Working in different locations presents various logistical problems for companies – a problem Progressive TSL aims to tackle.
The company has been around since 2004 and focuses on various systems – finance, procurement, inventory management – with a focus on upstream companies.
“What makes us unique is that we do everything around it as well. We have IT capabilities and we’ve got consultants who really know the oil and gas business, who understand the challenges. Companies often come to us when carrying out acquisitions when they’re looking at process challenges and having controls that are enforced,” Progressive’s CEO Chris Walcot told Energy Voice. “We have a vertical knowledge of the sector.
The nature of Progressive’s work has changed in response to the cycles in the oil prices. Before the crash, more of the company’s work was driven by “transactions, acquisitions, divestments”, the CEO said. Progressive was able to provide an understanding of data and how to migrate information.
As prices fell, the company found it was more in demand to help companies make cost savings. This manifests in areas such as inventory and procurement control. “When the oil price was $110 per barrel, some companies saw the solution to everything as being to write a cheque. When the crash came, everyone was suddenly very focused on maximising the effectiveness of expenditure.”
With prices stabilising, companies must focus on how to hold on to those lessons that have been learnt. “Organisations need to keep controls when expanding and managing it effectively this time,” Walcot said.
The company has a rough 50:50 split between the UK and Africa, bringing knowledge of regional operational challenges to its work.
“There are certainly different challenges in almost every location,” Walcot continued. Regulatory burdens on UK operators have increased over the last 10-20 years. “The challenges are there for good reason,” with increased focus on health and safety, he said, while working in some remote areas in Africa poses its own difficulties.
“There are unique challenges around working in deserts, for instance, environmental challenges, data connectivity, all those things have a unique aspect. Some countries have challenging regulatory requirements, things like complex tax requirements, which you need to be able to address and address effectively. If you’ve not done it before, that can be very daunting.”
Progressive, Walcot notes, has largely done it before. “We’re able to take the learnings from previous project and reuse them and it means we can do them to a high quality but also be able to deploy systems and new processes and controls quickly.”
Such speed is particularly useful when working towards a major event such as an IPO. While, ideally, companies begin working with Progressive early on sometimes opportunities dictate otherwise.
A variety of companies come to Progressive for assistance, with Walcot saying the sweet spot was the small to mid-caps. Putting in place the right processes early on helps companies as they go through that initial growth period, he said, helping with the various transitions along the way.
Often a company going through a period of change will seek particular assistance. Seplat Petroleum, for instance, came to Progressive about 18 months before listing. Nigeria-focused Seplat wanted to be able to demonstrate that it had the required systems and controls in place before making its pitch to the market.
“We helped them initially to put a finance system in place and, as they’ve evolved, we’ve helped them move through a series of other stages, with procurement and inventory management,” Walcot said. “We get engaged at different stages but we aim to get involved as early as we can.”
Maurel et Prom signed Progressive up in September to provide finance and asset management work, in Paris, Gabon and Tanzania. Maurel, which is majority owned by Pertamina, has a stake in Seplat. “Maurel is making sure that they have the things in place to help them with their future growth plans.”
Not all companies have the ability to work with Progressive over the long term. The company worked with Chrysaor on its $3 billion acquisition of a package of assets in the North Sea, from Shell, which completed in 2017. This type of work has much tighter deadlines, with Walcot saying there is “a date in the diary when it has to be completed and you have to make sure what they have to make sure that everything’s in place”.
Companies are becoming more and more aware of the amount of data that can be produced from operations and, with this, is a new awareness of how this is stored and owned. If a company outsources its operations and maintenance (O&M) to a service provider the ownership of the data that comes from that work is an important note.
“Companies we work with want to hang onto the data that a provider is using. If, in three or five years’ time, you want to change supplier, and you don’t have that data, you have a problem. If you have the data and they’re accessing the data on your systems and you want to change your supplier, you could just change your supplier. There’s not so much pain around transition,” Walcot said. Having that data, having access to it and being able to analyse it is critical.
The industry’s ability to adopt to new technology is a challenge, the Progressive CEO said, but even more is that of changing people’s behaviour. “Having a system can be great, and there’s amazing things that can be done with artificial intelligence for instance, but if no one is going to use it, it doesn’t change anything.”