Intsok currently consists of in all 70 member companies, which all contribute to creating interest in the Norwegian oil industry. Together they possess technology and expertise covering most sectors of the 30-year history of the Norwegian oil industry. The member companies range from the giants Statoil and Hydro to small, five-man companies. “The supplier industry covers a wide spectrum”, says Per Hagen, who is responsible for profiling Intsok vis-à-vis the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Angola. “The expertise possessed by small niche companies can be just as interesting as that of the big so-called industrial locomotives.”
One of Norway’s prime political goals is to internationalise the Norwegian oil industry. There is wide agreement that exporting and exploiting the expertise developed over the last 30 years thanks to the Shelf development constitutes a good stewardship of the country’s human capital. At the same time, Norwegian oil technology will contribute to achieving a more even pattern of employment in the oil industry. This was the background to the government’s establishment of Intsok in 1997 – a common organisation for the export of Norwegian oil expertise.
Operations are becoming steadily more goal-oriented. The two first years, a lot of work was done in establishing contacts and networks to profile Intsok. The present model is also subject to change as time goes on, despite having been well received in the market. Intsok has used several events to organise workshops in which Norwegian companies meet potential customers in oil companies and supplier firms all over the world.
In March it was the turn of Houston, where almost 400 people took part in a three-day session called Exploiting the Deep Offshore. Prior to the event itself representatives of Intsok and the member companies visited the biggest local customers. “In this way we can let Norwegian companies enter into dialogue with the customers,” explains Per Hagen. “One of the most important things we can do is to ensure that potential customers in the USA develop a personal relationship with Norwegian suppliers”.
This time the Houston session was organised in the form of meetings lasting three days: the first day a plenary seminar, with workshops over the two subsequent days. Interest in the Norwegian companies and the technical solutions was great. This has several causes. One of them is that the oil companies are now in the process of entering deeper water in the Gulf of Mexico, the fields off Brazil are being opened up, and there is much activity off Angola. The deepwater fields in these provinces are much more demanding to produce than those in shallower waters. Pressures are greater, the reservoirs more difficult and the investments greater, while environmental standards have been tightened up in the meantime. The upshot of all these factors is that the production installations are much bigger than they used to be.
New fields in the Gulf of Mexico tend to produce no more than one well in the North Sea. For this reason the solutions chosen off the Norwegian coast, with its challenging weather conditions, are not necessarily compatible with those that designed for other waters. The advantage for Norwegian industry is that it can deliver and develop good solutions for other waters too, because it knows what is needed for the world’s toughest operating environment. Securing the investments and achieving a good return over the fields’ lifetimes means a higher standard of equipment quality. Solutions, equipment and expertise developed during the development of the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea may be very relevant alternatives for the operators and the subcontractors. “We aren’t choosing Norwegian technology simply because it is Norwegian,” insists David Walker, expertise and technology director of BP Amoco. “We are choosing the technology that at any given time provides the best technical and financial results for a development. This means North Sea technology can be the right choice.” He emphasises that the products must be competitive all round, and finds that Norwegian technology is interesting for many fields: “In many ways North Sea technology is very advanced, but it can be difficult to convince the technological communities here that Norwegian suppliers’ solutions are the right choice.”
“It is up to the suppliers to show what they can do. Concrete workshops in limited areas make it easier to reach the right audience,” emphasises Hagen. And he is right. There is a lot of interest visible on the part of potential customers during the various sessions, confirmed by a large number of questions from the floor to the different lecturers. The upshot is good dialogue between customer and supplier – somewhat superficial in the plenary session but concrete and constructive in the corridors during the break for the coffee and sandwiches. “We have been very aware of the need to take long breaks so that the players can get to know one another.”
On the bidder list
Intsok has undertaken an evaluation of the Houston seminars, not only among the Norwegian companies that participated, but among the visitors too. The replies are almost uniformly positive. However, there are some recommendations for change in the future. The majority considers that they acquired useful contacts and formed a network in the USA. “We must focus even more on technology and application areas for this in the Gulf; we must find out the needs of the customers in the American market. To begin with, the goal is to put the Norwegian companies onto the bidder list.” As a fruit of the evaluation, Intsok has leased offices in Aker Maritime’s building along Katy Freeway in Houston. This is a shared-office scheme in which the Intsok partners can be given offices when they are to meet their American customers in Houston. “We have great faith in a permanent anchorage in Houston for those of our partners who do not yet have their own representation in this market. A fixed base will facilitate their success against the current fierce competition.” One of the complaints is still that the sessions are too sales-oriented and not sufficiently technology-oriented. Intsok is therefore working to change the design of next year’s event. “We are planning an even stronger concentration on the areas in which Norwegian companies can contribute competitive solutions,” continues Per Hagen. “For this reason we have performed an analysis of where Norwegian companies can have an competitive edge and where they are weak.”
The analysis was performed by Einar Holmefjord, the former marketing director of Aker Maritime. “We are facing a challenge, in that we have grown into a large number of member companies who can have widely different interests and products. A lot of work has to be done to facilitate the various events so that the member companies get the best value for their Intsok membership fee.
The analysis shows that Norwegian companies or foreign-owned companies with their head office in Norway enjoy world-leading expertise in a variety of fields, everything from seismics to floating oil and gas production systems. “We are, unfortunately, weak in the areas where the big service companies are strongest. Well technology, for example: it is in the wells that the wealth is created, and these companies will often be preferred as main partners when developments are to be carried out. A deliberate campaign vis-à-vis these companies is essential if we are to succeed in the international market.”
Holmefjord emphasises that Norwegian subsea technology is a world-leader, and if the companies have products within this area, the market will come looking for them.