Morrison entered the oil industry as an apprentice in Aberdeen in the 1970s. In 1988, he co-founded Specialist Maintenance Services Ltd, which was acquired by EnerMech in 2008. He was EnerMech’s cranes and lifting director until 2015, when his role was expanded to include hydraulics and training business lines.

He explains EnerMech’s origins: "EnerMech started in 2008. The philosophy was to build a business either through acquisitions or organic growth in niche markets that were dominated by one or two players. They identified a series of product lines, and cranes and lifting was one of these. They acquired a couple of companies, including the one I worked for, in 2008.

"The common theme is the containment and control of energy. Lifting is kinetic energy, and then there is pressure energy containment on the hydraulic, valves, process and pipeline sides of the business." With the exception of its niche ball valve manufacturing business, EnerMech is generally a service provider. While it does own a small fleet of rental cranes for offshore use, the majority of the cranes business is in maintaining and operating its customers’ cranes on offshore installations. The company works with a wide range of lifting equipment. Morrison says, "The main cranes are generally lattice boom, with some box boom and knuckle boom cranes, on vessels and platforms.

"On the platforms themselves, there is also a multitude of air and electric rope and chain hoists, for lifting out equipment and moving between decks. These can be big. A BOP (blowout preventer) hoist may be a 200t or 250t capacity unit."

Ingrid Stewart, EnerMech’s corporate development director, is a chartered accountant who, through her work as a director at Simmons & Company, an investment bank specialising in the energy sector, advised EnerMech as it made its first strategic acquisitions. She joined EnerMech in 2012.

What makes EnerMech special, Stewart says, is that it offers a broad range of services that were previously the preserve of specialist companies. "One of the reasons EnerMech was set up, was that there was an opportunity for a different contractual perspective. Historically, the offshore industry had crane contractors, hydraulic contractors, valve maintenance contracts and so on. This model is not cost effective for customers. What EnerMech aimed to do was offer a more integrated mechanical services package. We crosstrain personnel to work across all our business lines. By using less people, the work takes less time, with less downtime and cost to the customer.

"There’s been an evolution in the last eight years. The market conditions arebringing that change forward. As we can cross over business lines, we can offer greater efficiencies, better rates and bigger discounts on services."


While EnerMech’s origins are largely in the North Sea, it is now a global company. Stewart says, "In 2014, our global revenue was £259m, of which the UK accounted for around 50%. Given the market conditions 2015 was pretty flat on 2014 but the UK declined to 40%. Going forward we expect the UK to be a smaller part of the business. That’s partly the oil price, and partly that the North Sea is a ‘super-mature’ region that is bearing the brunt of the oil price downturn."

Around the world, energy companies are having to work through an extended period of very low oil prices. In the North Sea though, home to some of the oldest working offshore platforms, they face an extra set of challenges.

Morrison says, "Many platforms in the North Sea are coming to the end of their life. That depends on when fields were developed, but includes fields such as Brent, where platforms were built in the late-70s and 80s."

Stewart adds, "The decommissioning market has been talked about for a long time. When there is a low oil price, the industry first looks to increase the life of rigs, to sweat those assets.

"With the oil price at $30-40 for a long time and with no signs of recovery, decommissioning is now very real. Where people were looking at keeping going, decommissioning is a trend of the future. "But there’s still a lot of oil in the ground and I would stress the industry’s not dead, it will just look very different in the UK and North Sea."

Offshore operators’ desire to sweat their assets presents an opportunity for EnerMech. Morrison says, "There’s a push to try and do things a bit differently. We have to try and do things in a more cost effective way, to produce more life out of the assets. In the old days, equipment owners would just do blanket maintenance. Now it’s about using cleverer maintenance and reliability techniques that focus on what really matters."

Eventually though, however well maintained they are, assets will come to the end of their life. The focus of decommissioning plans is often on the biggest lifts, the removal and scrapping of the rig itself. This will be carried out by heavy lift vessels like the recently-launched Pioneer Spirit, with their own engineers and crew. But, before that, there are plenty of opportunities for a services company like EnerMech.

Morrison says, "Before something like Pioneer Spirit comes along, there are at least two or three years of work required on platforms. Some of our customers will look at the pedestal cranes on the platform, and decide that these cranes are going to be working as hard as they have been since they’ve been built, So, even then, customers are looking to replace these cranes ahead of the decommissioning process.

"There’s a plethora of preparatory work involved: the plug and abandonment of wells, cleaning of process pipes, etc. There’s a massive amount of work to be done."

Stewart adds, "When decommissioning really kicks in there’s a lot of other infrastructure that needs to be removed. Until it happens, it’s difficult to know exactly how it will be done but there will certainly be lots of work for many companies like EnerMech.

"What we all need to remember though is that however long the decommissioning period takes, it’s a one off. It’ll be jam today for some, but then it’s gone. It’s an upside for a long term business, not your bread and butter."


While low oil prices have slowed sales in the UK, they provide an impetus and opportunity for EnerMech to build its global business. This is an approach that has worked well for EnerMech in previous market slowdowns.

Stewart says, "In the last few years we have invested in regions like Africa, the Americas, Middle East and Caspian. In 2015, we finalised a joint venture in Angola, developed a facility there, and now equipment is being moved into the country. Even though the oil price is low there is still an opportunity to invest in some markets.

"In 2009, during the last oil downturn, we invested in Australia, and we’re now seeing the benefits. While our focus is now on sustainability and being more prudent we also have to be prepared when the upturn comes."

Key to this approach to expansion has been investing in facilities ahead of time. The ability to take that risk relies on having multiple strands to the business.

"The industry, as EnerMech CEO Doug Duguid says, is made of ‘show me’ people. Unless you have facilities in the country, they’re not interested. You have to invest ahead of bidding," Stewart says.

"We will never go into a market where we only see an opportunity for one business line. Whether it’s selling one line and up-selling, or offering integrated services, we want to offer as wide a range of services as possible.

"In some places, you can’t find people that can offer all the services. In some territories, if you are just a crane company, for example, it’s hard to justify setting up. For us, like in Australia where we now have 8 facilities, we can justify those set up costs. "In a lot of places, our customers have been pulling us in. They know that they get the same level and range of services in Perth, Baku, or Houston etc. as they do from EnerMech Aberdeen.

"We have 35 operating bases across Australia, Middle East, Caspian, Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. Morrison says, "In Baku, five years ago, we were successful in getting a reasonably big offshore crane operation and maintenance contract. When we entered the country, we took on a base five or six times bigger than we needed, so we could pull in other businesses, and show customers what we could do. That base is now 100% utilised. If we’d only had one business line, we could never have done that and we now work in most of the countries that border the Caspian Sea. It is a great success story and one that we are very proud of."