Meet our Subsea Structures Team Lead, Richard Leonard!

What is your background?

I went to University in Glasgow to study Aeronautical Engineering.

It was in my third year, whilst taking part in an aircraft design project for which I was responsible for the aircraft performance, that I realised I wanted to focus on analysis and design.

I enjoyed the iterative process of designing an aircraft and setting up a slick system of spreadsheet calculations to take inputs from the aerodynamics engineer and deliver outputs to the powerplant engineer. This was the first time I felt like an engineer, and I liked it!

Returning to my hometown of Aberdeen I joined KW Ltd and undertook a variety of projects in subsea engineering, covering pipelines, structures, piping and spools. My experience in stress engineering and fluid mechanics helped me transition, though it actually took a while to get into the mindset of designing rather than just analysing. I worked with a lot of experienced pipeline engineers and due to the variety of project work I got involved in and skills I learned, I gravitated towards subsea structures design.

For the next 10 years, I worked for a subsea design house focusing on subsea structure detailed design projects, as well as an installation contractor focusing on flexible/umbilical lay systems and their ancillaries as well as a reassessment of subsea structures for decommissioning.

What makes you passionate about your role as Subsea Structures Team Lead?

Having ticked most things off my list in terms of project work and personal technical competency,  I want to give back to the profession by developing the next generation of engineers and improving the efficiency of internal processes.

I am now involved in line management of staff, leading the subsea structures calculation templates, mentoring for IMechE MPDS and, my personal favourite, running internal training courses I’m excited to see how the business grows in the next few years due to things my team and I set in motion.

Why do you enjoy working for Apollo in your new role?

Apollo is a business that lives its core values by recognizing the importance of professional development, training and volunteering. I enjoy giving something back, whether to more junior members of staff – I am an IMechE MPDS mentor – or to the community – I recently joined a company driven initiative and volunteered at Earth & Worms to help construct a polytunnel.

Internal learning sessions are held bi-weekly, giving staff the opportunity to present interesting aspects of the business. From graduates to managers (and occasionally directors), everybody takes their turn presenting across a vast range of disciplines and project case studies. I value this approach helps everyone with their CPD without the need for external trainers.

What has been the most exciting project you have led at Apollo?

A client approached us for a concept/FEED level 16-inch Subsea Isolation Valve (SSIV) structure design to determine a fixed firm price for the detailed design and fabrication. Later in the project, they asked us to also look at another SSIV structure; this time a 6-inch.

These are among the simplest subsea structures in that they have a single straight-through header and tend to have a mudmat foundation. The main design condition they need to satisfy is stability of the mudmat foundation, which determines the amount of additional weight (ballast) required.

Our client wanted us to establish the minimal engineering and design work possible to achieve this, which was challenging to estimate and execute. Typically FEED projects like this would last a couple of months, even for a single structure.

Our close relationship with Global Energy Group ensured we were able to ascertain the level of detail for drawings required for them to price and, by stripping down the engineering, we managed to reduce the project to just a few weeks per structure.

It was one of the best projects I feel I have worked on in terms of meeting the client’s requirements and expectations, and the feedback was some of the most positive I have received throughout my career.

We have since done several similar projects and can consistently deliver within only a few weeks. Using a standard layout, we can scale the design up and down as required. I’ve even used the concept as a training exercise for our developing engineers to come up with an 8” SSIV sizing. From that, we now have a quick estimation tool to determine the length and weight of any SSIV structure.

Why did your role in Apollo change? What prompted it?

I came to Apollo to do something different. I worked for the structural consultancy team as a contractor for 2 and a half years, getting involved in varying aspects of offshore and onshore structures and piping design. There was a lot of variety with few projects similar to others.

Initially, Apollo had a handful of subsea experienced engineers and designers spread throughout the business, however, this capability quickly expanded and coalesced into a team of 18 as the business was increasingly successful in bidding subsea project scopes. At this time, I was invited to apply for the Subsea Structures Team Lead role to give it focus. The subsea team has now completed many such projects, including field development concept projects, subsea structure FEEDs and detailed design projects.

What do you think differentiates Apollo within the Subsea environment?

We have a very experienced team of subsea engineers and designers. Many have previously worked together so there is an instinctive understanding between us. This also means we can produce consistent deliverables from project to project, which can be difficult with so many new people starting in such a short space of time with most of the last 18 months having been spent working from home. We work closely with our sister companies in Global Energy Group. This means that our pricing is more accurate, and we can turn around scopes faster than anyone else.

We received an ITT which we completed over Christmas for an SSIV and delivered drawings 7 weeks from the day the ITT was issued.

Our engineers are empowered to deliver and speak directly with the client to maximise engineering time for our clients. Having engineering and design in-house means we do not 3rd party support and this way we can provide the most value in a market where budgets are tight.

I would like Apollo to be the go-to place for subsea engineering and I am looking forwards to forming relationships with new clients as well as strengthening connections with our current clients.

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