Tell me a bit about yourself
My name is Filipe Assuncao, I am currently a Senior Engineer for the Subsea business area here at IK and I’m originally from Portugal.
Outside of work I dedicate most of my free time to art and painting and have become quite successful in the process. I am a multi award-winning artist and my work has been in exhibitions all over the world. I am really busy with commissions at the moment, I absolutely love it.
How did you get into that? Have you always been artistic?
Children are always born with these talents, they are always dancing, singing, or drawing but as they grow up, they can fall out of love with it. I used to draw a lot when I was a kid and just continued to do so. It was a dream of mine to pursue art as my full-time career but that wasn’t possible at the time, so I went into engineering, but I continued to draw and paint as a hobby outside of work. Eventually I used my time outside of work to go back to university to study a Masters Degree in Fine Art. This has opened so many doors for me and my art outside of work. It is amazing how having a degree brings such credibility to your work. This hobby is a passion, and it takes up most of my spare time.
What is your background and how did you get into this industry?
I have two master’s degrees: one in Mechanical Engineering and, as I said earlier one in Fine Arts.
I didn’t go into engineering straight from school. I actually went into electronics, that was initially my first choice, but I didn’t pursue it fully. I went for my second choice of mechanical engineering and I’m happy I stuck with that. I gained my degree in Portugal at quite a well-respected University for engineering, Instituto Superior Tecnico.
I got into this industry as I wasn’t happy with my working conditions, and the situation in my home country was not improving so I decided to look for a job abroad and got this opportunity to work at IK in Stavanger, Norway. It was IK that found me in fact! IK attended a recruitment event in Portugal to gain some more staff and that’s where I met Christian Knutsen, our CTO, and we clicked straight away. I have worked here now for 8 years, and I love it. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
What are some of the past roles you have held?
I haven’t always worked in the energy sector, I have worked in fluids, hydraulics, production and I even had my own steelwork factory business at one point. Within these sectors I worked across a range of roles - technical sales, design and project engineer, quality manager, general manager, country manager, to name a few. I was very lucky to be directly linked to the production processes and been in management, that has allowed me to develop a business-mind and a solid background in many disciplines, which has complimented by educational background nicely.
What was your first role at IK-Group?
I started at a very interesting time, it was so busy with big projects, and everyone was being dropped into different things all the time. My second day here I was asked to work on a huge project which involved me working over-time all weekend to fast-track the delivery for the client. I came here with some experience and so I started off in a team lead role and it has grown into what it is today. I am happy to assist across any area as that is the culture at IK. One day you can be completing documents and the next you are down assembling the parts in the workshop. I love that way of working; I think it is amazing the opportunities we get.
You are a Senior Engineer for Subsea at IK-Group, what does that entail?
I am normally involved in all phases of the project, very often as a lead engineer. I work very closely with the project manager and the client. I really appreciate to have a lot of autonomy and lead my team; I like when the team get into a good flow and work well together while I drive it. I normally work very close with the client and like to develop good personal relations, giving the client a solid trust about the technical abilities of the people working at IK. I like having the opportunity to work with different people and cultures all over the world. This job has taken me to lots of different places - I don’t have a favourite place I have been for work, but I always appreciate going to a sunny country in winter. It’s nice to get the sunshine!
When a client calls with a problem, what are the most common problems they need assistance with?
Mostly it is a sudden failure that needs to be repaired in a short time. This could be a leakage, something damaged in handling, but sometimes they come to us for preventative solutions to mitigate future damage. In the subsea business area, we usually create bespoke solutions for client. We do have products that we use, but often the solution is designed specifically to deal with the client's needs. We have been doing this over 30 years so almost all of our solutions come from tried and tested methods.
I would say 90% of the time the client needs a solution delivered to them fast. This is not always possible, but we try to always fix the client’s problem in the fastest way possible with full assurance that the solution is safe to be used. One project I worked on, the client called on the Friday with a substantial issue and we designed, manufactured, tested and delivered the solution by the Wednesday. That is the speed at which we can work, we are very flexible here.
What is the process you follow when a client comes to the Subsea Business Area with a problem?
The first thing we do is talk to each other- this happens every day. Internally, we will meet at each other’s desks, in meeting rooms and discuss the problem and get ideas for a solution. We often get back to the client quickly and let them know we think we will be able to come up with a solution and what timeframe we see it being completed. The client usually replies and says they would like to see our solutions, so we go away and develop a tender in a very short time. Once we get the project we work together as a very tight team, we discuss ideas constantly and then we get the solution ready for production and testing.
What are the consequences if they don’t find a solution?
A lot of the work that we do can have a critical outcome if it is not repaired correctly or in a certain timeframe. We have been involved in delivering solutions to fix the supply of energy to an entire city in Asia. We were told if the repair was not complete, the outcome would result in an entire city getting shut off from energy, it is that critical. We had another project to deliver a repair solution to save critical structures from collapsing, avoiding potential disasters. The leg of a platform was in a dangerous way and if it had been left any longer the whole platform would have collapsed. We designed and built a clamp to go round the leg and secure it - that was one of the biggest projects we have delivered.
What is the one project you think of when asked what has been your biggest achievement to date?
I would say it is the one I mentioned earlier. We fixed a platform leg which was in a dangerous way, preventing the whole platform from collapsing. An intervention like this had never been done before making it a real challenge. We developed a huge clamp to secure and jack the platform leg and then drilled and installed 30 expansion plugs to secure the leg. We also installed grout filled mud mats to help the stability. The entire project was done at high speed to be finished before the bad weather hit during the winter season.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time, what is your career goals going forward?
I do not like to make long term plans. I have been through many ups and downs, and my only wishes for the future are to be healthy and reasonably happy.
What are the top challenges facing our industry right now?
I can see that oil and gas became the “ugly duckling”, and a lot of parties are turning to renewables and abandoning oil and gas. I believe this is too sudden and may lead to wrong decisions that will have a huge cost if it is not properly managed. Everything requires oil; your headset, your watch, your clothes. We are not ready to stop the use of it and turn to something else. That will take a lot of time and this industry has a lot to give for many years and shall not be disregarded. Going forward, getting the transition to green and the correct energy mix will be key to longevity and sustainability.
If you'd like to know more about IK-Group's Subsea Capabilities, get in touch with Filipe here.