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Invented safety, reaped values

He lifted Hitec to a position as world leader in safe remote-controlled drill floor solutions - technology which could live up to new regulatory requirements regarding HSE. This year the inventor himself, businessman and oil pioneer Jon Gjedebo, received the OTC Heritage Award, among the finest awards the petroleum industry can give. For Jon Gjedebo, health, safety and environment has been a driving force in value creation. Hear more about the goals, enthusiasm and success during the Safety Forum's annual conferred on Wednesday, 20 June.


Manual pipe handling was heavy physical work that was also risky. The beginning of the 1980s saw the first wording in the regulations making remote-operated handling of drill collars and drill pipes a requirement. The requirements were expanded in 1992 to apply to all pipes on the drill floor and in the transport phase between the drill floor and the pipe deck. The goal was to take the hands-on human element out of this work operation. The industry was challenged to find solutions.

Hitec was one of the first to answer this challenge - with technology that made it possible to remote-operate the pipe handling operation. The entrepreneur behind this effort, Jon Gjedebo, was able to see into the future. He never doubted that the future would have to entail improved safety and a better working environment on the drilling rigs. Today Jon Gjedebo is referred to as one of the oil industry's true pioneers.

A safer future
"It was obvious to me. A higher level of HSE was a precondition and a criterion for development. If you are going to create something new, it obviously has to be better and safer to use than the equipment that already exists," Gjedebo explains.
In 2000, Hitec was merged with National Oilwell. This allowed the technology to reach a considerably larger international market. Under Gjedebo's leadership, Hitec introduced computer-controlled drilling control equipment with several innovations that have since become industry standards. Today, no advanced drilling rigs are built without remote-controlled drill floor solutions.

Not too excited
Remote-controlled pipe handling, however, which was Gjedebo's basic concept, was not something the industry really wanted. "The shipowners were satisfied with the situation the way it was. The automated solution did not make the work go faster, and it took many years to fine-tune the equipment," says Gjedebo. "At the same time, the rigs became larger and the manual work became increasingly heavy. Nevertheless, we never doubted that remote control was the way to go."

- How would you describe the interaction with the authorities?

"Very good and very necessary," comes Gjedebo's prompt reply. "The authorities set the standards, and in that way have contributed to staking out the course. The HSE regulations have played a key role, both in showing the way and helping things along."

- Does that mean that the regulations have not been in the way?

"Exactly. But our roles are different, as are the time perspectives. We want to make money tomorrow, the shipowners want to invest in equipment that will last for years, while the authorities work over a longer perspective in their function as regulatory developer and setter of standards," Gjedebo explains. "However, this has never slowed the development, nor presented an obstacle to creativity and new ideas," he adds.

Jon from Jørpeland
Houston was the venue when, in May, Jon from Jørpeland became the first non-American to receive the coveted OTC Heritage Award. The organizers of the world's largest oil and gas exhibition have a tradition of awarding honors every tenth year to individuals who have in various ways made a positive impact on the global industry.

Gjedebo himself does not want to talk about it much. He would rather emphasize the environment that grew in and around Stavanger in the 1980s.

"This was the center for heavy drilling operations and a huge mechanical community - factors which triggered extensive creativity and provided fertile conditions for creative power in the region," he concludes.
~LT~BR>Gjedebo is a trained naval architect and business economist. Today he is chairman of the boards of Remora Technology, Hitec Industries and Hitec Vision Private Equity, and has participated in establishing or investing in more than 60 companies. During the Safety Forum's annual conference Jon Gjedebo will speak on the topic of HSE - obstacle or impetus for value creation?

Contact in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway:
Angela Ebbesen, technical secretary, Safety Forum
E-mail: angela.ebbesen@ptil.no