Wood Group PSN boss aims to grab slice of the global shale gas market

THE new head of Wood Group’s largest division has unveiled his plans to push the Aberdeen-based energy services giant into the controversial shale gas, oil sands and coal seam gas markets.

Robin Watson, who is taking over the reins at the Production Services Network (PSN) unit from newly-appointed Wood Group chief executive Bob Keiller, wants to grow PSN’s operations in Australia, the Caspian Sea, the Middle East, the United States and western Canada.

In the North Sea, he aims to expand the division’s work in the growing decommissioning arena, which is expected to be worth up to £35 billion between 2010 and 2040.

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Watson said: “My vision for Wood Group PSN is simple. I want us to be the best production services company to work for and the best company to work with, with a focus on continuous improvement.

“I am taking up the role at a very exciting time in the Wood Group story. It’s the start of the next chapter for the company and we have a fantastic team, exciting prospects and a strong business underpinned by our core values.

“My ambition is to create further growth opportunities for Wood Group PSN. Notable international regions of anticipated growth include the US, Western Canada, Australia, the Middle East and the Caspian region.

“Expansion into the coal seam gas, shale and oilsands markets will also present significant opportunities for Wood Group PSN to differentiate and grow.

“The UK remains a cornerstone for the global Wood Group PSN business. Our UK growth will be driven by the diversification of our services, namely the expansion of our project management, commissioning and decommissioning capabilities.”

Watson joined Wood Group in 2010 following a 23-year career in the oil and gas industry, with companies including Exxon­Mobil and Petrofac.

Under his leadership, the headcount at PSN’s UK operations grew by 10 per cent last year, with 800 permanent posts created in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Hull and Runcorn, along with 100 apprentices being recruited.

Watson has also been elevated to Wood Group’s main board as an executive director.

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Keiller became chief executive at FTSE 100-listed Wood Group in November, succeeding Allister Langlands, who in turn replaced Sir Ian Wood as chairman of the firm Wood’s grandfather founded in 1912.

Wood Group bought PSN for £600 million in December 2010, bringing Keiller – who had led the £178m management buyout from American oil services giant Halliburton in 2006 – into its managerial fold.

Glasgow-based Weir Group, a fellow FTSE 100 engineering firm, has already enjoyed success supplying pumps and valves to the shale gas industry.

Shale gas has transformed the energy market in the US, bringing down the price of power and encouraging manufacturers to build factories.

But “fracking” – the method by which shale gas is extracted – has sparked controversy by polluting water supplies and triggering small earthquakes.