Sep. 5, 2018

Engr. ‘Gbola Sobande


Engr. ‘Gbola Sobande

Managing Director, Crestech

“Our commercial and business development team is the busiest of our departments this year.”


‘Gbola Sobande is an oil and gas professional who spent 31 years with Shell including four years in Shell UK Expro. Key management roles at Shell included EA and Bonga Projects. He retired as a GM in Finance in 2009. He provided project management training and assurance services briefly. He joined GE in August 2012 for 5 years as a Strategic Account Executive, supporting ongoing and structuring new business opportunities. Effective January 2018, he was appointed MD of Crestech Engineering Limited, one of Nigeria's leading engineering services outfits. He was educated at Igbobi College Yaba, King’s College Lagos and Southampton University UK, where he was a Shell Scholar.

What services do you provide and where does your main revenue stream come from?

Crestech Engineering has been in operation for over 10 years. Our services include conceptual studies, through front end engineering design (FEED), detailed engineering design to construction follow-on engineering, project management and construction supervision. We are also gradually beginning to provide procurement services. We are one of the leading engineering services companies in Nigeria; we are in the top league in terms of providing engineering services to the oil and gas industry.

What were some of the largest projects you were involved in?

We have been involved in a number of brown field and green field inland basin and deepwater projects for the IOCs covering mainly FEED and detailed engineering design aspects. At present, our major effort is in partnering with Penspen Limited to provide project management services for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation's (NNPC's) seven critical gas development projects.

Are you bidding for more projects?

Our commercial and business development team is the busiest of our departments this year and yes, we are currently bidding for a number of projects. We will soon mobilize for a major LNG front-end engineering design work; this is our biggest project for 2018, and the outlook shows that we will be getting involved in more major projects as the Nigerian economy continues to recover.

What is your strategy to retain and gain new clients, and what is your competitive edge?

We have an excellent reputation for quality and are in the final stages of securing international standards organization (ISO) certification for integrated management system (IMS). At the beginning of the year, we decided on a clear vision, an ambitious mission and a culture that will assure a sustainable future. Fundamentally, safety first in all we do; honesty, integrity and respect for people. Second, focus on the customer as king, because the customer determines our success. Third, it is important to remain cost effective and ensure value for money. We also aim to create a learning environment; therefore, training is vital. The culture we are building is highly influenced by my experience from Shell and GE. Structure is another thing where our integrated management system (IMS) comes into play. We are building a strong foundation for growth. It is inevitable for a company like Crestech to grow with the economy because of the reputation we have established; the company already sees signs of that in the big projects we are getting involved in. So, to summarize: a clear vision, an ambitious mission, sustainable culture and a structure for quality underpin our strategy.

With more localization happening in Nigeria, how is your portfolio of clients evolving?

One of our objectives in 2018 is to enter the indigenous market, so we are now bidding for several projects with companies such as Seplat and First E&P, and the outlook is encouraging. We see the indigenous companies as the future of the oil and gas business in Nigeria. There is continuous divestment of land and swamp oil and gas fields to indigenous companies and a number of them are also going offshore.

What are the existing challenges for companies like Crestech?

One challenge is education and the quality of graduates being produced in Nigeria. Several decades ago, there was no difference between western and Nigeria-educated graduates. For example, when I returned from the UK, my colleagues from the University of Lagos or Ibadan or Ife or Ahmadu-Bello or Nsukka were just as qualified and competent as I was; unfortunately, standards have fallen over time. Nigeria needs to overcome this challenge. To that end, Crestech pays great attention to training and encourages interns to learn from us.

Is Nigeria doing enough to unleash its potential of gas resources?

The gas infrastructure in Nigeria is gradually being developed with new major pipelines. At the same time, the commercial aspects are also being addressed. A couple of the projects we are working on contribute to the objectives of the gas master plan, because for the domestic gas market and offshore gas market there is a need to develop the gas first. We need to find the gas, explore it, develop it, and produce it; we need the proper infrastructure to transfer the gas to its ultimate destination. Domestically, gas can be used for power plants and for LNG in the offshore market. It is of course paramount to set the commercial terms at levels that would attract foreign investment. Gas price has been an issue, and in the last few years it has received attention in terms of parity between how much one sells gas for the domestic and offshore markets. Equally important are the fiscal terms, and there are aspects that need to be addressed through the Petroleum Industry Bill to not only ensure that the price is right, but that tax, royalty, and other fiscal terms are made clear and all ambiguities removed.

What fiscal challenges exist today?

We always had incentives in terms of tax and customs duty that encouraged investors to develop the gas business, so one hopes those incentives will remain, so that there is the encouragement for companies to develop gas. Like I mentioned earlier, the gas price has improved; it was significantly lower than it is now. We are almost there, as there has been great improvement in the commercial terms to attract investors.

What are your expectations from 2019?

The oil and gas industry in Nigeria will continue to recover, and some of the projects that we look forward to will progress; specifically, additional gas and deepwater development projects should attain final investment decision (FID) in 2019. Overall, I see a more vibrant oil and gas industry than what we have seen in the past four to five years.