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World Drilling keynote: Tullow taking the long-term, people-based approach

Posted on 18 June 2009

 Simplicity of management and valuing people offer the best chances of success, the chief operating officer of Tullow Oil said at the opening of the IADC World Drilling 2009 Conference and Exhibition in Dublin on 17 June.

Paul McDade said, “People are your most important asset; it’s not (oil and gas) fields, it’s the people who create the value.”

 “A long-term approach and great team of people will only deliver success if you’re playing on the right field,” said Paul McDade, Tullow Oil.

“We (Tullow) take a long-term view as it allows you to attract the best people who then give you a chance to build a strong, ethical, people-based platform for success.

“Having a long-term view allows you to build strong partnerships and relationships with governments, contractors and partners, and it allows us to take a balanced risk approach.

“We take risks, we allow our staff to take risks and sometimes that ends in failure. But, if you take a long-term view, short-term failure can be managed. That allows them to be entrepreneurial, and that’s how we’ve got to the stage we’re at. That long-term view also allows our team to develop, contribute and, in our experience, enjoy delivering success.

“However, a long-term approach and great team of people will only deliver success if you’re playing on the right field. In our view, there are quite a few areas where E&Ps can’t play.”

Having initially found its feet in the Europe theatre, Mr McDade said the Tullow approach had been to deliberately seek opportunities in the more difficult and newer basins where maybe some of the majors and NOCs haven’t  embarked yet.

That is why the heart of Tullow’s growth is in Africa … Uganda and Ghana … where it has played a leading role in opening up multibillion-barrel plays, though the company also has assets in the North Sea and South America.

Indeed, the company cut its significant teeth in the North Sea, especially through its former BP assets. That tooth cutting included how to pragmatically manage relationships with much larger asset partners like ExxonMobil and earn their respect by delivering value.

As to how Tullow is harnessing the abilities of the supply chain to push ahead with exploration and, now, development programmes in hugely differing environments … deepwater to onshore in a highly sensitive part of Africa, Mr McDade said the company has been able to source many skills and techniques.

“It’s just another challenge and another opportunity. As for neighbours, they are key people to have relationships with. In terms of wherever we operate … in the UK but mainly in Africa and Asia, we listen to the local communities, we try to supply what they need … not what we think they need.

“And how do we find out … we sit down and talk and listen. CSR (corporate social responsibility) is a business requirement; it is not a charitable donation. It gives you your licence to operate in such areas. It’s really about ensuring that our neighbours value and not regret our relationships.

“Success doesn’t come from complex strategies, it should come from simple things.”

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