Celebrating 40 years of subsea success with Graham Cheyne

1st February 2024

We’re celebrating 40 years since Expro delivered the first subsea test tree project using our own designed, manufactured, and qualified technologies. Since then, we’ve led the way globally in subsea technical innovations.


It’s also 40 years since Graham Cheyne, our Vice President Subsea and Well Access, joined us as a young apprentice. Graham has witnessed many of our major technical milestones in subsea. We asked him to share his views on the past, our current strengths, and how we’ll continue to define the sector’s future.


Graham, tell us a bit about yourself and your history with Expro


I started straight from school as an apprentice, gaining experience in all the different departments and accumulating offshore experience in the North Sea and internationally.


Throughout the years I’ve benefitted from good guidance and support from my managers. From day one in Aberdeen in the workshop with Bill Leiper, through to our current leadership team including Mike Jardon, Alistair Geddes, and Steve Russell.


There are many key people who have been pivotal to the establishment and growth of our subsea offering including the late Jeff Edwards and Andy Richards, Robin Mair, Graeme Coutts, Graeme Welsh, Davie Henderson, Colin Mackenzie, and Keith Allan…and many others that I apologize for not mentioning!


Describe the background to the development of Expro’s subsea capabilities


Jeff Edwards was behind the original decision for us to design, develop, manufacture, qualify, and operate our subsea test tree (SSTT) system. He was supported through the original design and development phases by Ross Trewhella.


Originally, we used a third-party subsea landing string system, but having our subsea safety system was the next step in our growth and complemented our existing well testing and wireline business. From there on the revolution in our subsea portfolio accelerated in all aspects of the well lifecycle through the range of products that we have introduced.


Tell us about that first project for Expro’s SSTT system


It was in the North Sea for Hamilton Brothers. It was on an anchored MODU using our 2- 9/16" l5ksi exploration and appraisal (E&A) subsea system. That first success quickly led to the award, development, and delivery of our first 5" E&A system for use in China and for major operators in the North     Sea on extended well test operations.


How have Expro’s subsea strengths progressed from there?


Our system designs have evolved through our engineering teams and today are used throughout the subsea well lifecycle – from E&A, subsea completion development, and subsea intervention through to plug and abandonment (P&A).


We’ve achieved many industry firsts:


  • First Large bore 7-3/8" horizontal Christmas tree completion landing string  system
  • First high debris {HD) large bore completion landing string       system
  • First large bore completion electro-hydraulic   (EH) control system
  • First dual bore/vertical tree completion landing string  system
  • First mono bore/bore selector vertical tree completion landing string systems
  • First 15K completion landing string  system

I could go on!!



Tell us more about ELSA (Expro Landing String Assembly) which celebrated its 25th anniversary a couple of years ago (‘Congratulations to ELSA: leading subsea landing string technology for 25 years’ - Blog ).


The original ELSA trademark was used to differentiate our Enhanced Landing String Assembly designed, qualified, and executed originally for Statoil (now Equinor) in Norway. ELSA-HD (high debris) followed. This unique and extremely reliable technology changed how Statoil completed its subsea wells, allowing it to land, lock the completion string, frac into the subsea wells and immediately clean up the well back to the MODU in one single operation. The ELSA-HD qualified product within landing string valves was qualified up to 15% solids ensuring the safety integrity of the well was never compromised during the complete well operation.

Since then, our ELSA-HD technology has been used in several different in-riser and open water technologies including our latest 15K 'Shear and Seal' qualified product.


Tell us more about Expro’s Light Well Intervention and Riserless Well Intervention systems


Expro advanced into light well intervention a few years back, starting in West Africa. Since then, we’ve developed this further globally into Asia Pacific in both intervention riser and wire-through-water type systems. Introducing ball valve technology into these operations has helped us evolve the technology for use in intervention and P&A projects.


How does Expro’s recent acquisition of PRT Offshore benefit its subsea capabilities?

We recognize not only PRT Offshore’s tremendous track record, technical success, and Gulf of Mexico strength but also the potential for growth in our global subsea business. Our ability to support PRT grow globally using our international presence allows us to present the 'hook to hanger' concept to our global customer base for each opportunity. It means we can provide everything from topside control and lifting systems to frames, hangars, and bales in-house around the world.


Expro has led the subsea landing string sector for 40 years. How can you continue to stay ahead of the rest?


We must continue to innovate technology for quality, safe and reliable products, and provide a very high level of service quality. Our performance reports consistently average over 98% for every job and have done for years. That’s a fantastic credit to our operations and maintenance teams across the world.


How do you think subsea will technology evolve in the future?

The challenges we overcome every day will continue in an increasingly competitive landscape. Customers have different technology requirements in different locations whether that’s in-riser, open water, simplification, or umbilical-free systems... the list goes on. The importance of having the right people focusing on the right things at the right time whilst making sure we stay ahead of the competition is increasing every day. So, we must carry on designing, developing, and delivering technologies and services that keep us at the top of the subsea tree and continue to move Expro and the industry forward.


Thank you Graham!

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