By Terry Roberts
Mid morning IT is at Crosbie Group, on Hebron Way in St. John’s, and a team meeting in the boardroom involves some very familiar conversation.
Chief operating officer Mark Collett asks one of his vice presidents, Jeremy Whittle, about progress in recruiting a new rope access crew for the offshore.
“They are working at the moment. We have crews on the platform, ”said Whittle.
But Collett and his team don’t talk about external maintenance or deck services for familiar platforms like Hibernia or Hebron.
They refer to Liza Destiny’s FPSO – for float, production, storage and unloading – a ship moored in deep water off the coast of Guyana, some 5,000 kilometers south of St. John’s.
“And it’s all to ExxonMobil and SBM standards?” Collett asks.
“Yes. World-class standards, ”Whittle reassures his boss.
It’s new territory for the fourth-generation St. John’s Company, and a rare sign of enthusiasm for an industry that has been hit by a worldwide pandemic, and a growing move to wean the province away from its economic dependence on oil and oil. gas to fight climate change.
“It’s exciting times,” Collett told CBS during an interview.
“For me, it’s life changing watching something like this develop later in my career.”
Crosbie Group is part of a flock of companies from the oil services sector of Newfoundland and Labrador who are making a play for business in Guyana, where spectacular oil discoveries are off
the coast of this developing country of less than 800,000 people is about to make it one of the richest places on the planet.
That will mean major opportunities in oil and gas, but also in other areas such as health, education and infrastructure as Guyana seeks to modernize.
Companies are scrambling to get in the door, with some 170 offshore companies with Newfoundland offshore participating in a virtual Guyanese trade mission last year, organized by Noia, the province’s oil and gas industry association.
A similar event is planned for January.
It’s a story with many similarities to Newfoundland and Labrador, which welcomed the transitional oil industry at a time when the fishery was collapsing in the early 1990s.
In order to deliver the services needed by this new industry, many companies partnered with British and Norwegian companies to develop a local service and delivery sector.
Many years later, the sector has matured, but is pinned by a double whammy of COVID-19 and a green movement with high oil watches producing through the same lens as the tobacco industry.
“We don’t see a lot of growth opportunities here at home right now,” said Collett.
So companies like Crosbie have grabbed Guyana.
“Newfoundland companies are really fit for purpose. We are small. We are naked. We’ve done this, ”said Caron Hawco, an oil industry consultant who has visited Guyana a dozen times in recent years, studying the market and helping companies connect with Guyanese partners.
She said the opportunities were endless, and she has noticed a “really lovely relationship” between Canadian business leaders and Guyana.
“There’s a bit of magic going on between them,” he said.
“I suspect we will see at least 20 to 30 successful companies having a good footprint in Guyana, maybe more.”
CROSBIE WANTS TO BE IN THE FOREFRONT
The Crosbie Group is determined to lead the way.
The company reinvented itself in the face of economic turbulence a generation ago to benefit from a booming oil industry, and now employs more offshore locals than any other Newfoundland and Labrador company.
But with uncertainty casting a dark cloud over the offshore, Crosbie reaches out.
The company has expanded into the Maritimes, acquiring 50 percent ownership in a Nova Scotia-based company specializing in onshore industrial services.
More recently, Crosbie has caught the wave of excitement over Guyana.
“We see a tremendous opportunity in that region,” said Collett.
Crosbie has partnered with a Guyanese company to form a new venture called Panthera Solutions.
They win contracts. Training local workers; and exporting Newfoundland and Labrador expertise to the Guyana basin.
More than a dozen Crosbie employees have brought their skills to Guyana, and Collett believes it’s just the beginning.
DOUBLING HIS WORK
Projections that daily oil production in Guyana could soon skyrocket to 750,000 barrels, with as many as five production platforms, and Collett wants Panthera Solutions to be the preferred service provider for external maintenance and specialties like crane operations.
If all goes according to plan, he predicts that Crosbie’s global workforce could double to about 1,000 employees in three to five years, with up to 70 percent of its business activity outside province.
“We’re getting started,” said Collett.
It helps that the key player in Guyana is ExxonMobil, the same oil giant leading operations on the Hibernia and Hebron platforms.
So companies like Atlantic Medical Offshore Medical Services in St. John are a known number when they go to Guyana, as ExxonMobil is already “a major client,” said AOMS CEO Liam O’Shea.
AOMS was founded by Dr. Ciaran O’Shea – Liam’s father – and has been providing basic medical and emergency medical services to the offshore NL for four decades, and hopes to achieve similar success with his new business partner in Guyana.
“[If] we could build the same model as we have here [in Guyana], and being just as successful there, I guess we would be, at least twice the size of the establishment there than we are here, ”said Liam O’Shea.
The next obstacle to overcome is the pandemic travel restrictions that limit business interaction between the two countries.
But Caron Hawco says that hasn’t eased the excitement, or the potential.
“It’s great to see the Newfoundland and Labrador companies looking beyond our borders, building on what we’ve been able to achieve here, and bringing it elsewhere,” he said. (WBQ News)