Tell me a bit about yourself
My name is Kristoffer Helliesen Ueland and my job title has actually just recently changed, I am now a Project Manager within the AOGV Business Area based in the IK office’s in Stavanger. I have been at IK for almost a year now. I started as a Project Engineer which meant I got to do a lot of travelling offshore which I loved, but due to a change in the department I got the opportunity to become a Project Manager which has been an exciting challenge.
Outside of work, my hobbies are pretty similar to my work. I love anything mechanical: cars, bikes, boats. If it has an engine, I will do some work with it! I also like to travel and see new places. I am married, so my wife and I enjoy taking motorbike rides and seeing more of Norway and its amazing scenery.
How did you get into the Energy Industry?
I graduated from the University of Stavanger with a bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering. At the time I started, the Norwegian Government had announced they were cutting oil production which made it a tricky time to get started into the industry. Whilst completing my degree, I took some mechanical engineering classes to compliment my petroleum engineering studies. I’ve always had a passion for mechanics and I knew that it was something I wanted to gain more experience in before starting my career.
My first role as a graduate was as a technical engineer for quite a small company with only a few personnel and we did basically anything within mechanical engineering including making specialised parts, basic machining and welding etc. We also had regular maintenance work on valves. This meant that before working at IK, I had experience going offshore as a valve technician which has been beneficial in my career. Although I am office-based, I love putting on my boiler suit and getting down to the workshop and being hands-on with the tools. I was with the previous company for around a year and a half and then I went back to study to learn some more. While working as a technical engineer I started an apprenticeship-style job where you learn and work at the same time and then become a specialist in your chosen field. I did mine in mechanics, as I learned just having an engineering degree does not show a company the competence you have in mechanical work. However, whilst completing this I got a call from my current boss, AOGV’s Operations Manager, Svein Tore Milwertz, asking if I’d like to come in for a talk. A long-time friend of mine works in IK and had recommended me for a job. He had told me a lot about IK, and I loved their attitude to problems, that nothing is a problem! If you have an issue, you just phone IK and they will fix it for you. That ethos is perfect for where I want to work.
When Svein Tore asked if I wanted to come in for a discussion it was an easy answer. I said, “Of course, I’ll come straight away!” I had a really great chat with him and the next day I signed the papers to become a project engineer for our AOGV Business Area. It happened so fast, but I was so excited to get started.
You mentioned you are now a project manager – what does that involve?
I only started my current role as Project Manager just a couple of months ago, so it is still pretty new. My objectives as a Project Manager are to take a leading role in the projects by allocating the correct personnel to the correct parts to get the best outcome for our clients. I also have to create a budget and make sure that we stick to that figure, and what comes hand-in-hand with that is constant communication with the client. Any changes to the project, I need to make sure the client is fully aware what is happening and why as their main point of contact. This role comes with a lot of responsibility, operationally. I am responsible for the personnel we send offshore.
The job is very interesting in that way, it’s so varied. There are so many different things you are doing every day in the office. Everything from controlling projects to having design reviews for different parts and different AOGV’s, to talking with our customers. It’s quite different to project engineering. With project engineering you have a level of responsibility that is given to you by a project manager, but a project manager’s responsibility is quite a lot bigger.
It's definitely an exciting time to be part of the AOGV Team. The AOGV has really taken off in the last few years and to be part of its journey is exciting. We are expanding the team quite rapidly at the moment, so I am excited to work with new people to help continue the growth of the AOGV.
What are the main problems your clients need solutions for?
The AOGV concept is so unique, we are the only ones with this solution. This means that the problems and cases that come to us are always different; some are very straightforward, and some are very unique.
The problems that our clients most typically come to us with is in regard to cost and cost reduction when conducting different types of work on offshore systems. They want a quick and safe solution to allow for maintenance without shutting down the system. It is no secret that the oil price has never been higher than it is currently and for an operator on the Norwegian Continental Shelf to have to shut down for two weeks to perform maintenance, possibly with the need to purge the system, that is quite a cost for them.
Our clients will come to us with a problem, possibly with a valve or pipework, and they will ask, “Can the AOGV help us with this? Is it possible?” And I can say that almost 99% of the time it is possible. On the very rare occasion it is not possible, we will offer a price to come out and survey the issue and we will design a tool that will work for their problem. This boils down to the mentality of IK-Group – nothing is impossible! We will build an AOGV, we will travel offshore, we will present the system to the customer, we will bring them to the workshop and show them the full-scale test with pressure, then we go offshore and insert the spade and allow the maintenance work to begin without shut down. It’s pretty cool to be involved in that. I often step back at the end of a project and think, ‘you couldn’t have fixed that problem without the AOGV’, that’s what makes it so great.
Are there any projects that you see as your greatest achievement to-date?
For me personally, there is one that comes to mind. In my first week here at IK, I started on the Monday and on the Friday, I was sent offshore to complete work for a project. Stefan, our workshop supervisor, and I completed a 4inch AOGV operation. The thing with this one is that it wasn’t a very complex AOGV operation; it was low pressure, we had easy access. Of course, we faced some challenges but as a whole it was a pretty smooth operation. However, starting this AOGV operation just a few days into the company and travelling offshore with Stefan and jumping straight into the mechanics of the AOGV was definitely a big achievement for me. I felt like I had to show the team I was ready for the challenge and open to learning all of these new things in quite a short amount of time. I came away from that project feeling happy with how it went.
Since then, I have been part of a lot of varied projects with bigger revenue, but I think the fact I was so new into IK-Group I jumped straight to it makes it stand out to me. It feels like a real achievement personally.
What are your career goals going forward? Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
If you had asked me this half a year ago, I would have said within ten years I would like to be a project manager, but suddenly that one already happened!
Currently my plan is just to continue to get good at what I do. I want to be able to help out more with technical solutions and problem solving, which I know will take a few more years of learning and developing within my team. I am hoping to still be in IK-Group in the next 10 years. I am hoping the AOGV will become big on a global scale which will come with a lot more responsibility for the project managers. I don’t know how realistic it is to say I will progress further than a project manager in 10 years’ time, but I do know that I want to be a really great project manager within IK-Group, and I hope to do that in the next decade.
In your opinion, what are the top challenges facing our industry today?
One problem is that there has definitely been a drastic change in the focus areas within the oil and gas industry over the last couple years. It went from being a positive force which brought wealth to a lot of countries and people saw it as a good thing, but the priority has shifted towards the green energy transition which is a good thing for our environment. However, this brings two problems; the first being we realistically cannot just shut off the oil supply and go completely green so fast, it has to be a transition which takes time. It’s a challenge to convey that message. Also, we have the ‘baby boomers’ who were born after the second world war. A lot of them work in the oil and gas industry and someday soon, and it’s already happening, a lot of these people will retire and in-turn there is a rise in the demand for these skillsets as engineers. These seats are unable to be filled due to a lack of young people keen to get into the industry. That in itself comes with a lot of challenges. We need to make the industry more appealing to younger people in order to get new talent onboard.
If you'd like to know more about the AOGV, get in touch with Kristoffer today!