WEP engineers do what they do best
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WEP engineers do what they do best

Digging into the motivations of Alexander Nagelhout and his team at Well Engineering Partners (WEP) is much less complex than the work they do: drilling deep wells to extract geothermal heat, salt and sometimes oil or gas. The general
director knows exactly what he gets out of bed for: "Doing what we are good at and preferably a little better every day.

Pragmatic, no-nonsense and result-oriented: these three words characterize both Alexander and his colleagues - and a few professional sisters - at WEP in Hoogeveen. At the flat organization, thirty-five driven engineers work together as a close-knit team, with Alexander and five colleagues forming the management team. WEP also maintains a lasting bond with the flexible shell of some twenty external specialists. 'The dynamics at our consultancy and engineering firm thrive on short lines of communication, direct communication and an open atmosphere,' says the managing director. 'We are result-oriented; the clients and their projects are always central. Moreover, transparency is necessary for us as an agency to provide independent advice that is substantively sound.'

Geothermal energy is gaining ground

That WEP is indirectly involved in the political game in its field is evident from a northern daily newspaper that happened to headline the morning of our conversation: 'Heat extraction plaything The Hague.' The article reports that a large geothermal heat project in Leeuwarden means that a second deep well will not go ahead for the time being; a well in which WEP is involved. 'A typical example of the dynamics surrounding our projects,' Alexander responds soberly. 'Geothermal energy - the drilling of deep wells for geothermal heat - is one of our specialties and we have been involved in almost all projects for this type of heat extraction in the Netherlands so far. Licensing processes sometimes take a long time, and in the case of this project in the Friesian capital, our client is opting for an investment pause, pending the outcome of a bill on renewing the Heat Act.'

Alexander is neutral on the outcome. The engineering firm is there for the execution and, meanwhile, is busy with the growing share of geothermal projects in its order book. 'Geothermal energy makes an essential contribution in the energy transition and this is also penetrating politics,' says the foreman. 'Together with pioneering market gardeners, we gained early experience in drilling geothermal wells. Besides our stable work in salt extraction for Nedmag and Frisia, among others, we have seen a clear shift in emphasis for years: more geothermal, less oil and gas. The current energy crisis is accelerating that process and we are happy about that. The climate issue makes contributing to sustainable energy extraction an increasingly powerful driver. Especially among the younger generation of engineers in our sector.'

The way we work together on complex challenges here requires entrepreneurship from all of us.
Alexander Nagelhout

Good reputation

WEP is the market leader in the Netherlands when it comes to deep geothermal drilling, and from that position and expertise is also tapping into opportunities elsewhere in Europe. 'Initially we focus on Germany, where we recently opened a branch in Munich,' Alexander explains. 'We have always worked internationally, with projects in various parts of the world. This is also reflected in the team, which now includes eight different nationalities. Some of our employees have - like myself - previously worked for large companies such as Shell. The fact that they choose this small-scale agency has to do with WEP's good reputation, but also with our integrated approach and the development opportunities. Our people are involved in all facets of the projects and are versatile, which makes the work varied and challenging. There is also room for innovation. We link up with R&D programs and if common solutions do not work in projects, we like to think of something new.'

For Alexander and consort, the drive to do good work means that constructive consultation is essential within the company. 'The content is always the starting point. We want to learn from each other and therefore regularly spar on projects. We also structurally record reviews and databases of design and execution. In this way we utilize the knowledge present and take learning effects to subsequent projects. The complexity of the work makes it increasingly important for us as engineers to clearly explain what we do in dialogue with stakeholders. And to interpret developments. Especially in today's rapidly changing world, factors such as licensing, funding, and the people and materials required have their own dynamics. This creates a certain degree of unpredictability that makes our work difficult at times, but fascinating.

Work well together

Despite his role at WEP, Alexander does not feel like an entrepreneur. 'After I left Shell, I just kept doing my job here, even when I moved up to management. The way we work together on complex challenges here requires entrepreneurship from all of us. Being Managing Director since 2011 does mean that I am more concerned with people and strategy. WEP exists for a quarter of a century and has grown organically. In the last fifteen years there has been the necessary movement in activities, content development and composition of management and shareholders - where we have had a good marriage with NOM since 2020. Every change forces you to think carefully about what you want and for whom. Even though content is leading, in the end everything revolves around the team and the customers. Our motto 'work well together' covers exactly that, because that is what we do our best every day.


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