Seven Questions with HUVR Advisor Mark Susich

Blog     · 11 MIN READ

Posted on August 23

Back to blog

Five Seven Questions with HUVR Advisor Mark Susich

HUVR is honored to have a group of outstanding SMEs and industry luminaries (or both) as customers, in the HUVR Partner Network or in the HUVR Advisor Network. Whenever we have the chance, we pick their brain about what’s going on in their particular area of expertise. We decided it was criminal we weren’t sharing these conversations with everyone. As such, Five Questions was born.

Mark had so many great nuggets of truth to share that we expanded the series to seven questions!

ONE: Why did you choose to become a HUVR advisor?

I have been blessed to be able to work for over 30 years in the oil and gas industry. My expertise is specializing in asset integrity management on a global scale. I have had the pleasure of supporting or leading teams in developing and implementing integrity programs, data management systems, digital solutions, and workflows that complemented the various programs. When I retired from BP, I had the opportunity to assist HUVR with their marketing strategy, client-facing, and technology roadmap, as their vision aligned with several of my key asset integrity themes. I have always been a data-driven decision-maker, never afraid to question the status quo and push for a step change. Collaborating with HUVR, I see a great opportunity to impart my global experience, knowledge, and network of professionals to assist HUVR in bringing a core, best-in-class solution to the energy sector.

TWO: How did you get to where you are today? Would you be able to provide a quick overview of your career path?

I ‘broke out‘ in the oil patch in 1980 and worked for drilling contractors in the Gulf of Mexico, West Texas, and Alaska. I worked my way through my undergraduate studies in Louisiana and Texas. When I graduated, I drove from Houston, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska, and went to work for Marathon Oil, where I supported their Cook Inlet production operations. My undergraduate degree was in Petroleum Engineering, and at that time, oil prices had crashed (again), the rigs weren’t running, and I was a young engineer looking for a problem to solve. My first role was clearing a backlog of project AFEs that had accumulated due to a massive gas well blowout and fire on the Steelhead platform. The new $120 million facility was offline; the production and export modules were completely gone, and the blowout relief well was being drilled.

Once I had addressed the backlog of AFEs, my first project was to replace a section of the oil export pipeline on the Dolly Varden platform. The pipeline failure section was on the inside of one of the legs. There, I saw the interaction of oxygenated seawater and carbon steel external corrosion attack up close and personal. That was my introduction to corrosion and mechanical integrity.

I quickly exhibited an interest and had the opportunity to work with Marathon’s teams globally on setting, developing, and implementing the Worldwide Production, Corrosion Monitoring, and Inspection Program in 1990 and the Subsea Inspection Program in 1991. Data management systems supported both asset integrity programs. My first 3D model was a plastic, to-scale replica of the Dolly Varden subsea tower, which accompanied me on every diving project.

After 17 years, I left Marathon in 2004. I walked across the street to BP Exploration Alaska (BPXA), which exposed me to Prudhoe Bay, North America’s largest onshore oil field, and a litany of new challenges and opportunities.

At Prudhoe Bay, everything is above ground, accessible and insulated. I thought it would be very easy to manage the integrity of all the fixed equipment under my Team’s remit. It was one of the most complex and challenging environments I’ve ever worked in, and corrosion under insulation (CUI) became my nemesis.

I honed my mechanical integrity skills in Alaska. I had the pleasure of working with talented people who had been there for decades. In 2006, the Prudhoe Bay Oil Transit Line leak required BPXA to change the asset integrity programs and how we operate. BPXA was recognized within BP Group as having the largest and greatest number of world-class asset integrity programs. Alaska was known as the program to see, learn, and export globally. 

Lisa, my spouse, has a line about Alaska – “It’s like an amusement park.” We rode every ride, some more than once, so after 28 years and winters, it was time to leave. In 2014, I transferred to Houston and took a central role with BP, where I was the Global Integrity Management Manager and supported ten different regions around the globe. While in my role, my key remits were implementing new inspection technologies, driving asset integrity standardization, implementing risk-based inspection, implementing remote autonomous inspection strategies, and mentoring young engineers across the globe.

After 34 years, I reached a point where it was time for me to transition to something else, personally and professionally, so I left BP in January 2021 and became an independent global asset integrity consultant focusing on robotics inspection solutions, 3D reality capture, digital twins, remote autonomous inspection, data management, digital tools and workflows, sensor/data fusion, and advanced analytics. The last two and a half years have been awesome, and much more work is needed. It’s an exciting time. 

THREE: What kind of clients are you consulting for?

Most of my clients are startups, all bringing something new to the broader asset integrity market. Whether it’s a new design for an external CUI pipe crawler, integrated software solutions, advanced analytics, or developing new disruptive technologies, I am really enjoying the space and the challenges my clients have.

Startups have yet to formalize their organizational culture, and their processes are minimal. At times, they are flying by the seat of their pants to develop and introduce a minimum viable product (MVP) to the market with enough features to attract early adopter customers, generate revenue, and fund their technology roadmap. 

In a consulting or advisory role, I use the 3 Ps – People, Process, and Politics and the 3 Ts – Tools, Time, and Talent – Do we have the right resources and necessary budget to deliver an MVP on schedule? Consulting for my startup clients has been extremely rewarding, and I have enjoyed the collaboration and teamwork to get to an MVP stage. 

