Strohm – Power & Flow

We return to Strohm, the company formerly known as Airborne Oil & Gas to learn about the thinking behind their new identity, and the growing open-mindedness in the industry.

The company came into being in 2007 to answer the question “Can the technologies, techniques and ideas created in the aerospace sector be translated into other industries?”

The answer to that question came in the form of the Dutch headquartered firm’s Thermoplastic Composite Pipe (TCP) – composite pipes made from new materials that were totally corrosion-resistant, lengthening their life and reducing operational costs. However, the follow up to that first question was “Would other industries respond to those ideas?”

This was a particular challenge in the oil and gas sector.

During our last interview in 2019, chief commercial officer Martin van Onna told us, “I would say the biggest challenge that we have faced is the enormous conservatism in the industry. As you can imagine operators do not want to see oil on the beach or oil spills especially at sea so that understandably leads to risk-averse behaviour with oil companies.”

Speaking over a year later, have things changed? van Onna is in no doubt.

“I believe there has been a profound change over the last year in the industry, for two different reasons,” he tells us. “First, there has been a further increase in cost consciousness, and secondly there is COVID-19 and the energy transition.”

A More Open-Minded Sector

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly driven businesses to seek out new ways to reduce costs up and down the supply chain. At the same time, many businesses have found their ability to produce and develop new products has been diminished.

“The ability of the supply chain industry at large to develop new products has been further reduced because there’s less capacity left in the supply chain and less product development as a whole,” van Onna explains. “The sector is reducing its investments in what we would call low TRL technologies or ‘Technology Readiness Level’. There’s not much investment in real new technologies that haven’t been proven in the field yet.”

The positive flipside of this is that the new technological solutions which are on the market tend to be the more tested ones, and businesses are more open-minded about trying them.

“There is greater acceptance of new technology that is in a higher state of readiness, such as our TCP,” van Onna says. “It has been piloted and is field-proven. Our products may still be considered new by some, but they have created a track record where the technology has a cost or CO2 benefit, or in our case both. We see acceptance really accelerating.”

For van Onna’s company, in particular, this trend has translated into a record number of new project wins.

“I found it particularly interesting that we have more contracts than ever with operators that had never used composite pipe before,” van Onna explains. “Last year we won a contract with Woodside, one with ENI, and with other operators that are considered quite conservative and have never worked with us before or used composite pipe. That’s testament to the change in the industry where there is a bigger acceptance of new technology.”

At the same time, the incoming energy transition is driving innovation and the adoption of new technologies, such as the carbon capture and storage solutions van Onna’s company provides.

“With the growth of carbon capture and storage, and with  hydrogen, we’re seeing interest from companies like Shell, Total, and BP focused on reducing their footprint.

The drive towards these kinds of solutions has also driven this company’s own transition, away from ‘Airborne Oil & Gas’, into its new identity – Strohm.

A New Identity

Van Onna chose Airborne Oil & Gas’s name, and he still has a degree of fondness for it.

“I always thought it was a great name because people remember it. It doesn’t sound logical. How can Oil and Gas be Airborne?” he recalls. “At the same time, before COVID-19, we recognised that we now have more of a focus on reducing the carbon footprint. A year ago, we started to work on our own footprint by contracting 100% green certified electricity. We are, as of now, and for the whole of 2020, certified as being carbon neutral as an organisation.”

This shift in technology is behind Strohm’s new identity.

“Our technology, already by default, has a lower footprint than steel, just because of the emissions related to steel manufacture. We reduced those emissions to zero for the organisation last year, and with that, we realised we couldn’t be ‘Oil and Gas’,” van Onna says. “Now we’re Strohm, which in phonetic Dutch means both ‘flow’ and ‘power’.”

Even with this new identity, Strohm is pushing forward to improve emissions.

“We installed a TCP Flowline last year, and we learned that because we can use small, local vessels for the installation we can realise a dramatic reduction in the CO2 footprint of that process,” van Onna tells us proudly.

Moving forward, Strohm will be focusing on several areas. It will continue to support its current clients with low carbon solutions, solutions that provide the lowest as-installed footprint for a pipeline infrastructure. It will also be moving into new sectors.

“What we have seen in the energy transition is that the composite pipe has a particularly good fit with green hydrogen energy applications as well as carbon capture and storage,” van Onna says. “CO2 mixed with seawater is extremely corrosive, and CO2 can cause running ductile fractures in steel. Now in our case, our composite pipe is totally resistant to any type of corrosion by hydrogen or CO2. So our TCP technology has a fantastic fit with both applications. We’re already in detailed study discussions with operators on hydrogen, and others on CO2 capture and storage solutions, which will become a major part of our revenue in future.”

It’ll be interesting to see what that future looks like.

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