IK-Group's Marketing Team caught up with AOGV Project Manager, Isabell, in the latest instalment of our Spotlight Series.
Tell me a bit about yourself and what hobbies you enjoy outside of work.
My name is Isabell and I am the Project Manager for the AOGV Department in IK-Group.
It’s kind of embarrassing to say, but I am quite a nerd. If I could spend my weekend playing computer games I probably would do so. However, I do have two kids so I can’t do that anymore! If I can spend my time talking about Lord of the Rings, Star Wars or discuss computer games I’m pretty much happy. I have managed to nerdify my son into it too, so we love to watch the Hobbit and play video games like Super Mario together.
Then again, we are Norwegians, so we do ski. The whole family does. It’s not really an option here, you have to ski!
I’m interested to hear about your educational background and your journey into this industry, tell me about that.
I studied locally at the University in Stavanger. I did Mechanical Engineering, which I think about half of the company has exactly the same education.
I haven’t always been in the Oil & Gas industry, IK is the first job that I had in the industry. When I was a student, I used to work in the health sector doing home care service, driving round to the elderly, and helping them with their needs. I liked that job a lot as a student, I worked evenings and weekends and I actually went and did an exam in medicine so that I could expand help to those vulnerable people who needed medication. That job really gives you perspective. After working there, I really feel like everyone should see how it works. It’s not easy getting old!
I started at IK in 2018, it was my first job out of university. It was quite a coincidence actually, I was working in a store, my mum has a store in the shopping mall where I would have extra working hours while I was studying. During this time, I was applying for jobs but it was 2015 or 2016 and it was so difficult to get a job in the industry. While I was working in the store one day, a guy came in and he was looking to buy a watch. I asked him if he wanted a standard battery one or a mechanical one. I told him you need to be careful with mechanical watches, they need maintenance just like a car and if you’re not interested in that, pick a standard one. He went on to tell me he worked with mechanical equipment, so this was “his thing”. We got talking and wanted me in for an interview the next day! This was Kjetil Aamodt (AOGV Principal Engineer) and I got the job and started at IK!
It really goes to show when you continue to work and get out, you can meet the right people at the right time. He went on to buy the watch, not from me though since I had my new job in IK!
What was the role you had when you first started?
I started as a Project Engineer. It was mostly the Pipeline Intervention department that I was part of at the time, and then suddenly the market realised how impressive the AOGV is and it became a big thing. When we divided into two departments, I really wanted to stay in the AOGV Department and luckily, I got to.
We aren't a massive company with 1000s of staff, so in turn, you get to participate in a project from the start right to the very end which is the essence of working for IK and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. You get to travel offshore, do surveys, come back and discuss the design, make the design, implement it, follow it up and at the end you get to do the delivery and participate in the offshore operation to finish off the project you originally went offshore to do a survey on. It’s amazing, the things you get to learn. You become really involved in the communication with the client the whole way through. I love it.
In your opinion, what makes IK a leader in the oil and gas industry?
I was at an offshore installation in Norway, and I got an email from someone that we did a project for, probably two years ago, saying that they had a leakage and asked if we could help them out. I remembered her name from before and it’s great she obviously remembered me too and I was the person she thought of when needing assistance. I guess you build this relationship with people where they feel they can contact you about an issue because you’ve been on email, Teams, phone calls and before COVID-times, you used to meet in person!
Having this close communication makes the client feel secure and involved. We play with open cards - always, which we like them to see. There is nothing hidden going on and whatever happens they will know about it and participate in problem solving if there are any challenges. It’s been hard during this last year, it is really important to look your clients in the eyes and shake their hands at a SJA or HAZOP meeting. Vice versa, it’s important for them to look us in the eyes and give us the green light to go out to the installation. You can’t compare Teams meetings with meeting in person.
When you follow a project from start to end, you get a real sense of ownership over your tasks. I may sound silly, but it becomes your “baby.” It’s that ownership that is so important to IK, my department and me personally.
You recently got a promotion – congratulations! Can you tell me about your new role as Project Manager?
Yes, thank you. My new main tasks will be to plan, execute, monitor and control the projects from start to end. Which basically means to deliver a successful job as effective and safe as possible, making sure we stay within the budget and project schedule. I am quite organized, so I’m looking forward to the planning and coordination part. My main focus areas will be to minimize risk and uncertainties, as well as creating a good working environment, making sure my team thrives in the project group and with their tasks.
You mentioned having strong connections with clients. What sort of problems do your clients come to you with?
Almost everyone contacts us because they want to do repair or maintenance jobs, but they do not want to shut down. They do not want to do it during their turnarounds, because they already planned for the turnaround and something has occurred that they did not plan for and they don’t have time to do it then, so they come to us.
Usually these regular problems are leakages, or nearly-leakages which are mostly in valves or flange connections. We also have cases where the thickness of the pipe wall totally corroded and in one case the thickness was down to 0.5mm! We also get some funny cases though, a welder forgetting his welders plug (Pollock plug) in the pipe, they assembled the pipe and started production with the plug still in there! We managed to remove the plug without shutting down anything, during full operation. They usually come to us for not wanting to shut down, and we are happy to help them with that.
