The company, which had previously worked for big name multi-nationals in the pharmaceutical and information technology sectors, had no experience of the oil and gas industry.
This meant that Mercury had to acquire new skills very quickly. “We had to bring in new knowledge from outside Ireland initially”, explains Regional Director Colm Burke. “We had to gain new skills in welding and electrics because the safety and quality of work standards demanded in the oil and gas industry were beyond anything anyone had experienced in Ireland at that stage.”
Thus began a journey of transformation for Mercury Engineering. “We started work in October of 2007. At the time nobody realised that we were about to hit the recession. The contract value ran to tens of millions of Euros so it was a fantastic job to get. The learning side was particularly good. The experience of the oil and gas industry was also very important. The business continuity was also a massive, massive lift for the company, when the economy was on its knees,” says Burke.
The new knowledge base has played an important role in the company’s development since. “The procedures for oil and gas are a lot different to other jobs”, he continues. “The standards demanded are much tougher. At peak we had 1,200 people working on site all gaining exposure to Shell’s high standards. Shell puts in a huge effort on the safety front as well. Their standards are first class. They maximise protection at all levels and every stage of the process.”
Exposure to those standards and procedures has been of real benefit to Mercury. “We are a different company now. Winning the contract with Shell took us on a journey which resulted in a complete transformation for us. We have gained incredibly valuable expertise and experience which we have managed to retain in-house.
If we ever get another gas or oil find off Ireland we’ll be ready for it. We have also been able to use that expertise to tender for other highly complex work in Ireland and overseas.”
Mercury Engineering wasn’t the only beneficiary from the contract. “We have built a lasting relationship with Shell and the other stakeholders in the project”, Burke notes. “The whole local involvement was great. We hired staff locally, wherever possible. Anything we could source locally we did. It was great for the locality and the West of Ireland generally. Everyone benefitted. I think it was a very big thing for the people in Shell here to be able to say it was built by Irish people. They wanted to show the world that we can do it, that we could make it happen. There is a lot of pride in that in Shell. We have some excellent tradespeople in Ireland and it was great to be able to show that we could get a project like this over the line.”