World Engineering Day: An Interview with Thomas Gourlay

Image of Thomas Gourlay - Apollo's Engineering Director

Today is World Engineering Day, an opportunity to celebrate engineering and the contribution of the world’s engineers for a better, sustainable world.

Apollo’s Engineering Director, Thomas Gourlay was interviewed as part of OEUK’s People in Energy series and we’re using this to proudly spotlight Thomas.

From a childhood passion for engineering to a career in structural engineering and project management, Thomas is now Apollo’s Engineering Director, managing a multi-disciplinary engineering team to deliver technical projects for clients across renewable energy and oil and gas.

Could you let us know a bit about yourself?

My name is Thomas Gourlay, I am 36 and from Fife (“The Kingdom”). I went to the University of Dundee to study Civil Engineering and Management before moving to Aberdeen to start my engineering career. I am currently the Engineering Director at Apollo.

What were your interests growing up?

I have always been fascinated with engineering. Megastructures was a favourite on National Geographic from the world’s tallest buildings to the longest bridges. The scale and complexity excited me. I grew up overlooking the RGC in Methil, Fife watching various oil platforms being built and maintained. I took this interest into my school art projects building models of semi-submersible drill rigs.

Why did you decide to enter the oil and gas industry?

I wanted to get into an industry that was complex and offered a variety of challenges. I loved structural engineering and the complexity of building something in the North Sea and dealing not only with the environment but the production pressures, intrigued me.

What is your background?

I have a 1st Masters in Civil Engineering and Management from the University of Dundee. After finishing university, I started as a Structural Engineer with Wood. I followed the graduate programme and worked my way to Lead Engineer, having worked on and offshore for clients such as BP, Shell, BG, EnQuest, and others. I reached a point where I needed something new and exciting and that was when I joined Apollo. Apollo at the time had been operating for 6 years and I could feel the energy from everyone in the business and how exciting it would be to work in such a fast-growing business. I took a theoretical step back and came in as a Senior Engineer as that was all that was available at the time. I did that as I knew they would support my career aspirations and that is exactly what they have done. I continued with structural engineering but with exposure to projects I discovered a new interest. From Project Management, team management and business management, I worked my way to becoming Head of Engineering.

What is your job like now? How is it different?

I was honoured to be made a Director at Apollo this year and I am now Engineering Director. This involves managing the 140+ engineering team and ensuring we deliver a quality service to our clients. Whilst I do not produce engineering deliverables these days, I am very much involved with the spectrum of engineering projects we deliver at Apollo. I support developing tenders and getting projects off the ground. I am responsible for the QHSE of Apollo’s engineering and projects. I am also heavily involved in the training and development of the engineering team. The main difference is that I am more heavily involved in business decisions and the running of the engineering and project teams as opposed to producing engineering deliverables.

What role do you think the industry can play in the energy transition?

The energy industry, as a notable contributor to CO2 emissions and with a high profile in the UK, holds the potential to continue leading the way in the energy transition. Being one of the first major industries to commit to a roadmap to net zero, and with the highly skilled talent and determination within our industry to decarbonise, we can demonstrate to not only the UK but to the world that a secure and sustainable energy future is possible.

Why are you positive about the energy industry’s future?

I feel positive about the future of the energy industry because of our willingness to change and embrace new energy. Over the past few years, we have seen a significant increase in alternative fuels and new technologies enabling us to create a sustainable energy mix. No one size is going to fit all going forward and each comes with its own set of unique challenges. However, we are an industry of highly skilled individuals who enjoy solving these challenges. Therefore, more challenges are welcomed and make the future of the industry exciting.

What projects are you most proud to have been involved with?

It is not a single project that stands out for me. It is the diverse range of projects that we have delivered over the past few years. At Apollo, we continue to support our oil and gas operators in production, late life extension, decom, decarbonisation, electrification, flare gas recovery, alternative fuels, and plant optimisation. We are also working on Wind, Wave and Tidal projects. We innovate with R&D projects across all sectors and continue looking at new energy hubs and hydrogen projects. All these projects show that we are truly embracing our secure energy future with a diverse energy mix, and that is what makes it exciting to be part of this industry.

What advice would you give to someone looking to join the industry?

If you’re looking to join the energy industry, my advice is to showcase what you can bring to the table. Whether you’re a recent graduate or someone looking to make a career change, there has never been a better time to be a part of this industry. With the continuous advancement of technology and the evolution of fuel sources, your fresh ideas and perspectives are welcomed. We are here to innovate, and the energy industry is an exciting place to work where you can be challenged. It’s not just about oil and gas, but the entire energy mix, and being a part of it allows you to shape the future.

Ready to embark on your own journey in the energy industry? Explore career opportunities with Apollo today!