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Fearnley Procter makes T&T flagship foreign operation

Published: 
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Kevin Fearnley

Outside of its Aberdeen, Scotland headquarters, T&T is Fearnley Procter’s flagship operation, co-founder Kevin Fearnley said during a July 21 interview at the Hyatt in Port of Spain. The “solution-based company focused on reducing non-productive time” in the oil and gas sector has 14 offices in 12 countries on five continents.

“Trinidad is our flagship,” he said, adding that this is not only because it was the first outside of the North Sea (UK) but also because of the way the company has been embraced here. “As a company owner you want to know that you’re welcome because you’re going to invest your money, and we’ve invested a lot of money here over the years. It is a profitable operation, obviously, because we’re still here. We’ve had a couple of bad years, but we’ve stayed here committed.”

He said there are only a few countries in the world where the right balance between life and work is struck and T&T is one of them. “You get your work done here,” he said. 

Formed in 1998 in Aberdeen, servicing primarily a North Sea clientele, Fearnley said that after about four years in business, the company wanted to branch out internationally. Britain’s BG Group brought the company here in 2002 as a service provider. “At the time they were looking for a company that specialised in reducing non-productive time,” he said. So the company set up an office, employed locals, and sought “to bring something to the local economy.”

At the time, he said the company had no competition except for one firm out of the US, but it was very expensive because it was bringing in expats from the US and rotating them. Fearnley Procter now employs about 15 people locally, and close to 200 globally. Fearnley said the company has, however, been training locals and now T&T nationals are the largest minority working for Fearnley Procter, outnumbering the locally-based group.

“They (T&T citizens) travel well,” he said. “And speak the right language,” his wife, Genevieve, interjected jokingly. Fearnley Procter once held a recruitment seminar for University T&T (UTT) students pursuing energy-related degrees and took on about 15, she said. “The education system here is very good. That’s one of the reasons we have been successful here,” he said.

When asked about which of the 14 nationalities make the best expats, he said, “I’d have to say T&T. Trinidadians adapt the best. We’ve had them in most of our locations. I doubt there’s a location where they haven’t been.” Fearnley met his wife, Genevieve, a T&T national, at Trotters in Port-of-Spain when the company was still young. She is now in charge of human resources at the company. They live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Drilling can cost over US$750,000 per day
Explaining more about what the company does, Fearnley said per day cost of drilling a well could be upward of US$750,000 depending on type of well. “When they’re drilling the well, if they have equipment failure, they tend to call a company like us to do the investigation. He said that is how the business started, serving operators like Shell, BG, BP, BHP Billion, and EOG Resources, “reducing their costs when they drill a well.”

However, inspection is just one part of the business now. Fearnley Procter now offers quality control and quality assurance (QC & QA), engineering, training, and technical publications. Fearnley’s background is in inspection, and his partner Ray Procter is a drilling engineer. Fearnley started off at age 20 and now has 33 years’ experience in the oil and gas business. Procter has 30 years’ experience. Together they run the company with US$17 million 2014 projected turnover, and aim to grow that by 25 per cent next year, as they
did last year.

In T&T, the company “goes into oil and gas service companies and looks at the integrity of their equipment,” checking to make sure they meet the specifications of Fearnley Procter clients like BP or BG, prior to being transported to the rig site. Asked if he expects to get a lot of business with the government-announced plans for the 31-53 wells to be drilled locally over the next eight years, he said it depends on what the cost of the failure is. 

If a client has a 30-day well plan and it is going to cost US$750,000 per day, every day not drilling costs money, he said, and if a piece of equipment fails then drilling must be stopped. In a worse case scenario, the well could be side-tracked if the equipment part is not immediately available. He said he sees the next growth area for the company in T&T to be in training clients’ recruits how to handle equipment, which in turn, will result in “reducing the occurrence of equipment failure.”

He said Fearnley Procter is “looking to grow the training side of the business” because T&T nationals are always very keen to absorb training. He said plans for distance learning programmes for service companies are afoot.