FOUR: What challenges and opportunities do you see that are unique to the oil and gas industry?

Bank of America’s Andrew Obin presentation at the 2022 ARC Advisory Group forum highlighted how the Oil and Gas sector has under-invested in digital transformation over the last 20 years compared to other industries. To successfully fund the energy transition, drive operational excellence, manage greenhouse emissions more effectively, and deliver CAPEX efficiency over the coming decades, the Oil and Gas sector must invest heavily in automation, software, and digitalization to improve business operations. Regarding CAPEX investment, McKinsey reported that a minimum of $450B is required annually to keep global oil production flat. EIA and API are forecasting the global oil demand to hit an all-time high in 2023 (101.0 Mb/d) and 2024 (102.7 Mb/d) despite a protraction in global economic growth. So, to balance global supply with growing demand and increasing population, the Oil and Gas sector has no choice but to invest and evolve.

COVID taught the Oil and Gas sector and other industries a valuable lesson: fewer people are required to do the work, and the work must be aligned with risk management, maintaining plant efficiency, and delivering operational excellence. In my former role, COVID was the genesis for removing unnecessary people, eliminating non-value added work at the site, and standing up remote centralized engineering and centers of excellence (COE). The latter is 100% dependent on a digital workflow and data fusion. Today, data is the new oil.

FIVE: What’s the biggest risk/challenge that you see in the NDT space today?

We speak more of evergreening fixed equipment/pressure systems strategies today than ever before. However, I don’t see the tools or the workflow processes to support the analysis. ‘Group Think’ prevails in most cases where more of the same inspection is better, instead of true integrity engineering looking at the bigger picture and leveraging all of the data, not just the last inspection reading, to drive a data-driven equipment strategy. As an industry, we still do not have a fully integrated suite of tools that can automate the data contextualization, visualization, and connectivity to provide the integrity engineer with a complete view of the effectiveness of the current integrity strategy, corrosion barriers, and inspection programs. Data is still siloed! There is always a high consequence, low probability event lurking in the distribution’s tails. As an industry, if the objective is to operate safe, reliable, and competitive operations by eliminating loss of primary containment incidents, then the Oil and Gas sector has more work to do. This is what I see as our biggest risk in effective asset integrity management; it’s a challenge and opportunity.

SIX: In your opinion, what’s the biggest opportunity/reward in NDT today?

I still see the implementation and evergreening of an efficient and effective risk-based asset integrity strategy yielding the largest opportunity and reward in the Oil and Gas or Petrochemical sectors. Why? Today, the assets are more valuable than at any other time. Every operator is focused on process and personal safety, greenhouse gas emission management, increased reliability/plant uptime, effective operating (OPEX) and capital investment (CAPEX) discipline,  elimination of unplanned outages, reduction or elimination of loss of primary containment events, effective TAR scope and execution management, and last but not least, energy transition. Hydrocarbons will power economies for decades as we transition to alternate energy strategies. 

The role of asset integrity management and its impacts in the Oil and Gas sector will only increase in the future to meet the needs of the business. The role of the integrity engineer and their suite of tools continues to evolve. Automation, robotic autonomous solutions, artificial intelligence, data visualization and connectivity, and advanced analytics will continue to change the DNA of the workforce and workflow. Those individuals who choose a career in the Oil and Gas sector will experience several technological step changes over the next two decades. Exciting times lie ahead for the asset integrity engineer.

SEVEN: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone starting out in the industry?

Well, I have several thoughts and pieces of advice!

The good news is the Oil and Gas sector will continue to attract and retain the brightest minds by digitizing their analog or physical data, such as paper documents or images, into digital formats that can be easily accessed, stored, and manipulated using digital technologies. The technology roadmap will be underpinned by digitalization efforts that involve leveraging digital technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things to optimize and automate business processes, create new products and services, create new value for customers, and generate revenue. The journey of digital transformation has no foreseeable end in sight. 

What an exciting time to be a young staff integrity engineer! Your access to information will be quicker, richer, pre-filtered, and prioritized. You’ll be more effective in your job and can do more in less time. If I were a young asset integrity engineer today, I’d be excited about what lies ahead.

In my career, between Marathon and BP, I went through 15 major reductions in the workforce. I learned very quickly you have to embrace change. Change is going to happen with or without you. If you want to be a player and stay, you’ve got to learn to adapt mentally, be patient, and ask, “What’s in it for me? How do I grow as a professional?” 

Concerning the future, we can use machine learning algorithms and AI, to address 80-90% of the analysis, which is great, but there’s always going to be a need for an SME to vet that data. To look at the data and say, “That just doesn’t look right.” There will still be a need for SMEs with deep technical expertise, so know the data and find a mentor. 

For operational context, go often to where the work is performed, the field. It will give you an edge over your peers and provide context and invaluable insights.  If you sit behind a desk and everything you do is in a 3D model, and you’re developing a scope for work, how do you know how challenging it is to execute your scope at a site?

Lastly, don’t be afraid to fail. If you never exceed your comfort zone, you will never grow as a person, personally or professionally, and to fail in a safe place is extremely empowering. You can’t be afraid to try and learn.

Share this article

Back to blog