Global Engineering Innovators
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Ben Foster
Having gained significant brand awareness and global market share following a period of business consolidation in 2008 and subsequent listing on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) in 2009, Matrix Composites & Engineering (Matrix) has since been presented with an array of opportunities to secure the Company’s longevity.
With a core product range comprising the supply and manufacture of drilling riser buoyancy, subsea umbilical, risers and flowline (SURF) buoyancy products, offshore services and Well Construction products, Matrix has achieved a leading position in the energy sector through the continued refinement and innovation of polymer and composite materials technology.
One portion of the business that has been rapidly expanding in recent years is Well Construction, consisting of a range of composite drilling and completion centralisers, primary cementing shoes and casing reamer shoes for the oil & gas industry around the world.
“Being a relatively new player in this market, our initial strategy was always to focus on improvements that would help the business develop quickly and efficiently. Leveraging our network of existing industry contacts and strategic operating locations, we were able to make an informed decision on which regions were best suited as our initial entry points. We therefore primarily directed our attention to Asia-Pacific and North America, where we have experienced tremendous success with our range of low friction polymer centralisers, with more than 166,000 products sold including a current world record installation,” explains Jason Kent, Product Line Manager, Well Construction.
Following on from this success, Matrix has now turned its attention towards the lucrative opportunities in Middle East’s oil & gas market; having recently signed formal agency agreements with well-established local representatives in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
He says: “Diversification and innovation has long been rooted in our Company’s vision and mission. We want to continue growing market awareness for our ‘Matrix’ and ‘Max-R’ products as quality brand names associated with delivering technical solutions and quality products. To do this, we are actively seeking the further expansion of our global footprint with the introduction of our technology to the Middle East.
“Our intent has always been to move into the Middle East. The type of wells drilled, being highly deviated or horizontal, suits our low-friction technology and with the significant drop in the oil price over the past 18 months, as well as the Middle East being the only region that has increased its level of drilling activity year-on-year, the timing to actively enter the region couldn’t be more appealing.”
Differentiated by a talented and capable team committed to operational excellence, quality and efficiency, Matrix is able to demonstrate an unparalleled understanding of its core technologies; also made possible due to significant investment in a new world-class manufacturing facility.
Kent highlights: “In 2011, Matrix opened the largest composites syntactic manufacturing plant in the world, located in Henderson, Western Australia. The 20,000 square metre plant has doubled the production capacity of our previous facilities and uses superior technologies – adopting a highly automated approach to manufacturing – to produce a high quality and more expansive range of products.”
The AU$120 million plant gives the Group a significant competitive advantage in terms of manufacturing scale and cost efficiencies which has left the organisation well-positioned for future growth.
“The depth of understanding of our core technologies – advanced composite and polymer materials – by our team of highly qualified material technologists, chemists and engineers, combined with the largest composite syntactic manufacturing plant in the world, has delivered numerous operational efficiencies allowing greater output, shorter production turnaround times and superior product quality,” he further details.
Research & development
Matrix’s dedicated research & development (R&D) department has played a vital role in the Company’s continuous improvement strategy.
Kent says: “In 2010, we identified a need to develop the next generation of tool that would reduce torque and drag during casing installation into highly deviated wells and thus enable the operator to reach their total depth objective. While it’s nothing new to use polymers as a low friction bearing material, introducing such materials to some of the world’s toughest downhole environments is not a simple transfer of technology.
“Extensive research, development and countless hours of lab and field testing is required to identify and select firstly the appropriate polymer material or blend of materials and secondly the product design that is suitable for operations where extreme temperature, significant mechanical loads combine with chemicals from both introduced and produced wellbore fluids.”
In conjunction with leading global chemical companies, Matrix designed and developed what is now the Max-R range of advanced polymer low friction and ultra-low friction casing centralisers. “In conjunction with our torque, drag and centraliser spacing modelling capabilities, we have successfully introduced this new generation of low friction centralisers across operations in Asia-Pacific, USA, Canada and Russia.”
Despite the current oil price slump placing significant cost and efficiency pressure across all businesses that operate in the oil and gas sector – including Matrix – the Company is continually seeking to diversify its product portfolio to strengthen and grow its global business. “Leveraging our experience with advanced materials, we are looking at ways to adapt our existing products and expertise to enter new industries where our technology will be relevant, such as in building and construction. Essentially, provided the opportunities are aligned with our corporate strategy and we see positive returns under acceptable risk, then there is no limit to where Matrix could be in the long-term,” explains Kent.
He concludes: “Meanwhile, we will continue to strengthen our Well Construction product line with some exciting new products in the near future and a continued focus on North America (the elephant in the room), Asia-Pacific (our own back yard) and the Middle East (our new sand pit). We have already begun the prequalification process with many operators in the latter and once we have some runs on the board in Saudi and the UAE, we will be sure to look at further expansion opportunities across the region.”