A fledgling oil and gas geoscience consultancy is getting ready to move from “start-up to scale-up” after its first 18 months in business.
Echo Geo was launched in London by a team of geologists mid-2016 – a day after they were made redundant following E.ON’s sale of its exploration and production business to Premier Oil.
The company has had a strong start to life against the backdrop of one of the toughest periods the oil industry has faced.
Echo Geo has built up a “healthy mix” of clients including medium-sized UK independents and some international operators across several regions.
The company, whose bread and butter is seismic interpretation and integrated geo-seismic studies, has worked on projects for oil companies like Cairn Energy, Zennor Petroleum and Cluff Natural Resources.
It has also carried out a multi-client, integrated regional study of the Western Barents Margin’s hydrocarbon potential.
A major Norwegian operator bought the study and the results have been shared with the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.
The company also has a “strong order book” through the first quarter of 2018.
Managing director Richard Hiney, who led the team at E.ON, said the downturn gave him the impetus to start his own business, but acknowledges he couldn’t have picked a more difficult time to make a go of things.
Mr Hiney said: “When I look back on that time, it was the real trough of the downturn. It was the worst time to start a geoscience consultancy in oil and gas.
“But we felt we had a clear model for what we were going to offer and it felt like that was different from what others were offering.
“I wanted to try something new and had been thinking about it for a while. The downturn was the catalyst for us to do it.
“I thought, ‘let’s take a successful team and make an independent consultancy’.”
Mr Hiney said a combination of having an experienced team and offering a hands-on, personal service has given Echo Geo an advantage.
He said: “We’ve all worked for E&P companies so we’ve seen what’s needed from the other side of the fence.
“Our philosophy is that our team becomes an extension of the client’s company and plugs into what they’re doing.
“What most consultancies do is take some data away, work on it, then deliver the report.
“We offer a small integrated team that can sit desk-side with clients or work in our office.
“There’s constant interaction so the client is clear on what we’re doing. We feel that personal approach is different.”
Another innovate step has been the formation of alliances with some businesses which would ordinarily rival Echo Geo.
It joined forces with Norwegian firm ExploCrowd for the Western Barents study and is helping GeoTeric enhance its software in exchange for access to prototype research and development tools.
Mr Hiney said: “We saw early on that in the current environment there is a need to work with other like-minded companies to offer something different.
“If a competitor can offer something that complements what we do we will try to team up. That gives us an edge.”
Mr Hiney said Echo Geo is now targeting bigger deals and more appointments.
He said: “It’s been a tough two or three years for companies in the areas we work in.
“Everyone has had to reshape themselves and become more competitive in terms of pricing and service offering.
“We’ve been doing this for 18 months and now we want to step up. We’ve been competitive because we don’t have big overheads and are flexible.
“Now we are moving from start-up to scale-up. We want to have a bigger team and secure longer-duration projects.
“We’ve been in talks with a North Sea operator about providing geology and geophysics work for them.
“A project like that can be a springboard for us and help us build for the long term.”
He added: “I’m proud we’ve been able to offer jobs during the downturn and we want to keep doing that.
“I constantly get e-mails from people looking for jobs, and there are good people out there.
“I’ll find the right people. But as the market improves, and it is improving, good people will start going other places so we need to snag some people.”