Having been a product engineer for line pipe for more than five years in Dalmine, Italy, Erica Gibellini thought her career track was established in this division at Tenaris. But when an opportunity in corporate product marketing arose in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she pivoted, quickly gaining new learning. Then, when a global lockdown affected oil prices, she pivoted again, combining her expertise in multiple areas – to the benefit of Tenaris. Thanks to her ability to be nimble, she has found herself part of a growing field in Tenaris – the energy transition.
Gibellini graduated in 2016 from Tenaris’s Global Trainee Program and in 2019 found out about a role in corporate product marketing had opened in Buenos Aires. Although Erica had not considered this direction before, she relished the opportunity to go to the Argentinian headquarter. “I knew it would be a terrific experience for me,” she said, crediting her supervisor, Chris Hahn, Tenaris Product Marketing Director, for his guidance and support.
She knew some Spanish from working with colleagues and clients in Argentina and Mexico, so when she arrived, she quickly got up to speed linguistically. As she was settling into her neighborhood in Buenos Aires and getting used to life in a new country, the pandemic lockdown began, and she and many of her colleagues were sent home.
“We were home for six months,” she said. The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down – and with it, oil prices. “Our clients were looking to make a change, and I knew at Tenaris we needed to do the same.”
In 2020, the energy transition was gaining momentum at the world’s largest energy companies. Three new lines of business began to build traction at Tenaris: carbon capture, hydrogen storage, and geothermal energy. They weren’t necessarily new to Tenaris; in fact, one of the earliest projects in carbon capture was with Tenaris and Statoil in the North Sea in the 1990s.
However, governmental support was becoming available for these forms of energy, and global companies needed tested, reliable supplies specifically for these applications.
Along with her team, Gibellini began to create a plan regarding the application of Tenaris pipes for these forms of emissions reduction, energy production and distribution. She started the mapping that was used at the corporate level for geothermal energy, hydrogen storage, and carbon capture, to show the possible needs of Tenaris products, quantitatively and qualitatively: how they were qualified, where they were missing components, and what customers wanted. It was a global analysis, going branch by branch, looking at the technology behind the applications. “That year was critical for our position in these segments,” said Gibellini. “I played a good role.”
“Our customers trust what we can guarantee. If they need an application or a new technology that they are not so sure about, Tenaris has a foundation of trust with them for new technologies and challenges. From material design and selection to problem solving to compliance – these strengths set us apart.”
Erica Gibellini, Technical Sales Engineer, Tenaris
She analyzed the material selection process, as carbon capture and storage require Tenaris pipes to be extremely corrosion-resistant. In addition, the pipe end threaded connections had to be able to withstand very low temperatures possible during CO2 injection. “You have to think based on a new concept of business case – you have to invest in innovation in a long term,” said Gibellini. “Our portfolio in terms of premium threaded connections and materials is quite vast. But we are talking about developing complex testing protocols that can last years.”
When Gibellini joined technical sales back in Italy, the team, led by Massimo Lanna, was realizing this kind of development and testing could be done in partnership with energy companies. With the internal R&D department support, the team developed a testing protocol, performed a full-scale laboratory test and published a paper jointly with Eni: a win-win, which opened the road to a collaboration to validate Tenaris products for the application. The timing could not be better.
Geothermal, carbon capture, and hydrogen storage are expanding globally, most especially in US and European countries with national and UE support for new sources of energy and reduction of emissions
The Energy Transition team at Tenaris is a growing transversal structure, where technical sales have a coordination role in promoting the applications to customers and provide the background for research and development investments. “I think this business has a lot to say,” said Gibellini, “And I find it fascinating.”
Competitors are pursuing the energy transition as well, but Gibellini sees that Tenaris has an advantage. “Tenaris has a track record of very high-quality supply,” she added. “Our customers trust what we can guarantee. If they need an application or a new technology that they are not so sure about, Tenaris has a foundation of trust with them for new technologies and challenges. From material design and selection to problem solving to compliance – these strengths set us apart.”
Gibellini’s next project is a renewal of a seven-year long-term agreement for an important energy operator, covering a wide range of products and services. You have to understand the global service,” said Gibellini. “At Tenaris, it’s part of what we do.”