Interview- Nigerian Companies Are Making Consistent Move Into Deepwater Operations- Okwuosa 

The Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of Oilserv Group, Engr. Emeka

Okwuosa, in this interview with journalists looks at efforts of indigenous firms to make impact in Nigeria’s oil and gas development highlighting some of their challenges as well. Yemisi Izuora presents the highlights 

What are the critical challenges of indigenous companies moving into deep-water terrain?

We are already operating in that terrain in reality. When you say

deepwater operation, you look at it from two different points of views. Are you looking at Exploration and Production (E&P) which is

ownership or are you looking at services. I will talk from services point of view. Nigerians have been participating in services in Bonga,

Akpo, Usan. All these have had Nigerians’ input. There are two key issues with participation in deep-water arena. It is about technology and capital. Both will take time normally to scale up. Nigerians are

participating but we only scathing the surface, there is still more opportunity for participation. Now, how do we increase that?

 We require to assemble capacity and integrate that capacity by working

together in other to have synergy and be able to deal with bigger scope. But we are in the integration of FPSO (Floating, Production,

Storage and Offloading which is the issue of topsides. Nigerians are

in drilling, pipelines, flow-risers. We are doing a lot but it is very competitive and capital intensive and we have to slowly build it up as

soon as we can because we have proven capacity but we need to do more

because there is so much out there.

How can indigenous players collaborate to add value to the sector?

We have been adding value but not the level we desire. So the way we

can achieve this is by collaborating and synergizing between entities

like PETAN and all PETAN members and be able to handle bigger scope

and compete with international service providers.

Why is there no such collaboration at the moment?

It is the Nigerian factor. Everyone wants to do things in his own way

and it is not the way to go.

What are the economic values of the 614km long Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline project?

The Ajaokuta, Kaduna Kano AKK project is a very unique project, not just what it would achieve, which is to be able to move gas to the northern part of Nigeria and create

availability of energy to drive industries and create job opportunities. The North does not have energy and this is a major cause of unemployment and security problem and which is affecting everybody.

Secondly, the  AKK is significant because it is the first time such project of that magnitude is being done as EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) and Finance. It is not like the previous projects where the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC and other international oil companies  IOCs award you a project and pay for it and you go

ahead and execute and collect your money. We are providing the money

and to provide such amount of money, the total value of that projects for the two lots comes to $2.8billion. This is not a kind of money you raise in Nigeria, you have to go and raise that capital outside and for you to raise it, you need security. 

That security instrument is a process and part of it requires the federal government come in.

For instance, if you are backing up the financing with the tariff you will realise form that pipeline, don’t forget that most of that tariff for example will be in naira. A financier who is overseas doesn’t know

what you are talking about in naira. So you have to provide an instrument of convertibility that has to come form the Central Bank of

Nigeria (CBN)  guaranteed that every collection in naira will be

immediately converted to dollars. That’s a typical instrument, these

things take time to get through the government agencies. So, we are

going through that process and we are almost there. We have almost finalized the

security and we have also started with the engineering. As we speak, the AKK has started, that is the point I’m making.

How does the spate of kidnapping and insecurity in the North affect the project?

We are Nigerians, if there is kidnapping, we will deal with it. You are not going to stop developing Nigeria because there is kidnapping.

In construction, we are tested and we are knowledgeable. We worked 100

per cent between 2002 to 2007 when kidnapping was the norm in the

Niger Delta. Oilserv remained there. We worked in the swamps,

maintained all the pipelines, so there are ways to do that. We are

Nigerians, we work in Nigeria and we must create capacity in Nigeria.

That is not going to be an impediment at all. It is a concern, but we

have procedures to deal with that.

OB3 is a game changer and you are playing a key role in its

delivery. How soon are we getting to the final stage of the project?

Let’s put OB3 in proper perspective, no pipeline has been built in

Nigeria of that size or capacity. You may recollect that in the 1970s,

80s, and 90s, we had the likes of Wilbros and others but no Nigerian

players in the pipeline industry. Look at our all pipeline infrastructure today, no where has 48″ pipelines have been built.

 It is not about the pipeline, we have the Gas Treatment Plant (GTP) at Oben which is part of our scope. This is a GTP that is handling two billion standard cubic feet of gas per day (2bscuf/d). This has never

existed anywhere in Africa. When we talk about OB3, it is not just about building a pipeline. Our own section, don’t forget there are two lots there. We are building LOTB that will take the gas from mid-point

all the way to Oben plant plus the Oben plant itself. 

Now, our pipeline was finished three years ago, but the treatment plant took a

longer time because the location was changed from Oben North to the GTP location and it took us two years to go through re-engineering it and getting the approval. But the story is clear, the pipeline and the

GTP are going through pre-commissioning now on our own section. By September, our own lot would have been done, and I can only speak for Oilserv.

 With the completion of your own lot, will it be operational without other party completing its own section?

To some extent, no. But it depends on how the owner of the pipeline wants to use it. One thing you have to know the technicality is that

we have a pipeline going to GTP Oben but we have a 36′ line we built from Oben GTP to Elps which is Oben Norh that is by-directional

pipeline. Which means you can take gas from the GTP in Oben into Elps or take from Elps into GTP. So the answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No”.

 Yes, you can take gas from Elps into Oben into Ajaokuta when we commission it. But the other section cannot be completed except Lot A finishes to be able to evacuate gas all the way from al the way from Obiafor into Oben.

What is your opinion in incorporating technology in your operations?

 We are already incorporating technology in our operations. Many years

ago, you could not find any Nigerian company doing horizontal directional drilling. You would have had to go abroad for people to come and do it. We have deployed that. We have been able to cross rivers with 48″ pipeline which would mean drilling and opening the

line to 64″ which is a major challenge because it collapses a lot. We are encouraging technology a lot.

There have been talks about roles of robots in deep water operation, do you think that is possible in Nigeria?

Anything is possible but what we should be asking ourselves is that how do we put that side by side with the Nigerian initiative and benefits. if you take robotics  totally the way you have seen it by displaying human capital, what happens to our economy. I won’t say it

is not in our own interest to deploy that, and I wont say you can stop that. 

You can’t stop  moving train, you would have to realize that overtime, that may become the norm but what you do you, you start to

train people to develop such, you start to train people because somebody has to manage that. You will create a different skill to be

able to drive that but you cannot completely take out the human interface.

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