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Q&A with Oil and Gas Consultant, Andrew Leonard

Wed, 05 May, 2021

Oil and Gas Business Development Consultant, Andrew Leonard recently joined TWI following sixteen and a half years working for BP.

His last role at BP was as the Materials Corrosion and Welding Team Leader in Global Subsea Systems, where he was responsible for overseeing the team that delivered materials welding engineering assurance for BP’s subsea equipment, including umbilicals, flexible pipe, Christmas trees and manifolds.

We took some time to find out a bit more about Andrew’s background and his new role with TWI…

You began your career at British Steel before university - can you tell us more about this?

I began work at 18. Part of the agreement with my dad for him paying towards the cost of university was that I got a job! I applied to British Steel on Teesside for university sponsorship and worked for them for a year before starting my studies and then each summer during my studies. With what I have done with my career in metallurgy, visiting many steel makers, foundries and forgemasters around the world, it was great to have first-hand experience of iron and steel making behind me. From a personal point of view, both my grandad and great grandfather worked in the iron and steel industry, so there was some continuity there.

We have also mentioned that you worked for some years at BP, what sort of activities were you involved in, and what did this teach you about the oil and gas industry?  

I worked for BP for over 16 years. During that time I had a number of roles, from technology delivery of downhole materials (those that are inside the oil well), through to leading the materials and welding teams on major projects. A primary focus of each of my roles was integrity – ‘keeping the hydrocarbons in the pipe.’ So, much of my effort was expended in ensuring that equipment was designed and fabricated to ensure safe operation. I was the lead materials and welding engineer for BP’s Block 31 Project in Angola, which took me around the world - from overseeing forging quality in Italy to FPSO construction in Singapore and eventually to fabrication sites in Angola. Not only did I see the project through to first oil, but stayed on to support production through the first year – a great opportunity to learn from the design decisions made during a project and how they affected operations! The final role I had was to lead the materials, corrosion and welding team for the delivery of all of BP’s subsea equipment. I worked closely with our supply chain to deliver materials and welding standardisation across the equipment they delivered.

What led you to join TWI?

Actually, this isn’t my first time at TWI. I first joined TWI back in 1996, fresh from a PhD at Sheffield University, and worked in what was then the Materials Department as a project leader. Current Director of Research, Paul Woollin was my first section manager. Although I then went on to work for BP, I remained in touch with TWI and visited as a customer on many occasions. Knowing many of TWI’s strengths, it was easy to recognise where I could turn for help when I needed it.

Things came full circle in January this year when Materials and Structural Integrity Technology Group Manager, Jon Blackburn approached me with the question as to whether I would consider returning, and here I am. I am hoping that my insights as an oil and gas customer will be useful in helping TWI continue to serve our oil and gas Members and grow the project portfolio.

What differences have you noticed between the TWI you left in 2004 to TWI in 2021?

TWI is a bigger organisation than the one I left and the facilities have grown. Back in 2004, the Bevan Braithwaite Building was new, but the rest of the site had not been redeveloped. Returning, it is great to see that the expertise has not just remained but grown. It has been really exciting to learn about some of the new work Technology Fellow, Bernadette Craster has been doing on permeability in polymers, and the expansion of the corrosion testing capability, which was a lot smaller back in 2004. It has been great to start to reconnect with former colleagues that I remember from 2004, but I am also looking forward to meeting the many new faces here and learn what they do.

The oil and gas industry has changed significantly over the years, what do you think are the big challenges it faces right now?

Public perception and the energy transition are the significant challenges today. The hydrocarbon industry isn’t going to disappear, but it is shrinking in terms of the numbers of experienced engineers employed in it. Developing and operating facilities safely will continue to be a top priority and TWI, with its history and expertise in materials and structural integrity, is well placed to support its oil and gas Members with this.

How do you see TWI helping with these challenges and how do you see the business developing over the coming years?

As I mentioned above, TWI is well placed with its expertise in materials engineering and structural integrity to work as an extension of Member engineering teams to support both new build projects and existing assets. We also have the ability to support the oil and gas supply chain in delivering safe and reliable equipment through improved fabrication and inspection technology. We have plenty of selling points to continue to support our Members in their ‘traditional’ businesses. I am also confident that we have a number of key skills that we can bring to support them as they transition into new energy streams.

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