chain is at home, with the synergies that we create between the different partners, and also when we go abroad by leveraging these Dutch synergies and traditions of trade and connectivity.
Dutch companies come up with tailor-made solutions for more and more complex projects and have established a name for being reliable and offering high quality.
IRO conducts its own training courses, and seeks to facilitate the entrance of new skills into the Dutch oil and gas industry. How available are engineering skills, and the wider array of talents the industry needs here in the Netherlands?
For many companies it’s very hard to find the right educated, technically equipped engineers. We are seeing that the number of students that are choosing technical studies is growing very fast recently, which is an incredibly good thing. But in the meantime, what we see is that the larger companies have their own internal schools where they try to educate their people themselves, focused on their own products. Lastly, some also have to rely on foreign employees. So you can see that there is a mix of ways to achieve the same goal.
In my opinion, it’s great to work in an environment that is constantly improving, and constantly trying to advance. Taking everything into account, we always try to make sure that all solutions are environmentally responsible and cost effective. I think that the challenge to come up with these kinds of solutions should trigger more people joining the oil and gas industry. It’s the kind of business where you can be sure of finding a job, because there is so much future need worldwide for energy. There is a lot of adventure and good money in this business as well.