When energy company Petro-Canada made its North Sea debut by acquiring the assets of Veba Oil and Gas in 2002, the UK North Sea was just getting to grips with a new era.
The super-majors were taking a back seat as smaller national oil companies, mid-cap firms and independent minnows began vying for position to secure assets. In the ensuing six years, Calgary-based Petro-Canada has become an established name in the North Sea and achieved significant operated and non-operated exploration and production successes.
John Scrimgeour, 54, who leads its north-west Europe operations as regional manager, joined the company five years ago after many years working overseas in stints in Africa, the Middle East, South America and locations around Europe. Although he enjoyed the travel, which gave him fluency in Spanish, Portuguese and French, the opportunity to return to Aberdeen – a city he already knew very well – was just far too good to resist.
Mr Scrimgeour, who is originally from Crieff, studied at Aberdeen University and came to regard the Granite City as home.
“My wife is Aberdonian and we wanted our son and daughter to be educated here,” he said, adding: “Coupled with the location was the chance to work with a company I had long admired.
“At the time of the company’s entrance into the North Sea, people with operating skills were badly required and given real opportunities. I was fortunate to be a part of this and to share in the successful growth in Europe.”
Petro-Canada has been successful in increasing its production in the UK continental shelf (UKCS) despite the basin’s maturity.
But, it was work on one of the largest discoveries in the North Sea in the last decade – the Buzzard oil field in the outer Moray Firth – that made a real name for the company on this side of the Atlantic. Mr Scrimgeour said: “Our participation in Buzzard, where we have an almost 30% interest, is one of the most significant projects Petro-Canada has participated in since bringing Terra Nova onstream in Canada about a decade ago.
“In 2006, we completed construction of Buzzard and produced the first oil in January 2007. Completing the development on budget and in just three years was a major accomplishment.”
The project involved safely managing more than 17million staff hours, co-ordinating hundreds of suppliers and contractors, lifting in excess of 25,000 tonnes of steel and battling harsh weather conditions.
“Buzzard gives us longevity and has really been the platform on which we have built our business in the North Sea,” said Mr Scrimgeour, who is equally enthusiastic about Petro-Canada’s record in subsea operations.
After graduating from Aberdeen University in 1976, the civil engineer landed a job with platform builder Howard Doris working on the construction of the 600,000-tonne Ninian Central installation.
He spent several years’ overseas before studying for a masters degree in petroleum engineering at Imperial College in London.
His first job as a petroleum engineer was with US oil producer Occidental. Mr Scrimgeour later moved to Sun Company – now Philadelphia-headquartered Sunoco – in Gabon, where he was quickly promoted to petroleum engineering manager, then operations manager and finally general manager.
From there he went to Colombia to work for exploration and production company Perenco and he later became general manager for oil and gas firm CMS Nomeco in both the Republic of the Congo and Tunisia.
It was during his postings abroad that he met his wife, Sylvia, who also worked for Sun, and the pair married in 1988.
Since taking up the reins at Petro-Canada in Aberdeen, Mr Scrimgeour has seen the north-east operation more than double in size.
UK North Sea operations are only part of the growth story, with interests in the Netherlands being followed by exploration in Norway.
Mr Scrimgeour said: “What many people may find surprising is that all these European projects are largely managed out of Aberdeen. Of my six north-west European managers, four are in Aberdeen.”
Looking to the future, Mr Scrimgeour is optimistic about Petro-Canada’s prospects and the overall future of the industry if the right conditions are in place. He said: “With a balanced portfolio, including exploration, appraisal and production, we are well-positioned for further sustainable growth.
“The future of the North Sea, however, is dependent on the regime and the operating environment.
“Companies like Petro-Canada are the future for the North Sea. They have the financial muscle, but are small enough to be decisive, dynamic and able to adapt quickly to change.”
While Petro-Canada has been expanding its portfolio of assets, Mr Scrimgeour has been striving to build its profile as a major employer, economic contributor and long-term player in the north-east oil and gas industry.
“We are here for the long term and are committed to the region,” he said, adding: “A major part of our strategy is to give something back to the communities in which we operate.”
In September, Petro-Canada pledged £100,000 to Aberdeen University’s multimillion-pound new library project – bringing the total to raised so far to £10million – and last month it announced a donation of £140,000 over four years towards engineering scholarships.
Petro-Canada’s regional manager and his wife have two children – Katherine, 16, and Andrew, 14.
In between leading the company’s operation in Aberdeen, Mr Scrimgeour keeps fit by swimming and playing tennis and golf.
He also has a passion for music and tries to keep up with the latest singers and bands – Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Kanye West are among his current favourites.
Just last month he saw Canadian rock singer Brian Adams and US band The Killers live in London and he attends gigs regularly with his son, who has similar tastes in music.