From ‘Broom Cupboard’ To Billion Dollar Company – Expro’s 50 Years of Excellence In The North Sea

12th September 2023

This year we are celebrating Expro’s golden anniversary of operations in the North Sea energy industry and our highly successful 50-year connection with Great Yarmouth.

Established at the height of the 1973 oil crisis the company, originally called Exploration and Production Services (North Sea), was set up by John Trewhella OBE, Humphry Green, and Jim Ross in a small office in the old Hudson House building in Battery Road, Great Yarmouth. The office, which was below the stairs, was known within the company as the ‘broom cupboard’.

Success and expansion came quickly. Expro’s first job was on Christmas Eve 1973, testing an onshore well at the Wytch Farm development in Dorset. That was followed two years later by the opening of Expro’s first premises in Aberdeen and a contract from US company Hamilton Brothers for the supply of production expertise to the historic Argyll field, which delivered the UK’s first North Sea oil in 1975.

An office in Holland followed and as more work began to be undertaken in ever more widespread locations, an increasing number of regional bases were established.

In Great Yarmouth, the ‘broom cupboard’ quickly became too small to hold Expro’s growth ambitions. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw Expro win back-to-back Queen’s Award to Industry medals for exports and expansion into its current premises in Gapton Hall Industrial Estate. Expro’s service offering also expanded to include high-rate well testing capabilities and industry-leading advances in subsea landing string technology. This November Expro will mark 40 years since its first subsea safety system was installed in the North Sea.

Expro’s global growth and portfolio expansion carried on through the 1990s into this century and continues today. Technologies including the Riserless Well Intervention System, Early Production Systems, OctopodaTM Annulus Intervention and Centri-FiTM are among the comprehensive range of products and services advancing well construction, well intervention and integrity, well flow management, and subsea well access for today’s customers.

(More detail on Expro’s formative years can be found in our 40th anniversary celebrations blog)

In 2021 Expro merged with global oil services company Frank’s International to create a full-cycle energy services leader.

Despite Expro’s rise to become a modern billion-dollar global energy services company with 7,600 employees globally, it remains proud of its North Sea roots in Great Yarmouth where it currently employs around 60 people.

We caught up with our UK Area Manager, Carole Paley, to discuss if she feels the original North Sea founders would recognize and approve of Expro today.

Carole said:

“It’s safe to say, as it was back then when we started in Great Yarmouth, that people and expertise are at the heart of Expro’s success. John, Humph, and Jimmy were in the right place at the right time with the right idea. I think they would be rightly proud of the achievements that Expro has made and would be absolutely delighted to see the values and services that they believed would drive our growth in 1973 are still going strong today.

“From day one, the company’s reputation was identified as key to winning business and future success. The 1975 award letter from Hamilton Brothers for the landmark Argyll project says ‘by jealously guarding your reputation, Expro would achieve success’. Throughout our history, our ambition has been to live by those words every day.

“The modern energy industry is transitioning and there will be many more developments in the next 50 years. Expro’s business will transition with it in the years ahead. But our people and our continued commitment to deliver extraordinary performance with genuine pride will always be at the heart of our success.”

Listen to Andrew Bradshaw, Head of Energy at Fifth Ring and Neil Ferguson, Senior Well Intervention advisor delve into Expro's history books through the company's evolution over the past 50 years.

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