Harbour Energy exec details company's business strategies

Dec. 11, 2023
EVP says adaptability and innovation are now a necessity for the future of the oil and gas industry.

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the 2023 Executive Perspectives Special Report, which published within the November/December 2023 issue of Offshore magazine. 


By Philip Whittaker, Harbour Energy

 

With the global energy landscape evolving at an unprecedented pace, the challenge for sectors like ours is how to change and innovate in a way that ensures we can be successful over the long term. What that means for an ever-maturing sector is constantly looking to do things better or more effectively. 

While we have a clear strategy to establish a material base of production in at least one region outside the UK, Harbour Energy is currently best known as the largest oil and gas producer in the UK. That means most of our current operations are focused on the North Sea—one of the most mature basins in the world. So, as an organisation, we’re increasingly focused on effectiveness, efficiencies, simplicity but also scalability, and we can take on new challenges safely in the knowledge that we have the right support structures or processes already in place while maintaining our strict safety culture. 

One way we’re doing that is through an increasingly strategic approach to our partnership and supply chain contracts. For instance, Harbour recently entered into a new five-year strategic North Sea operations partnership with Wood for a new master services agreement and associated contracts valued at about $330 million. That’s the model we’re increasingly looking to replicate—relationships entered into over the long term with a key sense of strategic direction and purpose. We already have five of these long-term partnerships, with an intent to more than double that over the next 12 months. But longevity is a key element here too, and we’re focusing more on partnership agreements in the five- to 10-year range rather than the short term.

Another focus is on embracing the opportunities of technology and innovation. Data-driven decision-making is becoming increasingly crucial, and we find the industry can optimize operations, improve safety and reduce costs by working smarter not harder. At Harbour, we had many legacy systems that required to be integrated following our mergers and acquisitions of our heritage companies, so one thing we’re doing is a comprehensive and holistic digitalization work program in conjunction with Hexagon ALI to implement a fully integrated cloud solution across all our assets. This will support the whole life cycle of an asset. We have a very clear vision upfront, which is a “three clicks to anywhere” approach that makes every individual in the company more effective and efficient and enables a platform to continuously improve data quality. 

Simplicity is another key opportunity. Finding the ways to make an organization as slick and streamlined as possible is something the company is increasingly focused on. But taking that even further, one of the most unappreciated management challenges is working to eliminate unnecessary tasks, processes or bureaucracy. Personally, I would consider the move to simplicity and elimination as an innovation in and of itself, and creating an environment where staff can critically challenge the necessity of tasks is something really important to me. Once that ethos is instilled, we want to find ways to scale that across the wider company. 

As the industry and technology it is using evolves, so do the skills required by its workforce, which is where workforce development comes in. We’re investing in retraining and upskilling our employees to equip them with the knowledge and expertise needed to thrive in the changing energy landscape. This investment not only benefits the company but also the employees and the broader industry.

The future of the oil and gas industry is one that requires adaptability and a forward-thinking approach. Harbour Energy, like other industry leaders, must be at the forefront of this transformation if it wishes to remain a significant player in the global energy sector.


About the author: Philip Whittaker is Harbour Energy’s executive vice president of global services.

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