How Corinthian Energy Resources drives success through alliancing

How Corinthian Energy Resources drives success through alliancing

Regardless of industry, large companies are a complex hive of complementary, conflicting and competing aims and objectives. The most successful can cut through the noise and bureaucracy to find purpose and deliver projects and services that offer value for stakeholders in a fair, ethical manner. With the challenge being so multifarious, realising this ambition is no small feat and, along the way, it may transpire that the project or the service delivered has not positively reached as many as it could have.

Paul Harrison and Andy Curtis, both Executive Directors of Corinthian Energy Resources, launched the Australian company in 2016 following combined decades in the oil and gas industry. With common histories in project delivery for the energy sector, Corinthian’s genesis transpired through a mutual understanding of the aforementioned challenges and a shared commitment to doing things differently. “We both have a DNA of working in integrated teams, working out the main goal and making sure the team is aligned with that goal,” says Harrison. “The client will have one set of objectives, and the provider may have an underlying different set of objectives.” The risk, he says, is that dialogue between the client and provider will only superficially result in shared aims. While the result may be as the client intended, the provider may feel opportunities have been missed along the way, or vice versa. The answer, Harrison and Curtis believe, is in the integrated operator service model they had both experienced in the UK. More specifically, Corinthian takes the ‘Project Alliancing’ approach first undertaken by British Petroleum, now BP, in the 1990s. 

Under this practice, stakeholders in the project are brought together to work as a singular, integrated team where everyone’s commercial aims are represented in the proposed outcome. Resultantly, the project is only a success if those aims are met, meaning the integrated team succeeds and fails together. A belief in this methodology was instilled in both Harrison and Curtis by their experiences in the industry. “We felt strongly that the different companies involved in a project were pursuing their different vested interests,” says Harrison. “The commercial models were supporting that and it was getting hard to do what you should be doing; providing a safe, timely and cost-effective service.” With a name associated with the utmost in sportsmanship and fairness, Corinthian’s leadership has endeavoured to instill the ethos of its namesake across its operations. 

The collaborative approach of project and contract alliancing is a promising one in an industry beset with challenges. While traditional energy sources come under fire for their environmental impact, the fact remains that countries in developing markets require an exponential amount of energy and a means to deliver it. Harrison says that Southeast Asia alone will see a doubling of its energy demand over the next 15 years. “How that energy is going to be supplied is a really challenging question,” says Harrison, “and what you’ll find is people defaulting back to old technologies.” Counter to this, Harrison believes the focus must be on providing energy that is low cost, low carbon and secure, effectively pre-empting the energy transition of developing markets by readily planning for and applying appropriate infrastructure that can cope with the future demand. 

Southeast Asia is already a potent source of natural gas, a less environmentally harmful fossil fuel that is viewed by many as an essential bridge fuel while the global renewables infrastructure continues to grow. Harrison and Curtis cite Malaysia as a key example of the region’s potential in this area, particularly in terms of both its resources and disproportionate energy shortages. “They’re getting brownouts and blackouts in a country that’s one of the largest gas exporters,” Harrison says. “It should now be the main fuel source for domestic power. There’s a huge opportunity around energy provision and, if there was a clear energy policy with everyone working well together, we’d probably see that there’s not much more we could do. Through our culture of working as a single team with alignment, mutual respect and trust, we feel there’s a great opportunity for people with our type of skills to come in and facilitate the region’s achievements in the face of a perceived insurmountable energy demand challenge.”

The alliancing strategy can ease the burden from a project management perspective in terms of establishing a single source of truth. Much is made of the nascent capacity of blockchain technology for delivering immutable information to all stakeholders in real-time, but Corinthian’s approach affords a more low-tech, low-cost solution. Consistent with Corinthian’s methodical approach across its projects, this begins at the outset of the project planning process. “We found that the traditional way of doing things brings too many vested interests and too many individual objectives that only bring typical, predictable project outcomes,” says Harrison. “It costs what it costs, it takes as long as it takes, and hopefully the safety and quality are managed.” In the spirit of alliancing, the key to gleaning more value from such projects is to manage the partnering process to ensure consolidated goals across the board. 

First, projects and long-term contracts are selected based on the value they can provide to the relevant local communities and supply chains, and then the vision and goals of the client are discussed with them in depth. “We ask the locals: ‘how does the client’s project help you achieve what you want to achieve?’ If it doesn’t, we sit down and try to find a project that does, or we go to different supply chain companies where we think the project could be of more use. We reach out to vendors that have leaders, often young leaders, with aspirations for growth and an appetite for partnering and learning. Safeline Sdn Bhd is a good example of this: a small company that provides safe habitats and other rental gear for the upstream oil and gas industry in Southeast Asia. We go to them, almost like a client, and discuss with them how a client’s project can help them grow.” This, Harrison elaborates, includes the potential for international operations, routes into additional support services, and the ability to partner with regional tech leaders through its extensive network. “Rather than taking a project and only working out who can provide a service at the lowest cost, we actually take the project and also see how individual firms’ growth can be best supported by the actual project. Ultimately, what goes around comes around.” The result is, in effect, a varied team of companies striving for the same goal because it will deliver specific outcomes and benefits to all involved, inspiring stronger performance, faster turnarounds, and stronger communities both in the literal sense and in the B2B landscape. 

These partners can then work together to maximise the value of their individual offerings whilst providing a deep level of visibility. An example of this is in the development of a strong integrated work and data enterprise management system, the source of which has been integrated by capability from Monitor Management Control Systems, a project cost management software provider, Track’em, a materials tracking specialist, and INX Software which supports a people platform including work health and safety, logistics management and tracking, and competency assurance. “We brought these three companies together and requested an integrated management system so that, when we do our work, we can be assured we’ve got confident, experienced and qualified people deployed at the right time, with the right materials, tools, and work packs, who are always operating within safe work spaces,” elaborates Harrison. “We’ve concentrated on making the lives of people in our teams easier whilst making the most of existing proven technology and facilities.” Integrated solutions such as this also simplify workflows, with trackers highlighting areas that need input and streamlining the allocation of available resources. 

Corinthian’s progressive approach to project management is reaping demonstrable dividends, with successful projects marrying with stakeholder value and improved working lives for employees along both the value and supply chains. It all comes down to the premium placed upon people and the value they can each bring and the learnings and experience they can obtain. “There’s a legacy way of thinking where the endpoint is to get your capex down, get your unit costs down, and get the product from this country to that country as quickly as possible,” says Harrison. “What we’ve got instead is the ability to use projects as an enabler to upskill and improve the intellectual property of people in the local communities: that can go on and have an infinite range of possibilities. There’s no ceiling to that. So, let’s use our projects and our resources in the most effective way, in a long-term way, and get the right outcomes for everyone involved.”

Paul Harrison