From its inception in 2007, Flexlife has grown to become a global leader in the specialist provision of flexible pipe technology and engineering to the oil and gas industry.
The company’s unique blend of technical expertise and engineering capabilities mean it is ideally placed to both identify and deliver an effective solution to a client’s problem while its focus on innovation and research and development has had a major impact on the subsea industry in the North Sea and internationally.
With their experience of working in the development and supply of flexible pipe and with a number of consultancies, Stuart Mitchell and John Marsden identified a need in the sector for a company that could provide both technical expertise relating to flexibles and deliver project support in a way that really added value to the client.
From that business idea Flexlife was born and in April 2007, at the age of 32 and 34 respectively, Stuart and John decided to set up the company in a small office in Aberdeen’s Science and Technology Park with a £20,000 bank loan and the promise of one job from a subsea company.
The appointment of a business development manager quickly followed and, within 12 months, Flexlife had grown to a staff of five with a turnover of £500,000 and a profit of £100,000, fully justifying Stuart and John’s decision to follow their initial vision.
More success followed as Flexlife moved into larger premises in Aberdeen and established a research and development centre. The company also received recognition for its expansion through various awards, including best overall business at the Scottish Offshore Achievement awards; runner up out of 17,000 companies in the HSBC Start Up Stars awards and Stuart was a Scottish finalist in the Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
Year on year growth has seen the company expand into Newcastle and Houston, appoint Ciaran O’Donnell as CEO in 2012, increase the workforce to more than 90 high calibre engineering and other professionals and develop its offering as the subsea flexible pipe expert, providing specialist support in project and integrity management. Its unique approach to subsea integrity management allows it to integrate systems development, operational execution and product/service deployment to minimise risk and maximise asset uptime.
Flexlife continues to operate by using small, dedicated teams, that have access to the skill set strength of the wider organisationand provides clients with flexible pipe expertise and exceptional engineering capabilities within first class project managed teams. .
The quest for innovation runs through the core of the business and its strong focus on research and development, which has accounted for up to 10% of its annual expenditure, especially in the early years. This commitment to innovation has been behind the development of industry-leading products such as FlexGel™, FlexGuard, FlexPlug and Armadilloand Flexlife now offering full-circle Integrity Management solutions to the oil and gas industry.
Adding value to a project or a client is also a fundamental driver for Flexlife. As an example, the company was the first ever to “kill” a well remotely using flexibles and saved the client approximately $90 million by delivering a cost-effective solution. The pipe was engineered then deployed off a supply vessel using a Flexlife designed mooring system. The savings resulted from linking the flexible to the Christmas tree, allowing cement to be pumped directly, rather than the expensive alternative of having to directionally drill into the casing, thereby halving the time on the job.
The global expansion of the subsea industry with a growing requirement for flexibles, coupled with Flexlife’s enhancement of its North American presence, suggest a bright future. In line with its planned growth and global projects, Flexlife is working to double its workforce to meet the needs of its growing client list in the next five years. However, while Flexlife aims to go from strength to strength in the years ahead, those very ideas that inspired the company’s set up – a desire to challenge, innovate, add value and deliver the right solution – will always be at the heart of the company.