Celebrating 30 years in the business in 2018, Tube Tech International CEO Mike Watson is a serial inventor holding numerous global patents with a firm commitment to the environment, innovation, research and development. In addition to holding active roles in the European Industrial Water Jetting Association and a robotics institute, Watson was recently nominated chairman of a new global cleaning standards committee, “How clean is clean?,” at the American Petroleum Institute (API). BIC Magazine recently visited with Watson to discuss his teams’ developments, which include live and remote cleaning technologies that remove fouling at the source from process plants that avoid shutting down.
Q: What led you to start Tube Tech?
A: I served with a specialist unit in the Army until 1984, leaving with a wide range of skills but no outlet for them. I took a job with an international cleaning and inspection product supplier and was always asked for the service instead. I left the company, bought the equipment I used to sell, modified it to suit specific client needs and realized I was cleaning things others could not. The rest, as they say, is history. I founded Tube Tech in 1988 and have spent 30 years challenging convention and investing heavily to modify or create new cleaning technologies to set new process performance efficiencies within the oil, gas, downstream and energy sectors to release previously untapped profits and reduce environmental pollution.
Q: What surprised you most about Tube Tech once it took off?
A: As the business developed, I was shocked at the stagnant progress of the cleaning industry, even more so when we went international. This incentivized us to develop more advanced technologies to deliver far more profit by being faster and safer and cleaning to far higher standards, in-situ and even during production, without shutting down.
Q: Why is Tube Tech successful?
A: We never say never is the easy answer.
Our niche is really those clients who have tried and failed to clean their heat exchangers and process assets and would normally have to replace or limp to the next turnaround, resulting in huge losses. I believe that the way we can develop bespoke engineered solutions based on the project is unique. This runs side-by-side with delivering proven technologies on a day-to-day basis.
Whilst we invent on a day-to-day basis, we love it when clients share the innovative mindset and are genuinely interested in how they can do something better.
Q: What has been the most pivotal moment of your career?
A: We were asked by Shell to solve a problem in Africa that became a huge undertaking: mobilizing several Boeing 747s, 50 personnel and 50 tons of equipment to Nigeria. Nobody thought it could be done, and we were there day and night with multiple technologies. We completed the project three times faster than the client expected, and I knew at that moment it doesn’t get bigger nor more critical than this and that from then on anything was possible.
Q: How do you maintain a good work/home life balance?
A: During the building of my business, my daughter was being treated for leuk emia at the world-leading Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, an experience that makes you realize what’s really important in life. It sounds cliché, but my two daughters are the pinnacle of my existence and always come first. Wherever I am in the world, whatever I’m doing, I never take family or life for granted, and I’m grateful for everything and everyone who helped get me to where I am today.