This time of year is one of reflection and anticipation for me. Without a doubt, it’s been a volatile and exhausting few years, to say the least. We’ve had a global pandemic, erratic energy markets, and ongoing regional conflicts to contend with, as well as political instability and a cost-of-living crunch in the UK. But, having been through a few booms, busts, and crises in the last nearly 35 years, I feel optimistic for 2024.

This is because 2023 felt like a much more stable environment in which to build a business. If I had to summarise HSP’s 2023, I’d say it was “overall positive, in parts challenging”. And if I had to summarise what I think is in store for 2024, I’d say “more of the same”.

Growth spurt

We’ve seen strong revenue growth in several key markets – back to pre-pandemic levels and more – namely, in the UK, the North Sea, and the Middle East. This has been really encouraging given the state of the global oil and gas markets during the worst impacts of Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021.

Another strong area of growth for us in 2023 was in supplying valves to FPSO (floating production storage and offloading) operators, either directly, or through OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

And we also saw strong growth across our actuation business lines. This included a new market segment: the design and build of hydraulic BOP panels for a subsea client. Together, these have undoubtedly supported our own post-Covid recovery.

People power

Knowing the crucial part our people play in our success, we invested heavily in their professional development in 2023. Not only by expanding our technical capabilities in our design and engineering teams, but also in working closely with Peterhead Engineers Development Ltd (PEDL) to create our own Modern Apprenticeship Programme, of which I’m particularly proud.

As I’ve written about before, being an alumni and big advocate of the apprenticeship programme, I’m thrilled we took on two apprentices in 2023 with concrete plans to take on more in 2024.

Small company, big opportunity

We acquired the business in February 2022, just as the post-Covid (and oil price) recovery started in earnest. This has helped us develop a strong project pipeline in the medium term, and we’ll be looking to continue building on this in 2024.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of becoming a privately owned, independent SME is getting used to not being part of a large multinational with all its resources and established processes and procedures. However, I see this much more as an opportunity than an obstacle.

Why? Because it means we’re able to develop and refine our ways of working that we know benefit and add value for our customers and our business. Being smaller means we’re lighter on our feet, nimbler in our responsiveness, and more adaptable to our customers’ changing needs and the markets we serve.

New horizons, above and below the water

In 2023, we dipped our proverbial toe into the subsea market for the first time, which you can read about here. And we’re also embracing a future that will inevitably be fuelled by hydrogen, as my co-director, Richard Griffin, wrote about.

Our commitment to the energy transition has seen us invest in a new programme to develop our capabilities to supply H2 production and carbon capture markets to “Fit For” standards.

This makes us one of the first UK companies on the highly respected Nuclear AMRC’s “Fit for Hydrogen” programme, which, as well as validating our approach is fit for purpose, also provides our customers with extra reassurance.

Building our rep

As an SME in a crowded and noisy marketplace, it can be hard to be seen, let alone heard. But we’re not in the business of just trying to shout louder than everyone else. Instead, we’re using our website and blog (launched in early 2023), and LinkedIn to show our expertise, demonstrate our experience, and detail the added value we bring to customers and their projects.

So far, feedback has been extremely positive, and we’ll look to increase industry and customer engagement through these channels in 2024, as well as invest in building our presence locally in the regions where we operate.

ADIPEC 2023 was a fantastic week for us. We had numerous customers past and present, channel partners, and collaborators from the wider oil, gas, and energy sectors visit our stand to say hello and talk about, among other things, how to future-proof energy systems. We’re already looking forward to ADIPEC 2024.

Challenges remain…

Supply-chain challenges and material prices, accentuated by the pandemic and geo-political turbulence, have severely tested the whole oil and gas industry. Sadly, this resulted in several of our suppliers going into administration in 2023, and we’ve worked hard to resolve the impact on our customers.

No doubt, the fall-out from the geo-political unrest in Eastern Europe and the Middle East will continue to affect global supply chains – as we’ve seen most recently with the extra costs and time associated with companies having to avoid the Red Sea shipping route.

…but things are looking up

From an industry perspective, I’m expecting the oil and gas markets to continue growing in 2024. From an HSP perspective, I’m expecting to see some of the energy-transition projects we’re involved in move to the EPC stage, which will be exciting.

This coming year, we’ll be looking to maintain and add to our strong order book and ensure we focus on high-quality execution of projects. We’ll also be strengthening our end-user approvals for our Valve Automation Centre (VAC). This will give customers both more reassurance and more reasons to do business with us.

Final word

We’ve got a highly experienced team of outstanding people. We’ve got highly efficient processes and procedures. And we’ve got an ambitious, yet achievable, plan to grow further over the next year. Put simply, I see no reason why 2024 can’t be our most successful to date.

Author: client

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