How long have you been in the industry and how did you get your first start?
I have been very fortunate in my career, managing to stay in work during our industry’s cyclic nature since 1997. I joined Patterson-UTI two years ago, as VP International Operations, and am thoroughly enjoying working with a fantastic team of passionate professionals. Although based in Houston I spend a significant amount of time in Canada, either in Calgary, Nisku, or on our rigs. My first time in Canada dates back to 1988, and I have been frequenting your fine country for both business and vacation ever since.
I started my career with Schlumberger, initially working offshore in the UK Sector of the North Sea as an MWD/LWD engineer and Directional Driller. I enjoyed my time offshore, even though there was no such thing as a rotation or time off. It was the challenge of the work and people I had the opportunity to work with that made it fun. A unique camaraderie existed, with everyone located on a man-made structure in the middle of the North Sea that was up to three hours away by Helicopter. I moved into the office to manage operations on Shell UK’s Northern and Central offshore projects. Being a part of their team that delivered many “never been done before” firsts in our industry was a great experience.
After seven years working in Aberdeen, Scotland, I moved to Stavanger, Norway as Operations Manager. My three years in Norway were amongst the best of my career…that is where I met my wife! From Norway we moved to Houston, spending more than four years in various roles.
We returned to Europe for two years, this time to Paris (France), where I was VP for Europe and Africa (land and offshore). I would like to say that we spent our time sightseeing and being tourists but I was on the road for more than 200 days a year and saw more of Africa than France!
You have spent some time in Europe and Africa. What is the industry like in those areas? Did you experience any culture shock?
When travelling for business I’m often told “things are different here.” In truth, there are always going to be cultural nuances, but the core elements of our industry remain constant: safety is the priority, as is protecting the environment, coupled with providing the highest levels of operational performance. Whilst the view out of the window may look very different, developing relationships and trust with customers is the same in Europe and Africa as it is in Canada.
What prompted you to run for the Board of Directors?
The Board of Directors position came about through internal restructuring and the retirement of a former executive vice president. He was a member of the CAODC Board and had been involved with CAODC for more than three decades. It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to replace him, follow his example, and contribute towards promoting and improving the Canadian drilling industry.
How have you seen the industry change since your early days?
Our industry changed following the Piper Alpha disaster on July 6, 1988. It was one of those world-changing events that people remember where they were at the time. I was on vacation with my parents in Florida. Little did I know back then that I would find myself working in the O&G Industry in the North Sea and experience first-hand the impact the Lord Cullen Report would have on reshaping how we work today. The Safety and Operational improvements to offshore operations were continuing to be implemented when I started in ’97. These safe working practices have since become core to land-based drilling projects and have advanced our industry to new levels of performance.
As a Scotsman, what are your thoughts on Canada’s pipeline situation? How can Canada become more competitive in the global market?
The (political) world we live in today has changed over the last decade vs prior years: Brexit being just one example. The considerations associated with approving pipelines are more complex than before, perhaps driven by inaccurate stereotypes of our O&G Industry. I applaud and support the CAODC for the “Oil Respect” campaign, which is a fantastic initiative that is far-reaching and stretches across Canada and beyond. Securing an outlet to a coastline, which permits exports to international markets, opens multiple business opportunities to our industry and should help smooth out activity levels in our cyclical market today.
What is one of the most memorable moments from your career so far?
My most recent memorable moment is the successful start-up of our first APEX-XK 1500® Drilling Rig in Canada, new-build Rig 811. Prior to the rig commencing operations in July 2015 we spent several months sending our crews to the US for training on active APEX-XK 1500® rigs as well as training in our new-build yard on Rig 811. I participated in several of the training days and appreciated spending time with the team.
How do you spend your time “off hitch”?
My wife and I enjoy travelling, balancing revisiting our favourite destinations (Norway, Scotland, South Africa), catching up with family and friends back home, and exploring new locations around the world. We like to ski, preferring Sunshine’s snow to Lake Louise’s, which I know can be a contentious topic for discussion. I am often asked if I play golf, to which I answer “I have all the equipment…”