At Well-Safe Solutions, our people reflect our culture. Sharing their knowledge and lessons learned to provide a collaborative and open workplace. Over this series, we aim to take a look at some of our Operations Team, showcasing their skills and benefit to not only Well-Safe Solutions but our industry as a whole.

Next up we meet Neil Ferguson, Operations Director at Well-Safe Solutions. With a wealth of industry knowledge, Neil is accountable for the safe and efficient operation of the mobile assets, leading the team in commanding the unique space that the P&A units will occupy in the industry.

Neil Ferguson

Neil joined the Well-Safe team in September 2019 as Operations Director. With a can-do attitude and a passion for the sector, Neil has always faced every challenge head-on. Find out more about his journey in the Oil & Gas sector and his time here at Well-Safe by reading our Q&A with him below:

How long have you been in the industry, and what made you pick a career in Oil & Gas?

I graduated in 1989 with a degree in Naval Architecture & Offshore Engineering. So, there was always an oil and gas industry element within the degree that I did. However, when I started working as a naval architect, there was no offshore element at all.

Not long into my career, I was pointed in the direction of an advert for DNV. I had a friend working in Aberdeen for BP at the time, so I came up for a couple of weekends, and I really liked it up here! Aberdeen had an interesting environment, it was very vibrant at the time, so I applied for the job and moved up in 1990.

Although I saw a whole range of vessels, from fishing boats to supertankers, I was mostly involved in working with drilling contractors and MODUs. As a result, I learned a lot about the drilling industry and became very interested in the sector. I was working very closely, latterly over in Norway, with Transocean, and they ended up offering me a job in 1996. So, I joined Transocean, and I guess I’ve been kicking around the industry ever since!

How do your previous work experiences help you at Well-Safe Solutions?

During my time with Transocean, I moved from the technical side of things into an operations role in 2000 when I moved back to Aberdeen. I was in amongst purely operational roles from Assistant Rig Manager, Rig Asset Manager, Rig Manager, Operations Manager, before moving into projects.

When I moved into projects, all the things I had learned before from a drilling contractor/ drilling rig, both technically and operationally, made it a comfortable fit from a project perspective. There are not many aspects of rig operations that I haven’t dealt with.

Because of Well-Safe’s size, you have to know a little bit of everything. I have a lot of marine experience, structural experience, class experience, and commercial experience from my time in engineering consultancy work which can offer a valuable perspective on projects. I guess it’s helpful to have a broad background and understanding in a small organisation because we’ve all got to pull our weight. So I think that’s probably been the most useful thing!

Since joining Well-Safe, what has been your biggest challenge and achievement? 

The biggest challenge and achievement for me was acquiring the Well-Safe Protector. We were given the brief of finding a rig, and in the market conditions and the global pandemic we found ourselves in – that was both difficult and rewarding.

When we were targeting the rig, it looked like we were emerging from this pandemic, with things getting easier, however as we purchased the rig and looked to organise the project and ultimately the rig move, things took a turn.

We had to balance the difficulty of working our project and our crew over in Norway, which was a massive challenge in itself. The participation and the buy-in to the whole concept from our crews were exceptional. They were so keen to get involved in the project, saying, “Yeah, we know it’s difficult to get in and out of Norway, but just point us in the right direction, and we’ll keep working”, it was brilliant to have that drive from the team.

Moving the rig in December was another challenge. We looked at it, not as one big weather window, but we broke it down into little bits of opportunity. We could shelter in Norway before coming across the North Sea and then do the same on the UK side by sheltering off the coast of Buckie. Rather than looking at the potential risk of a seven-day weather window, we were only looking at segments of three/ four days for which we had to have clear weather. That’s really where we took advantage of the situation – we got everyone on board that it was not just the safe thing to do, but also the right thing to do.

How is Well-Safe different for you, from other companies out there?

I think fundamentally, our business model is different, and our culture, as a result, is different too. We have the flexibility to do things in ways that our competitors can’t do.

We’ve got breadth right across the company for a full deliverable for our customers. That’s the thing that primarily sets us apart, but there’s a lot of subtleties that also make us different. We can offer completely novel contracting models that no one else can, from the FEED studies right through to the execution stage using our own units. No one else can do that.

We’ve assembled a great team, both onshore and offshore. Partly because we respect the capability and knowledge that those people bring and their experiences that go along with it. You see that in the way people go about their business.

No one is afraid to turn around and say, “I think we can do this in a better way. I’ve seen it done like that, and I know it doesn’t work.” and bring new ideas to the table. We are not blinkered by policy or procedure. If we think there’s a better way of doing something, we can change it and make it work within management system. Our management system is incredible for the size of the company we are. We’ve got a comprehensive and robust system, but we can still change it if we recognise improvements. It is so unique, and I’ve never worked for an organisation with that sort of openness before.