A family affair

As a wholly owned, UK-based family business, Alderley has a plethora of experience operating in the international oil and gas industry gained from its 20-year history.

With a turnover of over £50 million, the company operates primarily in the production of bespoke systems for either the measurement of oil and gas or treatment of produced water. Essentially, the organisation functions as a systems integrator offering some of the most effective and efficient solutions for the metering, process treatment and control of all hydrocarbon products. The services provided are tailor-made specifically to a customers individual requirements ensuring that every solution is highly engineered and designed to the highest quality. Currently Alderley has an establishment in the UK, which handles activities in the European markets and parts of Africa, as well as a facility in the free zone of Dubai for the monitoring of interests in the Middle East. In addition, the company has a sales and engineering office in Russia with plans to expand.

Tony Shepherd, owner and chairman of the business, outlines the advantages of Alderley over its competitors: “The fact that we have been specialised in the production of these systems for the best part of 20 years is a key differentiator in the marketplace. We built up a great deal of experience for this kind of work in the UK sector of the North Sea, which is probably one of the most demanding regions in the world and is where standards for the wider industry are set. These standards give us tremendous strength for conducting work overseas. We prefer to work directly for the oil companies, and with our consultancy and customer service operations the major ones are our main clients. However the majority of our systems projects are actually for large contractors, so we work for both.”

With a growing number of installations across the world, Alderley is beginning to be seen as the principle contractor. The company’s Dubai office has been in situ for over 15 years, but it is only recently that it has seen growth. Indeed, most recently the delivery of metering systems for the liquefied natural gas plants in Qatar was the most extensive scope of work Alderley has ever done. This has identified the company as a leader in the field of liquefied natural gas metering applications. As a systems integrator, the company does not spend a great deal on innovation. As a user of a wide range of products, it uses its expertise to ensure the best ones are used for the contract.

In describing the particular features of the metering business Tony explains: “Accuracy is essential as oil is a very valuable fluid and is handled in very large quantities, a very small inaccuracy in the metering system can create a very substantial loss to the producer. To make sure that this does not happen an onsite method of checking metering accuracy is normally provided.”

Another area of recent success for the company has been in the produced water treatment market in Russia. This has been due to the fact that the Russian methods have not yet reached the same standards as those achieved in the western European regions, such as the North Sea, and as such the treatment of oily water is an expanding sector. As assets mature, and produced water volumes increase, operators face problems in dealing with the resulting issues. Increasingly stringent discharge specifications, limit the disposal options available to companies. Water production rates are commonly five times that of oil production rates and as such a truly integrated approach is needed to address all aspects of the complex process. Alderley now offers an all encompassing range of water treatment products that includes surge tanks, collection vessels and separators, liquid hydrocyclones, solids cleaning equipment, produced water polishing systems, media filters and coalescers.

The organisation already has a wholly owned subsidiary in Russia taking orders for water treatment systems. However the facility base is not following normal company practice as, even though the systems are designed in-house and the components are externally procured, the assembling and testing is not under the full control of Alderley: “It is both our ambition and intention to get the full production and service process under our control in Russia over the coming years.”

Tony continues: “I think that the opportunities in produced water treatment or in process design are actually greater than the opportunities in metering, despite the fact that fiscal metering is highly important for the long-term success of operations. This is because environmental pressures are increasing, along with water production rates, which has therefore raised the importance of successfully implementing produced water management strategies. We have a fairly substantial turnover for a family owned business so I have no major concerns for the coming years and I want to see us maintaining and improving our reputation as a supplier of really high quality systems. We intend to model our business on the German Mittelstand type company, where we are experts in one or two particular areas and perform better than anyone else for these products.”

Tony also believes that government support for the UK based export network in the oil and gas industry could greatly aid its future. British oilfield engineers are respected and deployed all over the world due to the high performance standards they obtain during their training in the North Sea, yet government support is virtually non-existent. This provides challenges in that many original UK oil and gas companies have been procured or shut down by foreign operators meaning that British engineers are being used for the benefit of another country and not for the UK. Tony believes that with more support for British exporters, the UK based oil and gas sector would flourish.


Products: Metering and produced water treatment systems