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Under the Surface with...Elliot Kinch

It’s safe to say that Elliot Kinch didn’t hang around when it came to forging a career in the oil and gas industry. After leaving school on a Thursday, he treated himself to a long weekend before starting on his journey. That first job as an apprentice service technician was the beginning of a nearly 30-year career, which has seen him build an international reputation for his well expertise. He remembers what it was like to start out - and as such, places great emphasis on helping and encouraging the next generation of oil and gas workers.

How do you feel things differ for those starting their oil and gas career in 2021, as opposed to 1994?

Things have changed enormously in the past 26 years. For one thing, youngsters entering the industry right now do so at the time when the Energy Transition is at the top of the agenda, and market challenges are still taking their toll on a global basis.

Having said that, with every challenge come the positives. I’ve witnessed three industry downturns during my career, and each time we’ve become wiser, more efficient and certainly more innovative. Challenging times are an opportunity to really learn about the value of your offering – whether that’s as an individual or a company.

Those at the start of their career have the opportunity to learn how to react to an industry in transition and exhibit their worth. It will become second nature to them, and this will undoubtedly stand them in good stead over their career.

Another shift in the landscape has been the advent of smaller offshore operators – of which there were far fewer in 1994. The opportunity to work with (and for) the new breed of operators also provides a first-class grounding for those at the start of their career. Less waste, more flexibility and more accountability are the foundations of any smaller company and will be reflected in the latest generation of personnel. This will broaden their minds to innovation and smarter working techniques; both of which will remain critical to all offshore energy activity, regardless of the passage of time.

How does Sentinel Subsea fit into this context? It is, after all, part of the “next generation” of energy industry suppliers.

Sentinel Subsea was born in 2018 and we’ve come a long way since then. Our technology has developed over that time, into the commercialised suite of well integrity monitoring systems we manufacture today. But we never stop. We’re always anticipating the next market development, ensuring a nimble response.

We’re not a huge team and each one of us feels a huge responsibility for the ongoing success of the company. Nobody is pigeonholed, and we bring a combination of well over 100 years of experience to everything we undertake. That’s a powerful way of operating.

Sentinel Subsea is doing things differently and raising previously unasked questions; how has the marketplace responded to this?

My career has been wells focused - and whether I was working on decom projects, smart completions or barriers, on the surface of the mudline or all the way down to cement, I always had a question in my mind: “What happens if we isolate a well and something was to go wrong?”

I’ve been looking to answer this question for a long time, but it has taken the agility of a relative newcomer – Sentinel Subsea – to create that answer.

What we have created is the culmination of several industry experts’ skills and knowledge, all of whom bonded over a common understanding. And that understanding was that a long term, passive well integrity monitoring technology is critical to the safe continuation of the offshore energy industry. We knew it had to be adaptable and relevant to almost 100% of wells. We also knew it had to contribute to the Carbon Net Zero objective. And this is what we have achieved. It didn’t take years and it didn’t take millions. It took a conviction, hard work and flexibility.

The environmental credentials of our technology are outstanding. Not only does it monitor wells’ integrity - thus containing any loss of zonal isolation as quickly as possible but just one trip to install our system will replace years and years of potentially unnecessary manual inspections and the associated carbon emissions.

Bearing all that you’ve just said in mind, what would be your key piece of advice to those just entering the offshore energy industry?

Communicate. Get involved. Don’t shy away from asking for advice. Take advantage of the offer of help, whether that comes from an individual, or from an industry organisation. And finally – seek out opportunities to help others in the industry. Personally, I have found both the SPE and ICoTA to be invaluable throughout my career, in all respects. For example, in 2010, when completing my thesis for an MSc in Oil and Gas Enterprise Management, it was my association with SPE which bolstered my credibility when approaching operators for input.

I’ve chaired three committees, including Schools’ Career Guidance, and running through everything I do with SPE has been my desire to motivate and promote the offshore energy industry. I love it and I want others to be as enthusiastic and benefit from experiences like mine.

Equally by becoming a board member, and then chair, of ICoTA’s Aberdeen section, I was able to spread the word of new technology by creating enhanced networks and relished the opportunity to promote ICoTA’s fundamental belief in what my career has been all about - innovation for the well intervention sector.

Whether giving or receiving help and advice, it always enhances your career and sense of personal satisfaction. It takes a lot to beat that combination.

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