When your transportation to work is a helicopter taking you hundreds of miles offshore, you tend to pack a little differently for your days ahead. For the people who work offshore, spending 50% of their time in the US Gulf of Mexico becomes routine, but the comforts of home are not long forgotten.

When Petrochem Field Services, Inc. (PFS), a minority-owned field service company, was formed by Sergio Sanchez and Howard Smith in 1990, they created a company rooted in providing professional quality job completion, while placing the highest importance on the safety of their team members. When the opportunity came for their company to take the skills they had learned in onshore oil and gas facilities, like refineries and chemical plants, to offshore oil and gas production platforms, PFS jumped at the chance.

What is the difference between onshore and offshore work?

Think of a turnaround like deep cleaning and thorough routine maintenance of your home appliances during a remodeling project; the work isn’t complete until every appliance is running and doing their job to their maximum intent. Now, think of that work being done in the middle of the ocean. Working on a refinery turnaround versus a deep-water platform has its big differences in terms of training and safety protocols, but the one that really gets some getting used to is not going home at the end of a shift. Offshore work isn’t complete until the job is done, and with routine offshore turnarounds at 30 days or less, that can mean spending weeks away from home.

Although the work itself can be similar, adjusting to being away from home for a long period of time and the dynamics of an offshore environment take some getting used to – but the opportunity it presented for the PFS team was invaluable.

"Taking on new challenges within our team helps us grow our current client relationships, add to our portfolio and create additional growth opportunities for our team members."

Sergio Sanchez, President, PFS

The impact of a diverse network of suppliers

In 2020-2021, supply chains around the world were strained and businesses were looking for ways to strengthen and diversify their pool of qualified vendors and suppliers. The leadership in the Shell Deep Water organization challenged the integrated team to understand if an onshore-only turnaround solutions provider could transition to the offshore environment. In order to explore this opportunity, five onshore solutions providers were invited to bid on offshore turnarounds work.

"We believed there was an opportunity to bring in the mentality of cost and time discipline that these companies were already accustomed to, to an offshore environment – new personnel, a fresh perspective on execution, and challenge to the status quo."

Ken Nixon, Engineering Project Manager, Shell Offshore, Inc.

Since offshore turnarounds shut down an entire offshore platform’s production, the ability to safely and efficiently get this work done is a top priority. The PFS contract with Shell has been a “first-mover” in a strategy to transition primarily onshore solutions providers to perform offshore services – and the benefits already are apparent. In PFS’s first full year completing offshore turnarounds, all of the events in the Gulf of Mexico for Shell Offshore finished on-time or early. Turnarounds finishing early means the impacted platform gets back to producing oil and gas more quickly than originally scheduled.

Navigating new opportunities

For PFS, this was an opportunity for the company to adapt to working in an offshore environment as a means to expand their business where their primary competitors did not have a footprint.

The legacy knowledge passed on to their team during challenging projects, and the humble and open-minded environment that carried through between their work on different projects helped in the success of the transition from onshore to offshore.

"Partnering with an organization that cares about the well-being of our company and team members creates an environment to explore solutions that are mutually successful for the long-term."

Jack E. Leal, Shareholder and CFO, PFS

Following their lead

PFS’s advice for other diverse suppliers is to never compromise core values and quality of services. To always focus on ensuring team members are provided with the proper training and equipment to be able to execute responsibilities in a safe and efficient manner.

"Managing growth can be the biggest opportunity for a company like ours, and we want to make sure we continue to provide our clients with the quality and safe services they have come to expect from our team."

Sergio Sanchez, President, PFS

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