What would be the consequences if we didn’t produce solutions?
Time and money, which goes hand-in-hand. They would have to shut down, stop the production and then do the maintenance or replacement work. It could be a leaking valve which needed to be replaced and instead of isolating that part because they don’t have that opportunity, they need to shut down the whole thing. They need to bleed down the pressure in the system, empty the system, usually it’s hydrocarbons so you need to purge or flush that out. Then they need people to remove the bolts and valves and usually it’s big and heavy, you can’t just throw it over your shoulder, so that requires a lifting arrangement. Everything needs to be in place for this and everything takes time offshore.
Once a client has come to you with these issues, what is the process of finding the right solution?
I think it’s simple and I can say it in two words: close communication. Usually, we just get the issue emailed with a picture, often a picture of a leaking valve, asking, “can you do something about this?” and we respond with “Yes, we can!”. Next steps would be to gather a project team and we do a very brief design to see how much room we have, because usually the issue is in a confined space or there are parallel piping systems. From there we pose different solutions, and we leave it up to the client to choose the one they like. Of course, we try to be efficient making sure the costs are as low as possible but that’s really it. We keep the client in the loop at all times.
After that it’s design, production, training, testing and we’re off! That’s “basically” it.
My favourite cases are when the client thinks there is nothing that can be done to fix their problem. Then we’re all like “Challenge excepted!”
I’d be interested to know if there are any projects which you’ve been a part of that have stood out to you and made you most proud, and why?
Yes, there is, it’s hard to pick just one. However, the one that sticks in my mind was in Scotland for an oil major on an onshore installation. It was for the installation of an 18” AOGV, but it was with butane so it meant you couldn’t just open and shut pipes due to hydrocarbons. This meant that everything needed to be flushed, drained and tested so it was safe to open. In addition, the butane was liquid which means it has to be around -50° Celsius to keep it liquid, which again means you can’t use a regular gasket made from rubber which was a new challenge for us. We were wondering how we were going to solve this because we already had a design which we know works, but now we will have to go away from that design and figure out something new. This was a challenge. However, it didn’t stop there because we then were told there was an asbestos gasket in the flange that needed to be removed and replaced with a non-asbestos gasket, which I found amazing because this was one of the coolest challenges we’d ever done at the time.
We made a brushing tool in case the asbestos gasket broke off into pieces we could just brush it away using copper brushes. This ensured the whole area would be asbestos free making it safe for other people to open it at a later stage. We worked with an asbestos specialist team who put a tent up around the AOGV and we had to wear masks and suits to ensure we didn’t breathe it in, or it didn’t go in our skin. I thought it was amazing how everyone came together to complete that project safely, with no harm done to the team or the environment, I loved that job.
When the line was still fully operational, we split the flanges and removed and brushed away the old asbestos gasket. We put in an isolation spade, we isolated the line so that they could do the maintenance work and when we were done, we retracted the spade and replaced the gasket, which of course was asbestos free. The system was restored.
This project really had everything; low temperatures, the asbestos gasket, hydrocarbons, it was just so impressive. Also, I’m used to hydrocarbons at gas stage, but this was liquid, and what happens when you have liquid that goes into the AOGV cavity – which is not –50 degrees C, it started to vaporise. When it’s vaporising, it starts to “spit out” hydrocarbon gas so there will still be hydrocarbons safely stored in the AOGV. We needed to flush and purge the cavity in order to get rid of the liquid, but it is hard to get rid of all the liquid because it will hide in the threads of bolts and stuff like that, you can’t get in there with a rag or a cloth to remove it. It would just continue to fill up the AOGV with this hydrocarbon gas. By safely purging the cavity t a safe bleed, the cavity was confirmed hydrocarbon free.
The sense of ownership over your tasks that I was talking about earlier was so important with this project. You need that eagerness or willingness to fix it. You need a drive and spirit to succeed. This spirit exists in the whole AOGV team, which I think is what makes us who we are – our identity.
You’ve been part of so many exciting projects in your exciting IK career so far, where do you see yourself and your career in the next 10 years?
I know exactly where I want to be in 10 years’ time, I want to be the COO. I’m someone who is very driven and focused, I know what I want, so I know what to aim for.
Finally, you’ve helped some tough problems in your time at IK so far. In your opinion, what are the top challenges facing our industry at the moment?
This may be a very standardised answer, but the main issue is that we need to optimise the production and want efficiency. In addition, we need to reduce the cost of it - and you can’t always have both!
However, there is a third factor in this because there is a rising demand, therefore you need efficiency and to reduce costs, but at the same time we need to improve our environmental footprint. This have to be in accordance with the regulations that are in place, whether that be those set by the country you are working in or the company you are working for. There are constantly new regulations and working to make sure all these regulations are met and keeping up to date is a big challenge.
You can try hard to make something that works for optimizing production or reducing costs, which is the main two factors, then you get these new regulations and suddenly you can’t do what has worked for you for the past two years and you have to make a change. This also loops back and results in adding more time and in turn, more money. However, we take pride in making sure the work that we produce is of a high standard, follows all the regulations and factors in optimization of production.
To find out more about the AOGV, please visit AOGV.com or email Isabell directly - here