Lee Petts: what’s your story?
In this, the first of our “What’s your story” series of posts, find out what motivates Lee Petts, managing director at Remsol Limited and the interim Chief Executive of the Onshore Energy Services Group. It’s our way of letting you get to know our founder members better.
Q. What does your business do?
Since 2002, Remsol has provided a range of prevention-led waste and environmental management services. We assist businesses across the UK to grow sustainably and resiliently by helping them to cut waste, recycle more and save money, whilst improving overall environmental performance and avoiding risk.
I’ve personally been working in the environmental services field for almost twenty years now, during which time I’ve worked extensively with the hazard industries such as chemicals manufacturing and pharmaceutical production.
Q. How long have you been working with the onshore oil and gas industry?
We’ve worked with downstream oil and gas businesses for many years, including Total at its bitumen plant in Lancashire and others that manufacture lubricants, for instance. Our move into upstream oil and gas came in 2011 when we struck up a relationship with Cuadrilla Resources as it explored for shale gas in Lancashire, which is where we’re based.
Q. How did you start?
Living and working in Lancashire, I soon heard about Cuadrilla’s activities and about its planned use of water to hydraulically fracture the shale rock deep under ground. At the time, we were working with a client that produced around 15,000 tonnes a year of what is essentially just dirty water but which it had to pay to have removed in road tankers and disposed of.
I approached Cuadrilla to see if it might be possible for them to utilise it as a substitute for mains water to make the process of shale gas extraction more sustainable whilst also enabling my client to avoid the costs of disposal.
It quickly became evident that Cuadrilla couldn’t use the water substitute – not for any technical reason, but because it wanted to maintain absolute control over the quality and composition of the fluids it injects underground – and so those discussions were concluded quite speedily.
But I think the management at Cuadrilla liked our problem-solving and collaborative approach, and so when it wanted help finding someone that could safely dispose of the flowback wastewater generated in the hydraulic fracturing process, we were a logical choice.
Q. What do you enjoy most about your work?
One of the things I enjoy most about my work is the variety – no two days are ever the same. That said, although the challenges our clients face obviously differ, it’s often the case that the solutions are similar and that we’ve successfully implemented them somewhere else before, which means we can quickly share the lessons we’ve learnt elsewhere.
I also like to play an active role in our local community. In fact, I think businesses are just as much a part of the communities they’re situated in as the people that live in them. Our work with a disabled children’s charity in Preston is an example of what I mean – the Space Centre is a neighbour of ours, and when we heard they were in financial trouble, we stepped in to help. This short film tells the story best.
Q. What motivates you?
Like most people, I imagine, money motivates me to a point – but only insofar as it enables me to provide for my family and do the things I enjoy.
I’m much more driven by a sense of achievement. I’m a naturally strategic thinker, but I’m also very practical and I like to get things done.
I get to help businesses find clever ways of working that not only improve their environmental impact, but their profits and competitiveness too – and find it really rewarding when I can see that my skills and expertise have been used to best effect.
In the onshore oil and gas sector, I’m particularly pleased to be playing a part in ensuring that it takes place safely and in a manner the public can have confidence in. I think the fact I live close to where Cuadrilla is planning to explore for shale gas goes a long way toward reassuring other Lancashire residents that it can be done safely – I drink the same water and breathe the same air, and I’m not concerned that either will be compromised by the search for shale gas, based both on the conclusions of independent, respected bodies such as the Royal Society and my own, hands-on experience of environmental risk management.
Q. How do you see the future of onshore oil and gas developing?
It’s true that we need to wean ourselves off oil and gas, and to fuel our homes and businesses with lower-carbon alternatives. In that respect, onshore oil and gas could be seen to have a relatively short life expectancy. But when you consider that over 80% of British homes use gas for heating and cooking, and that many of our industrial processes rely on gas for heat, it’s clear that even as we decarbonise electricity generation there will be a continuing role for gas for several decades.
Beyond that, however, we will continue to need oil and gas to make the products we’ve come to depend on – for example, they’re used to make plastics, rubber, adhesives, paints, textile coatings, dyes, road surfacing products and the chemicals that are the building blocks of common medicines – and so there will be a lengthy future for hydrocarbons in non-fuel applications that don’t have the attendant climate impacts.
I think once you accept that we have a long-term requirement for oil and gas, it’s a logical choice to produce our own and create jobs and tax revenues rather than to rely on expensive imports that don’t deliver the same societal or economic benefits.
Of course, we don’t yet know how the falling prices of oil and gas will impact onshore exploration and production in Britain in the near-term, but overall I think the industry will continue to grow and evolve.
Whatever happens, I think the industry stands a far greater chance of success if the supply chain that supports it is comprised largely of British SMEs, which is why I’m pleased to be involved in the work of the Onshore Energy Services Group.