Based in Oslo, Norway, EVP Morten Haug Emilsen leads Add Energy’s global Well Control team - a group of highly experienced individuals dedicated to preventing and killing blowouts and optimizing production.
Having responded to more than 70 blowouts worldwide the last three decades, Morten and his team are used to working in uncertain, high pressure environments - and this invaluable experience helped them to survive and thrive during the global Covid-19 pandemic.
In this blog post, which forms part of our leadership interview series, Morten explores his key takeaways from the past year in business, how his team has pulled together to deliver great results for clients, and how he plans to lead his team into the new year ahead...
How would you sum up the past 12 months in business?
"The disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic impacted our sector more than any other event in recent history. Governments responded with travel restrictions, quarantines and lock-downs. As we all moved inside and stayed at home, demand for oil and gas dropped, as did the oil price, and investment budgets were either reduced or deferred. Even before the pandemic, the industry had some challenges with oversupply of oil and competition from the renewable energy sector. This crisis will undoubtedly lead to several bankruptcies and settlements. A lot of sectors will be hurt, and many companies will not survive the downturn.
"In our Drilling & Wells division, we definitely felt the impact of this, as we work with operating companies and are dependent on high exploration and drilling activity levels. As a consequence we adapted quickly, responded with immediate cost reducing measures and managed to maintain a sustainable business.
"Interestingly, I feel the world has somewhat “shrunk” as a result of the pandemic. It’s a global challenge, all the nations are reacting the same, creating a small community feeling. So even during a year where we cannot physically meet in person, which has been challenging, we somehow feel closer to our colleagues and clients. We have shown that we are able to cope with challenges as a team. It would be impossible to stop the pandemic without cooperation and the joint efforts made by individuals, and this is the way we have tackled and will tackle this crisis.
"I do believe, however, that online tools cannot replace the value of meeting in person. Human interaction, physical contact and casual conversations at the coffee machine are so valuable, and I believe essential to build strong teams and create a sense of belonging. So despite the success we’ve been lucky enough to achieve this year, I am looking forward to getting back to normal and benefiting from more social interaction with my team and clients. 2020 will be a year most people want to forget, but history books will love to talk about."
How would you describe the past year in one sentence?
"The year the world was put on pause.
"Sometimes it can be good to hit the pause button, instead of rushing through life on autopilot. This crisis has changed the way people work and live. Some of the changes might have a positive effect. The pause has put things into a different perspective, that can be beneficial for both businesses and individuals."
What were the biggest highlights for your division this year?
"Despite the challenges that our industry faced, Add Energy has performed very well throughout 2020 and our Well Control team quickly adapted to the new environments and travel restrictions, still providing our clients with excellent, uninterrupted service.
"We extended our portfolio of services and responded to two well control incidents - one critical situation in the North Sea with loss of well barrier and another long lasting, high gas rate blowout in India.
"We also continued to develop new technology, which has definitely been a highlight for us, as the market response has been good.
"I'm proud of what we have achieved as a group during a challenging year. I am proud of heading a team of dedicated and highly trained people that all are working hard to provide our customers with outstanding quality and service."
What was key to your team’s success?
"Our strong team, without a doubt.
"The very nature of our work is related to crises - mobilising quickly to advise and support operators recovering from a well control incident, working under immense amounts of pressure and collaborating globally to make timely and reliable decisions. I believe this experience ensured our team handled the early stages of the pandemic seamlessly - rapidly transitioning to a new environment, working remotely, and supporting our clients who were struggling with the sudden changes.
"It’s also incredibly important to have the right mindset during uncertain times, and work together to find a solution. In a crisis, you need to remain calm, evaluate and assess the situation thoroughly, and work collaboratively in challenging and changing environments - and this team spirit definitely played a part in our success this year."
What opportunities do you think the energy sector will have in 2021?
"Due to the deferment of investments, we will likely experience increased activity levels once the pandemic is under control and the demand for energy reestablishes to the level it was before the outbreak. The growing demand for energy combined with the focus on environmental impact associated with conventional sources will cause challenges in the next years to come. The supply side will probably struggle to meet the demand side.
"Following a year of many major oil companies reducing workforces across the globe due to the pandemic, there will definitely be opportunities for services providers like Add Energy. Many companies have reduced their staff by 20-30%, and an abundance of skills and experience will have been lost. With activity levels returning to normal, and teams smaller than before, these companies may look to outsource specialist work, use service companies to plug skills gaps and provide ad-hoc consultancy services or manage specific projects."
What are your team’s goals for 2021?
"To continue to provide high quality services to repeat customers, as well as expand our portfolio of services to new clients and customers. We are also looking into diversification, and have some very interesting projects in the pipeline that we’re hoping to materialize in 2021.
"We will seek to strengthen our position as a preferred service provider, and place a significant focus on environmental impact and reducing emissions. Add Energy will strengthen its position as a preferred service company to the energy sector and we have some opportunities in new markets. For example, we have already started looking into very interesting CCS (carbon capture and storage) projects in different locations."
What will be the key to your team’s continued success throughout the next year?
"We all have to form the future together. Each individual in our team will be included and involved, to ensure we can keep our best people motivated through continuous development.
"Today, we have a pool of highly experienced engineers and specialists in our group, but we also need to ensure we have a good spread and attract younger people to bring in new perspectives and to help us grow. Ensuring that Add Energy is a very attractive place to be is a key to future success."