By Joanne Liou, associate editor
Seemingly separate parts of life aligned for Mike Hoyle in the oil and gas industry. As an avid sailor coming from a family of engineers – his father and grandfather were both engineers – Mr Hoyle, now head of advanced engineering in GL Noble Denton’s UK marine and offshore operation and chairman of its Technical Policy Board, was able to combine his interests via a career in the offshore industry.
After graduating from Cambridge, “I was looking for something interesting to do. Engineering seemed quite natural. I had an interest in sailing and water,” he explained, but the offshore industry didn’t occur to him until he talked with a career adviser at university. So in 1977, Mr Hoyle began his career with Noble Denton and Associates as a junior engineer, where he performed studies of MODUs for operations and towage and analyzed modules for lifting, sea fastening and towage. “It was fascinating. Within Noble Denton, I ended up being thrown in the deep end and taking unexpected levels of responsibility for everything I was involved in,” he said. “It was a good kick-start to my career. It was a very different world than it is today. We didn’t have email, faxes… Reports were produced on a typewriter.”
During a brief stint in the offshore engineering department at Lloyd’s Register, Mr Hoyle gained experience in the appraisal of platforms, decks, interconnecting bridges, modules, helidecks and supply boat mooring systems. Doing appraisal work left more to be desired, and in 1980, he re-joined Noble Denton and Associates, now GL Noble Denton, as an independent technical adviser to the oil and gas industry.
Recalling a more “adventurous time” for the industry, Mr Hoyle noted that rules and controls were not as steadfast in earlier days as they are today. “In the early days, a lot of what happened was pioneering, and probably a lot of it wouldn’t have happened had we had the controls back then that we have today,” he said. “We’ve evolved from a pioneering industry that took quite a few well-judged risks, nevertheless risks, to today, where we’re very much controlled. We’re much more mature.”
In February, Mr Hoyle was presented with an IADC Exemplary Service Award for his contribution to the ISO standards for site-specific assessment of mobile offshore units, a project that Mr Hoyle ties back to his first years on the job. “I started fairly early on in my career dealing with jackups,” he explained. “The first job I ever did involved jackups and investigating the possibility of improving the fuel consumption under tow by fitting a jackup with sails.”
In 1987, his company began efforts to assess problems in the jackup industry and proposed a joint industry project. “That evolved into a study that Shell drove, which evolved into the joint industry project that resulted in the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) technical and research bulletin 5-5A, which came out in 1994,” Mr Hoyle, who served as technical secretary for the project, said.
Bringing industry to consensus was a challenge but nevertheless helped set the precedent for future collaborations. “When we first started out writing the SNAME document, we didn’t work together very well. We had people who sat around the table and guarded every word, and it was a very tense environment,” Mr Hoyle noted. “In the early days, people felt they needed to participate in order to look after their corner, but as time progressed, people were participating out of interest and because they had things to contribute. That’s been one of the huge benefits – getting people to work together more closely.”
The project did not stop there, as industry leaders sought to convert the SNAME document into an ISO in the ISO 19900 series of offshore structures standards. Under Mr Hoyle’s direction, a workgroup was first convened in 1996. “The development of ISO 19905-1 was a long process. The reality was the SNAME document had caused a few ruffled feathers, and people figured we needed to fix some areas of the technology before we took it into an ISO. This resulted in the formation of a ‘Concerned Users Group,’ which soon became the IADC Jackup Rig Committee.”
The IADC committee was instrumental in moving the process forward by financing a number of technical studies to investigate and progress jackup site-specific assessment, and “we were eventually able to make progress with the ISO and finally reach a conclusion,” he said. In addition, Shell UK, the UK HSE and, more recently, ExxonMobil and Chevron also funded studies, while LeTourneau, Keppel FELS and GustoMSC contributed technical work.
Maintaining that engagement and level of participation is still key to success in industrywide projects. “We need to look to maintain a level of interest in the workgroup and its technical panels so when we need to revise the document, which we will undoubtedly need to do, we have the resources and the willingness to do it,” Mr Hoyle stated. “IADC’s award reflects the effort of a lot of people across the industry, and I was really only there to pull it together a bit and keep it moving.”