WellDecommissioned, a company based in The Hague, is a wonderful example of doing good and doing business. On our planet, we have more than 2 million open oil and gas wells. Over the next 20 to 30 years we will transform our energy supply from fossil fuels to cleaner forms of energy. So, we are going to say goodbye to all these wells, and the majority needs to be cleaned up. This is a very complex and expensive task, which has already been postponed. WellDecommissioned has developed a method to tackle the decommissioning or reuse of oil and gas installations faster and better.
WellDecommissioned is one of the promising impact entrepreneurs situated in Apollo 14: the new startup hub in The Hague for entrepreneurs that contribute to a better world through technological and social innovations. These series of articles introduce the entrepreneurs of Apollo 14 and explores what drives them.
The dilemma: if decommissioning of oil and gas installations does not take place soon, we are moving the problem so that future generations have to deal with it. Since cleaning up wells is complex, expensive and time-consuming, there is a danger that these wells will eventually remain open or start to leak, resulting in pollution of groundwater or oil flowing to the surface.
Marc Nijmeijer, Managing Director and co-founder of WellDecommissioned: “In Pennsylvania, leaky wells that were not closed 100 years ago, are regularly found in nature reserves. In America, they call these the ‘orphan wells’. Oil companies are obliged to fill the wells, but if they no longer exist in 30 years, who will pay the bill? So now is the time to close our wells. At this moment the knowledge and the money are still available. However, dismantling offers too little financial return for companies. But socially there is a clear return.”
The start of WellDecommissioned
Marc says: “The idea came 10 years ago when I worked for Shell in Asia. During that time, I was involved in a number of decommissioning projects and I had conducted a thorough study to determine the requirements of clearing wells for both a government and Shell. Then I came to the realization that in this industry there really is a need for a cultural change from a customized approach to standardization. In 2017 we started our company with three people. Because we had a lot of knowledge and experience and an innovative idea with software, we were soon able to do a pilot project for a smaller oil company.”
A success, and at the beginning of 2018 they started commercially and right after sold their first project to a large oil company. WellDecommissioned now has five well-established companies as their customers.
Marc: “WellDecommissioned’s mission is to break the barrier of high costs by making the clean-up accessible. We do this with standard solutions and optimal work preparation. This makes the process much faster and cheaper.”
Marc: “Our in-house software enables us to plan very complex projects at a detailed level. This way we can quickly provide concrete and optimized solutions. We work according to the oil and gas industry standards and can handle any specific situation. When we help to make the risks and costs manageable, it will become easier for the government to set a clear framework for decommissioning. A contractor, oil company or government that works with us knows exactly what the process will be like.”
The supply chain of wells
The customers are oil companies, investors, suppliers, and builders of specialist machines and ships. This supply chain consists of companies who make drilling rigs, drill the wells and also want to close them. WellDecommissioned is independent, and that makes it attractive for large established parties to work with them.
Marc: “We speak the language of large companies and multinationals in this sector, partly because we have a good mix of highly qualified people. The companies in our supply chain are enthusiastic about our concept, which gives us confidence. We offer our service with a small and growing team of highly experienced technical specialists linked to young professionals, so we can have a significant impact as a small team. In 2019 we will continue to grow and expand our team.”
WellDecommissioned is fully self-funded. Marc: “First, we wanted to prove to ourselves that the concept can work successfully and that there is demand in the market. We also did not apply for a subsidy because we felt we should have 100% focus on potential customers and on the value advantage that we can offer them.”
WellDecommissioned has now passed the startup phase. “We have created the first step in a niche, and we will now enter the scale-up phase. We will investigate whether external funding can help us to grow further.”
Does WellDecommissioned work from an idealistic motivation? “Yes, I am convinced that we really have a unique team that can help make a difference in solving complex environmental issues in this sector. Europe has an exemplary role in this area. We have the means and knowledge. If we show that closing wells can be done responsibly and is very affordable then solving the global problem will become a lot easier. Our slogan is, therefore: ‘making re-use & decommissioning a commodity’. In addition to our idealism, the inventive transfer of knowledge between experienced and young people makes us an attractive employer. That also gives me a lot of satisfaction.”
Marc’s dream: “In 5 years’ time, we will be a leading company in standard solutions for setting up and executing these types of decommissioning projects, not only in Europe but also beyond. A concept that has proven to be successful. And our is software widely used in the supply chain.”