Fluid response

Supported by more than 13,000 people across 75 countries, M-I SWACO focuses on providing the world’s leading oil and drilling companies with safe, innovative and cost effective solutions, whether that means finding the right drilling fluid for a fragile formation or developing a complete programme for collecting, managing and treating drilling wastes from an offshore field.

The company is a major solution provider to the oil and gas industry through its four specialised divisions – drilling solutions to optimise drilling performance, wellbore productivity to safeguard downhole assets, production technologies to maximise production and environmental solutions to reduce waste and secure drilling efficiency. It provides global integrated solutions and support to its clients who are assured of receiving the same first-class service regardless of where their operations take place.

“We provide drilling and completion fluids, with some solid control equipment,” says the managing director of M-I SWACO’s Danish operation Gunnar Fimreite. “We work mainly for two very different companies and, for the last ten years, we’ve been the major player in the market within our business line even though we’re a relatively small organisation. The two major operators here, Maersk Oil & Gas, and Dong Energy, have a typical rig count of four to five and up to two, respectively. It’s all jack-up rigs rather than deepwater and the Maersk operation, which is the biggest, has typically used water-based mud for a decade whereas Dong uses oil-based mud. However, there is major change occurring at the moment in Denmark because Maersk has decided to switch to more oil-based mud drilling due to operational issues. This will require much more equipment and a different product mix since oilbased mud must have zero discharge to sea and with water-based mud you can discharge everything to sea.”

By taking a proactive approach to its services, M-I SWACO has grown by anticipating and responding to operators, and drilling contractors’ needs for the life-cycle of their wells – from well construction, completion and production to drilling waste management, Waste Injection produced-water treatment, and even pipeline flow enhancement and gas sweetening.

Gunnar elaborates: “From a North Sea perspective, M-I SWACO has grown considerably over the last ten years and we’ve started branching into other areas that are related to our core business, which has always been drilling fluids and solid control equipment. We’re now expanding through acquisitions as well and have bought a company called SPF Seer, which deals with completion and cleaning tools  We have also acquired Epcon Offshore in Norway and that has been dealing with the separation of oil from produced water, therefore we now have an avenue into the produced water treatment business.”

Besides widening its services offering, M-I SWACO has invested vast amounts in employee development, with training facilities in Aberdeen, Bangkok, Houston and Volgograd, and considers its workforce to be the driving force behind its success. Added to this is the company’s ability to synergise its activities, which Gunnar believes is one of its strongest attributes: “We have a very good culture when it comes to integrating new companies we acquire and ensuring that all our divisions work well together, particularly in Denmark where all of our business lines are incorporated but we still have an excellent business overview because we’re a small organisation. We have 54 people working in Denmark, including consultants, and even with current expansion we’re still a small enough entity to cover all issues that arise in new business areas we’re exploring, which is a major strength. Being small makes it possible to address our customer concerns at all times, on which our excellent reputation is based.”

M-I SWACO’s customers give the organisation a free rein when it comes to servicing their needs. “In terms of developing products and services, our clients usually leave us to it,”comments Gunnar. “Our customers are demanding though and always want to look at new opportunities. For example Dong has been very environmentally focused recently with what we call yellow chemistry – the classification used by authorities to indicate how good a product is with regards to discharge. Dong has taken this to an extent where it includes even the oil-based systems not discharged to sea in case there is an accidental spill – in which case the spillage would still be a fairly low-risk chemical.

“On the fluid side, Dong is using a system called VersaTech which utilises completely yellow oil-based fluid, meaning it is the best available with regards to toxicity and a product’s potential to degrade in seawater. As far as toxicity goes, yellow is an excellent rating. The environmental push, especially with Dong, has been to continually develop new products and Dong has been very helpful in providing us with field trials, and focusing on progress.

“For Maersk, on the equipment side we have pushed clean-cut technology, which is pneumatically blowing cuttings in a completely enclosed system and is a very safe way of transporting cuttings. Development work is more on the water-based side and Maersk challenges us in a different way because they want to drill the wells as fast and as economically as possible. They push us to perform with low-cost products to achieve all of their goals whilst increasing return.”

M-I SWACO designs and engineers total programmes of interrelated disciplines that solve its customers’ larger and more complex problems. Its expertise in a wide range of technologies gives it an understanding that results in its customers receiving powerful, customised solutions, such as integrated fluids engineering, drilling waste management and production waste management, that support the customer through the entire lifecycle of a project.

In order to deliver such remarkable products and services, M-I SWACO retains a firm focus on new technology and has made considerable investments in research and engineering facilities. “There is a huge R&D programme running within the company and M-I SWACO operates two main technology centres outside of Houston – an R&D facility in Aberdeen and a technical centre in Stavanger, Norway,” explains Gunnar. “Close to 100 people work in those two places combined, which develop new technology on the chemistry side such as production chemicals, and drilling and completion fluids. Our huge knowledge bases at both locations concentrate on the concerns of our local operators in the North Sea, which we benefit from in Denmark as well. Companies such as BP, Statoil Hydro and Shell are incredibly pleased with the services that M-I provides and I think our position within our current market is strengthened because of these technology centres, as they allow us to focus on our customers’ concerns.”

The long-term future of M-I SWACO as a whole is difficult to ascertain as the market moves extremely quickly so the business takes a year-to-year approach to planning its development. Gunnar says: “With the new build for jack-up rigs coming in from Singapore, Dong is going to have an interesting drilling programme over the next few years, particularly in the HEJRE development field, which will be technically challenging. In the North Sea, we’re getting into a decline cycle with respect to how much oil it is possible to find but, for a technology organisation such as ourselves, I believe that’s just an opportunity – more technology can be developed so we’re perfectly positioned to deliver. Our concern is the oil price and the fact we’re dependent on rig counts – the less rigs and activity, the less work for us. We’re in a fluctuating business and nobody can predict the future in the oil industry. However, for the next year or two business looks really good.”

Continuing, he concludes: “For Denmark, our challenge is dependent on the extent to which Maersk takes its new oil-based approach. It will be tough for us to ensure we have the right people and technologies here that will allow us to operate at the forefront of the sector. Basically, our future goal is to make sure we’re the best and most cost efficient choice for our clients.”

M-I SWACO will continue to establish itself as a leader by listening to customers and trusting its personnel to develop customised solutions to problem solve. The company’s highly trained workforce and impressive facilities, which have benefited from considerable investments in research and engineering facilities as well as laboratories and field-support operations, give the company a distinct competitive edge.

M-I SWACO Denmark

Products Drilling fluids, Production Chemicals, Downhole Cleaning Tools and solid control equipment