Let’s Raise a Glass to the Young Guns of Denholm MacNamee
Whether it is keeping the whisky flowing from Scottish distilleries or oil pumping from North Sea platforms, Denholm MacNamee has decades of experience in industrial cleaning and decontamination.
What is perhaps less well known is the Water Jetting Association (WJA) member’s expertise in training and developing young recruits who go on to be the highly experienced water jetting technicians, supervisors and managers who deliver its services across the world.
In the latest in our Young Gun series, we meet some of the young personnel who’ve joined the business with very little idea about what industrial water jetting is all about and who have gone on to develop strong careers and impressive skills.
Denholm MacNamee, a Denholm Energy Services company, has its head office in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, and provides a wide range of industrial cleaning, decontamination, cutting, and inspection service, with high and ultra high pressure water jetting at the heart of much that it does.
Key industries include onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration and production, petrochemicals, utilities, and distilleries. Nurturing and deepening the skills needed for its challenging work is central to the company’s success, says Business Manager Julie McAdams.
“We have a very good record of recruiting young people from the communities we operate in and developing their water jetting skills and competences over years of training and mentoring,” she explains. “It’s vital to the world class service we aspire to deliver and we’re very proud of all their achievements.”
Ross MacInnes – Workshop and Offshore supervisor
Ross MacInnes joined Denholm MacNamee at the age of 16. Ten years on, as a charge hand and offshore water jetting supervisor, he relishes the opportunity to pass on skills and support the development of new young recruits as they too come into the business.
Seeking his first proper job after leaving school, Denholm MacNamee being just 10 miles down the road was the perfect reason to a job as a trainee water jetting operative.
“I didn’t know anything about water jetting and I joined, it was just a convenient opportunity,” Ross recalls. Fortunately for him, he quickly found he was fascinated by the job, and has not looked back.
Ross spent three years as a trainee and could start water jetting after completing his WJA training at the age of 17. Aged 18, after completing his survival training, he could go offshore for the first time.
Since then, he has worked on oil and gas rigs and supply vessels in the North Sea numerous times, as well as in Kazakhstan, Philippines, Malaysia, Italy, South Africa – and in the US Virgin Islands, cleaning production vessels and pipes at the Captain Morgan rum distillery.
Despite all this experience, Ross has his feet firmly planted on the ground. “I still think of myself as being quite young,” he explains. “Every day is a school day.
“There is so much variation from project to project with water jetting and industrial cleaning that it keeps you on your toes. I like making sure the whole team is working safely.”
Ross also has to keep up with latest technology and practices of other specialists, especially working offshore where Denholm MacNamee teams work closely with other contractors like divers and maintenance engineers.
Working offshore for up to 25 days at a time is not for some. But Ross likes it. “It allows me to focus completely on the job in hand,” he says. “You know you’re on a job that really needs to be done. Making a difference.”
Jade Homan – Operations Manager
Jade Homan joined Denholm MacNamee from school, aged 17, after spending her first year out of school working in a travel agency.
She is now 23 and the Operations Manager for Oilfield Services. That says a lot about the training and support the company gives its young colleagues. It also says a lot about Jade.
She has excelled at each stage of her rapid progression, earning the trust of colleagues at all levels in the business.
From receptionist, she moved up to being an administrative assistant, then purchasing administrator and operations administrator. Her next step, her biggest, came in January 2020.
“I had already been working with the workshop team for some time, but becoming their manager was a different level,” says Jade.
“But everyone was very supportive. Respecting others is important at Denholm MacNamee. We all wanted to work as a team. And, anyway, I’m a strong person.”
Strong in body as well as mind. One of Jade’s first tasks was to complete her water jetting training. “It was very exciting,” she says. “To feel the power of the water under such high pressure is incredible.”
Jade’s WJA qualifications have been added to other training she has had since joining Denholm MacNamee, including a dangerous goods shipping course and COSHH assessor training.
It was Julie McAdams, the company’s business manager, who spotted Jade’s potential and has encouraged her development: “Everyone is really proud of Jade. She very much deserves her progress.”
Jade is now responsible for putting together teams of water jetting operatives for both external projects, onshore and offshore, managing equipment, maintaining safety standards and developing skills and capabilities.
She also loves working with clients, who quickly get to realise she understands their operational needs and makes sure they are fulfilled.
“If other women are thinking of a career in water jetting, I would say go for it,” says Jade. “It’s male dominated, for now. But that doesn’t hold me back. If you’ve got the right employer it can be a fantastic and very interesting job, with lots of potential.”
Ross Christie – Water Jetting Technician
Ross Christie joined Denholm MacNamee aged 16 straight from school in 2015. His previous work experience had been in a shop.
Becoming a trainee water jetting technician has broadened his horizons considerably. He has worked on three continents and more than one ocean. He also likes water jetting now as much as when he started.
“I enjoyed the job from day one,” says Ross. “I must admit, I never thought of water jetting as a career when I was school and I didn’t ever see myself working offshore, but now it’s completely natural for me. The variety is great. Every day and every challenging is different.”
The challenges initially were physical as well as mental. Water jetting requires good strength and coordination, as well as a continuous focus on safety.
“It was very tiring at first,” says Ross. “There was also a lot to learn, and you’re always learning. But the training is very thorough, and we work as a team, sharing knowledge and supporting each other.”
Trips to the Kazakhstan oil fields to carry out tube bundle cleaning, 55 days spent on a supply ship in the Norwegian oil and gas fields, controlling water jetting ROV (remotely operated vehicles) on behalf of deep sea divers and many projects at Scottish distilleries have followed.
He says: “Working at distilleries is very interesting. You get a behind the scenes view of how whisky is made. It’s the same with oil refineries and shipyards.
“You get to work in places no one else ever sees, and you’re doing something you know others can’t do. It kind of makes you feel good about yourself.”
Blair Penny – Water Jetting Technician
Seeing the difference high pressure and ultra-high-pressure water jetting makes to the condition of pipes, tanks and equipment he is working on always gives Blair Penny a buzz.
He joined Denholm MacNamee in May 2016. He recalls the exact date because it is his dad’s birthday. As with the other ‘young guns’ at the company, he has never looked back.
Like others, he found the physicality of water jetting a challenge at first. “Coming from school, I hadn’t experienced the effort needed to hold a water jetting gun under pressure,” he explains. “But after not too long it became second nature.
“I still really enjoy seeing how we can clean up a pipe or tank and make it look pretty much as new. It’s a big part of the enjoyment of the job, along with the skills needed to achieve the high-quality finish we and our clients expect.”
Then again, not all pipework they work on is covered in gunk and hardened layers of petrochemical residue. Denholm MacNamee also cleans plenty of brand new printed circuit heat exchangers (PCHEs) before they are delivered to refineries and processing plants, to ensure they are clean, clear and ready to work.
The workshop team also regularly cleans 65ft long 14-inch diameter riser pipes used to bring oil and gas up from the seabed. Excellent training helped him prepare for what is a technical task, says Blair.
“I wasn’t thrown in the deep end,” he adds. “There was lots of training before I was allowed to use a water jetting gun. It has a huge amount of power and the job has to be done right, so safety and quality standards come first.”