Friendship turned into partnership or vice versa – it is hard to tell. December 2020 marks a 25th year anniversary for the founders of Ross DK A/S Lars Andersen and Claus Pedersen. The two met as special drilling trainees at Maersk Drilling’s training sessions on a path to become drillers. This chance meeting set them on a course that has shown no signs of slowing down, and where they strive to have a daily catch-up with each other on business, sports and general headlines of the day.

Q: Do you remember your first impressions of each other?

“We were all huddled up in a queue in CPH airport” starts Claus “waiting to get on a plane to take us on a survival course in the Netherlands”. Lars injects “We might have had a few group meetings beforehand in the Maersk offices in CPH, but this was our first trip outbound together. The training wasn’t memorable, but we sure had a great time and we got along really well as a group”. “Lars, ever the tinker, was quick to realise that you could bypass the payment-per-view on the hotel. The news spread, and we all enjoyed unlimited TV in our spare time” adds Claus.

“Not long after we realised that we lived not 500m apart in Copenhagen, and we had a very mutual set of interests. So, a friendship grew from that – and we have been friends and business partners for 25 years now” says Lars. “You mean that we both enjoyed a cold beer” chuckles Claus.

Q: You have spent considerable periods working on challenging offshore drilling projects across the northern hemisphere, where the stakes are high. When you step into a helicopter to head offshore, how do you mentally change from ‘at-home’ to ‘at-work’?

“I do not think we do change that much – it is our job. We know from the moment that we step out our front door that we have to manage the drilling process as smoothly as possible. That has been our mission just with different levels of seniority – and now we are the shot-callers” says Claus “Sometimes the difficultly is to step back into the door and leave the work mentality together with our PPE” agrees Lars.

Q: You have seen moments of high stress during operations where decisions had to be made in a split second. How do you factor in all the parameters that make up your decisions?

“It is all about situational awareness and being adept at following the events as they unfold. Most of the time, a rig operation runs like clockwork, so we follow the plans and adjust the smaller details that make everything run smoothly. We have learned over the years not conclude beforehand, just quietly collect data and information, analyse and process it and make a decision if the parameters space is outside of the approved plan” says the two.

“We have used each other for sparring over the years, as our personalities match pretty well,” says Claus “I have, a perhaps .. hmm, more detailed approach, whereas Lars seeks the overview and that is complementary. One day I’ll be the coach to Lars and the next day him to me”.

“We quickly found out that being on the same team meant that we had a winning formula, and we do not feel insulted by being told the un-sugarcoated truth by the other” adds Lars.

Q: A lot of people have spent considerable time making the plans that you have to execute together with the rig and crew. But, there will always be uncertainties and unknowns in a drilling process. At the rig, you update the principal stakeholders every morning with a short briefing – take us through such as meeting.

Claus “I bring along my coffee cup at shift start and talk with the night shift and read their report of the events of the past hours. It is very seldom that anything really sticks out from my knowledge of the plan and the schedule for the day. I coordinate with the rest of the team and the service companies, and the day is rolling. I try to maintain a look ahead of 1 – 5 day of the operational schedule, supported by the well engineer who has an outlook of 30 days, and the shore-based drilling superintendent who has 5 – 10 days look ahead in his planning.

Weather is always the unknown factor, and the drilling operations are coordinated with the bridge. So, we often also touch upon the prevailing conditions for the next 24 to 48 hours.”

You founded Ross DK back in 2008 (then Ross Engineering). There has always been a tight relationship between Ross Offshore in Norway and Ross DK in Denmark. The chairman of the board of Ross DK is CEO of Ross Offshore. The two companies have worked closely together on several projects. On many of these, the execution team has been a mix of employees from the two organisations.

Q: While processes and procedures might sound like a somewhat dry cocktail, you emphasise that systemic thinking and behaviour is the underlying ‘glue’ to consistently delivering projects. What has been your experience working with projects in both the ‘black’ and ‘green’ industries that have led you to conclude that project value can be derived from a systematic approach to projects?

Lars “We have been taught to think risk, and it has become an ingrained part of our approach to everything. We look at our factors of uncertainty and the consequences, and we make a decision. If anything, that is properly what I advise others when discussing oil&gas or geothermal projects.”

Q: You are both into sports – but very different ones. Lars, you have a passion for vintage Porsche’s and have owned and raced your fair share cars. You currently have a Porsche 911 RSR from 1976, I believe? When you settle into your bucket seat, with your balaclava and helmet on and you watch the green flag drop, what goes through you mind?    

Lars “It is to follow the strategy. Then the flag drop and I stomp on the throttle, and we are off. Choosing the right strategy is winning the race – it is that simple.”

Q: Claus, while you also enjoy strapping into a race car as well, your passion is the wet element. You have always been swimming, and you have played underwater rugby, and been diving a lot. More recently we have seen you take up open water swimming and doing long distances – 16km in a lake in Northern Zealand in 5 Hours? And from a reliable source, we have it that you have also been swimming where not many other people get to swim (with the necessary safety precautions)?   

“I have been swimming across the equator in the middle of the Atlantic, a 3-day sail from shore. It has a lot of fun. I have just concluded this season’s outdoor swimming with a long swim in a nearby freshwater lake. The water was 9o Celsius, so not really cold.

In 2016 you founded a new company Geothermal Operating Company or Geoop for short. The company is your answer to a challenge you witnessed in your previous 15 years of working with geothermal projects across northern Europe. You saw a market opportunity to have a dedicated developer of geothermal projects, which could handle the process from the initial inception of an idea through development and financing, drilling and construction to operation or sale.

Geoop was early on strengthen by having Iceland Drilling Company and E.ON Denmark stepping in as partners in the company. Geoop has drilled an exploration well with E.ON Sweden in Malmö and is supporting the development project to achieve a lasting green impact. Furthermore, Geoop has qualified as sole bidder for the geothermal project in Aalborg, Denmark, with a goal of establishing 100MWthermal for district heating purposes. Lastly, Geoop is a contender for developing geothermal projects in the greater Copenhagen area with a submitted exploration license application to the Danish Energy Agency.

Q: Looking back at 25 years, you have seen the drilling industry develop and transition. There have been leaps in rig technology, well planning has gone all digital, and training has been transformed with the advent of advanced simulators. The industry has experienced highs and lows, and we are witnessing a green revolution where the oil&gas skill set is being applied in both offshore wind, and drilling for geothermal energy. When looking back, what have been lasting impressions?

“It has been a lot of fun” they both conclude. “We had an opportunity to start a company, and we feel that we have only just started. There is a lot of undeveloped potentials, and the green sector will accelerate”.

“We are friends first and foremost, but we cannot help compete. So, I have Danish championships in classical car racing, and Claus has Danish championships in underwater rugby – we have at least five each. Still, Claus also won silver from the world championships” says Lars.

Q: A final question, will you venture a guess as to where the next 25 will take you?

“We have just seen the faint contours of the industrialisation of geothermal energy, and we have the full package to support that development. P&A will also be an interesting sector in the coming years. But, looking 25 years ahead, hmm … it is anyone’s guess”.

“However, what we also want to do is to spend more time on our extracurricular activities. I want to drive a proper F1 car at Spa in Belgium” says Lars, and Claus adds “I want to complete a half marathon in open water swimming”.