COVID-19 and the Geothermal Industry: Level 2 Update

Following our initial article on the effects that this global pandemic has had on our industry, we have  reached out to further companies within the NZGA community to find out how they are coping post-lockdown.

Here we talk to Western Energy and Seequent, and learn how things have changed for them this year.

 

Western Energy

Karl Spinks – General Manager

 

What practical changes have been made in your operations and day-to-day business, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?

I have been hugely impressed at how our team have responded to the situation and embraced the challenge – it has been an incredible effort. We moved quickly and had already changed the way we were working with team bubbles and many of our team working from home before the government Covid-alert levels were announced. We had to quickly wrap up some operations as we moved into level 4 and then we regrouped to get us ready to deliver essential services for our customers. As part of that process we analysed our daily operations in detail to manage physical distancing and the safety of our people and were able to deliver several essential operations through levels 4 and 3. Our team did an incredible job under trying circumstances to deliver for our customers, while maintaining focus on safety and service quality.

 

What have been the biggest challenges regarding daily operation?

We love a challenge. The reduction in operations under level 4 represented a huge opportunity for us to advance some projects and improve how we do things. Our team have done a fantastic job of moving everything online – operations checklists, invoice approvals, people movements, contact tracing, competency evaluations, and even operations management. During Level 3 we remotely managed a live-well cleanout campaign in California from one of our engineer’s home office in Taupō – world first technology developed in Taupō, applied internationally despite closed borders during a global pandemic!

With our team working from home we have been focussed on planning and engineering operations that we will deliver under alert levels 2 and 1. With all of Q1’s work compressed into about 7 weeks we have fine-tuned everything about our operations planning and execution to deliver a full work schedule for our customers. While it has been challenging for our people to work from home and not have the regular in-person interactions with colleagues, everyone has really stepped up the collaboration and all of the work done will have great ongoing benefits for the business and our clients.

 

As we look towards Level 2, what do the new alert levels mean for your company and how are you preparing for this shift?

The move to level 2 means more ability to deliver works for our customers. At each alert level, our protocols have been developed in partnership with our operations teams and Health and Safety Committee – our people have been very committed to getting this right for the long-term health of our people and business, and we’re not rushing into anything.

We have worked with our customers to prioritise works over the next few months so we can deliver all the deferred works from April as well as the planned works in May and June. At level 2, we will retain our team bubbles and bring people back to the office in a staged approach, while our teams work in shifts on operations, key maintenance, and equipment preparations.

 

In terms of every day operation, how do you see the current situation affecting the business in the long-term?

In the long term it will make us a better company. We have a fantastic team who deliver great work for our customers, and there is nothing like a global pandemic to sharpen our focus on our truly strategic activities. We’ve just begun a significant capex program this year to expand and add new services, had 2 new team members start during level 3, and are now recruiting for more project engineers to put us in the best possible position to deliver for our customers here and overseas.

 

Any other messages you want to pass on to members of the NZGA community?

We are part of a strong supply chain that enables geothermal generators to keep the lights on, and we really appreciate the support of our customers, contractors, and suppliers.

 

Seequent

Jeremy O’Brien – Segment Director

 

What practical changes have been made in your operations and day-to-day business, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?

As Seequent has staff (>400) in offices all around the world many people have now been working at home since as early as Mid-February and are continuing to do so. We deliver software to customers in over 100 counties so continuity of access to that has been our number one priority after the safety and wellbeing of our own staff and their families.

 

What have been the biggest challenges regarding daily operation?

A lack of being together in person doesn’t help but this has quickly been replaced by Microsoft Teams overload! Collating feedback from the markets we operate in to ensure we are supporting people and getting ahead of the trends to come is a challenge and crucially important to us as a business.

 

As we look towards Level 2, what do the new alert levels mean for your company and how are you preparing for this shift?

Our Christchurch office will open to those wanting to come in on the 18th of May but this is not compulsory. Strict measures are in place to ensure social distancing. This will be the first of our offices globally to be in this position.

 

In terms of every day operation, how do you see the current situation affecting the business in the long-term?

It has proved to us that we can operate our business remotely and has been a great resilience test in that sense. We are yet to see the long term impacts of the global recession on the industries we operate in but we are positive that we are strong and ready to help our customers once people are back up and running more normally.

 

Any other messages you want to pass on to members of the NZGA community?

Seequent would like to say that we hope NZGA members and members of the NZ and global geothermal communities are safe and well in this current situation we all find ourselves in. From a business perspective we are supporting people as normal so if you need any support please reach out. We look forward to being able to see you in person as soon as possible!