Decades ago, school children in the UK were taught that reserves of oil and gas would probably run out within a generation. Although that prediction turned out to be overly pessimistic, it is certainly true that as the easiest oil and gas fields to exploit are exhausted, it becomes necessary to tackle those requiring more effort and ingenuity to tap.
Perthshire-based Merlin ERD is a specialist engineering company whose expertise in drilling has attracted global demand for their services. The ‘ERD’ in the company’s branding stands for ‘extended reach drilling’. This term encompasses a range of techniques used in situations where vertical, or near vertical, drilling is not an option. This might include cases where reserves lie beneath a location where surface disturbance is not desirable. ERD methods allow for access to deposits from a laterally offset position where drilling may be more practical or less disruptive.
In a field that requires novel solutions to a range of constantly changing challenges, determination and the ability to think in unorthodox ways are essential. Both of these qualities have been evident throughout the company’s history, from the early days in 2007 when its founder and managing director, Iain Hutchison, ran the fledgling business from his laptop using free wifi connections at coffee shops. More recently, Iain’s solution to reaching a business meeting was to fly there in a Spitfire. Oh, and we should probably mention that he built the plane himself.
Iain has surrounded himself with team members who display extraordinary traits or who have a breadth of, sometimes unusual, experience. Engineering Manager Neil Armstrong (no, this Neil Armstrong hasn’t walked on the moon… yet) is a Sandhurst graduate and former British Army officer, while ERD Engineering and Complex Wells Trainer Kevin Gray is shown below during a casual stroll to the South Pole with the Merlin ERD and Queen’s Award flags.
“We’re not afraid to do things differently,” Iain says. “And you can’t take ‘no’ for an answer. We have to believe in our business model and stick to our knitting. We know that if we want to be successful we have to overcome our natural understated Britishness and sing our successes from the rooftops.” Those successes would include the two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise that the company received, first in 2014 then again in 2016.
Iain also appreciates the potential benefits of great cars and well chosen number plates when it comes to attracting attention and reinforcing a good impression. “Our pool car is an Aston Martin DB9 convertible bearing the private mark 1 ERD, and I drive an Audi that has 4 ERD. I’m also looking out for 2 ERD and 3 ERD.
“The Aston Martin and the private plate almost do our marketing for us. During one sales call the client was more interested in talking about the car and number plate than about business. On another occasion I parked the car at Gleneagles during an industry golf day. We soon had clients calling to say that they’d seen the car and the number plate and had known we were there. Actually, we weren’t even playing.”
Merlin ERD operates in more than 30 countries and boasts that over 90% of their business comes from returning clients or from recommendation: a clear sign that delivering consistent excellence must be the best marketing tactic there is.
2017 is set to be a busy year for the company with training courses running in Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Malaysia and the USA, as well as engineering projects in the UK, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Greece and offshore work in Norway and Holland.