Gold Awards: Star players in 50 years of North Sea oil and gas

Industry news
Industry news

The firms and individuals which have shaped a half-century of innovation and achievement in the North Sea have been celebrated at a sparkling ceremony in Aberdeen.

Crucially, the Press and Journal Gold Awards also highlighted those who hold the key to the offshore sector’s future.

Prizes were presented to Statoil, Balmoral Group, Apache’s Mark Richardson and the VisuaLoSal project, while Wood Group picked up two honours on the night.

And there was special recognition for Professor Alex Kemp, who became the first person to be inducted into the North Sea industry Hall of Fame.

The judging panel included Bill Murray, chief executive of the Offshore Contractors Association, and Nigel Bradburn, chairman of the Aberdeen, Highlands and Islands branch of the Energy Institute.

Kevin Milne, group treasurer of awards sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management and Rita Marcella, dean of faculty at Aberdeen Business School, were also on the panel.


Aberdeen-based Wood Group was hailed as the Most Influential Business of the Past 50 Years due to its transformation from a ship repair and marine engineering firm into the international player it is today.

Explaining the judging panel’s choice, Press and Journal Energy editor Jeremy Cresswell, said: “From humble beginnings rooted in Aberdeen’s once great fishing industry, the Wood Group is today one of the world’s premier division energy services groups, and quite simply the greatest corporate success story ever to come out of the city.”

Accepting the award, Wood Group chief executive Bob Keiller, pictured, said it was a huge honour.

“Wood Group is a company that is rooted in the North Sea and it intends to be rooted in Aberdeen for a long time to come,” he said.

“The company is part of the local community, part of the society and that’s why it’s a great honour.”

The category was sponsored by energy industry travel expert Munro’s Travel.


The self-proclaimed “new kid in town” of the North Sea oil and gas sector, Norwegian oil giant Statoil, looks likely to lead the way for the next half-century.

Three years ago Statoil exhibited its confidence in the UK North Sea’s future when it became the first company to put forward a development concept for the highly complex £4.6billion Mariner field, first discovered in the 1980s.

The judges described Statoil as “the game-changing operator” that the UK Continental Shelf badly needs.”

Not only is Statoil driving forward with Mariner – a major project that had defeated other operators – it dreams of repeating the massive Johan Sverdrup field discovery in UK waters, the judges said.

Johan Andreas Johansen, pictured, Statoil’s vice-president of operations for the North Sea, said receiving the award was “overwhelming and fantastic”.

“We’re the new kid in town, aren’t we?” he said.

“We’ve been in the North Sea working with our peers in Aberdeen for a long time, but on the other side of the border. So getting this amount of notice and being so appreciated in Aberdeen is fantastic for us. We have been really well received and welcomed to Aberdeen.


The judges said Mr Richardson – North Sea projects group manager at US oil and gas major Apache, and a former Captain in the Royal Engineers – has displayed in abundance the qualities that are incredibly vital to the future long-term success of the UK Continental Shelf.

And they said his ability to lead had been hugely important to the successful revitalisation of the iconic Forties oil field.

After picking up the award in a category sponsored by Wood Group, Mr Richardson, pictured, said: “All of the other nominees were really credible. I was surprised I won. All of them deserved the award.

“We, as an industry, have one of the most competent and capable workforces here in the UK and with the right leadership, culture and behaviours, we can have another 50 years of great oil production in the North Sea.”


Wood Group won its second award of the night when it triumphed in the Global Impact category.

On behalf of the judging panel, Mr Cresswell said: “For global impact, the FTSE100-listed Wood Group cannot be matched. With annual sales of $7billion and operating in more than 50 countries with a workforce of some 43,000, no other company in the UK energy supply chain has had such an impact worldwide.”

Wood Group HSEQ director Ken Merry, pictured, who accepted the prize, said: “It’s clearly real recognition for the fantastic growth story at Wood Group over the last 40 odd years. We started as an embryonic family company and now we’re a multinational oil and gas services organisation.”

And he added: “The event itself has been fantastic. It’s great to be here at the Marcliffe Hotel, it has been a fun, happy evening.” he added.

The category was sponsored by Fifth Ring, a specialist marketing communications agency for the energy industry.


Aberdeen-based Balmoral Group was acknowledged for its prowess in technology development.

Set up in 1980, Balmoral is a developer and manufacturer of some of the most sophisticated deepwater buoyancy and elastomer products to be found anywhere in the world.

Jim Milne, pictured, chairman and managing director, was described on Friday as the driving force behind the company’s relentless pursuit of innovation answers to the problems thrown up by North Sea exploration and production.

Mr Milne said: “I accept this award on behalf of all the employees at Balmoral, who are so hardworking and loyal. I’m a great believer that a company’s people are all important.

“It was a great pleasure to go forward and accept this award tonight. It’s good for the troops and I’m very pleased for them,” he added.

Steve Gibb, Balmoral’s group public relations manager, said: “To win the award is tremendous and to receive that recognition from the industry itself is very gratifying.

“We’re a privately owned company and a big percentage of our profits go back into R&D year on year and that is what has taken us to an industry leading position.”


A low-salinity joint industry scheme led by Herriot-Watt University was picked out for the Innovation in the Future prize.

The VisuaLoSal project, directed by Professor Mehran Sohrabi at the university’s centre for enhanced oil recovery and CO2 solutions, has played a vital role in enabling BP to proceed with integrating its “Lo Sal” technology into its Clair Ridge development west of Shetland.

Judges said the project was a superb example of targeted innovation where industry and academia are working together – and an exemplar for others.

Accepting the award on behalf of the professor, Press and Journal Energy editor Jeremy Cresswell, pictured, said: “In these awards we thought long and hard about innovation and BP has been working on low salinity water for a significant number of years.

“But the work that is being done by Herriot Watt is helping BP take it to that really critical stage where they are going to be able to apply Lo Sal on a greenfield development west of Shetland, and that’s huge.