IN THE PIPELINE

Tanzania 2015 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Emeka Okwuosa, Chairman & CEO of Oilserv Limited, on the company's current projects and capacity building.

Emeka Okwuosa
BIOGRAPHY
A 1982 graduate of Electronics and Electrical Engineering from the University of IFE in ILE-IFE, Nigeria, Emeka Okwuosa is a seasoned engineer, administrator, entrepreneur, and visionary with over 32 years of experience in different areas of engineering. These activities have spanned Europe (France and Scotland), North Africa (Libya), West Africa (Mauritania, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, and Ghana), Gulf of Guinea/Central Africa (Nigeria, Benin Republic, Cameroun, Gabon, DRC, and Angola), and Indonesia, in positions ranging from Field Engineer to Technical Manager. Emeka is the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Oilserv, Frazimex, Frazimex Energy Services, Frazimex Engineering, Frazpower, and Frazoil.

Could you elaborate on the way your portfolio has developed over the years and the current flagship projects you are engaged in?

We started operations fully in 1995, and worked exclusively for Shell over the following five years. After this, we diversified into working for other IOCs and Nigerian LNG companies in maintaining their pipeline transmission systems. We are seen as a company that comes with a strong technical background based on my vision and experience. I have worked for Schlumberger worldwide, and I returned to Nigeria in 1994 with the vision of building the country's capacity in oil and gas technical services. We started by building flow lines for Shell and eventually began building trunk lines and transmission pipelines for them, after which we started building facilities like manifold stations, including the largest of such facility in Nigeria (36-inch TNP Manifold in Ebubu). We have grown to the point where our service delivery covers the entire pipelines and flow lines of all sizes. The vast majority of pipelines we construct today are actually gas pipelines, not oil, because more and more gas pipelines are being built as distribution systems throughout the country. We are the primary indigenous construction company in this sector, having built over 30 pipelines, far exceeding the number that any other indigenous company has created. Oilserv is the only Nigerian company with the capacity to construct 10 pipeline projects simultaneously, and we are currently working on nine. On top of that, we are building a 48-inch diameter pipeline, which will be Africa's largest. We are talking about a full EPC contract, including maintenance for 24 months following construction, which is a capacity that no other contractor can ensure. We employ over 500 people and our activities are spread across Nigeria, and we also run additional operations in other African countries.

How did you manage to position the company as the only indigenous player to provide world-class services?

Capacity building is the key. I have a strong engineering background, whereby Oilserv is driven by my vision as an engineer. We started well before the Local Content Act was passed, and were already competing with international companies, winning jobs, and delivering them efficiently. The high quality of our delivery has given us a strong track record; however, it is not just about the delivery, as we are cost-effective, too. We deliver far cheaper results than the multinationals can, and our robust engineering background is the reason for this. From inception, we have trained our people in using a range of heavy-duty and specialized equipment, and we continue to do this. We choose between 30 and 40 graduates for our graduate program annually. As some of the university curriculum today in Nigeria is not adapted to specific industries, we have to guide graduates in the right direction in the oil and gas industry; therefore, we build capacity internally and train people to instill our culture of quality delivery in them, which is the only way to ensure satisfied clients. We are always in touch with the latest technology in pipeline construction. We are also one of the few companies with the capacity to deploy and operate horizontal directional drilling (HDD) systems that enable us to preserve ecosystems, and the first to deploy automatic and semi automatic welding systems on a large scale, when 90% of today's welding systems in Nigeria are still manual. This significantly increases the amount of joints we can weld in a day. Furthermore, we have brought more heavy-duty Volvo PL pipe layers to Nigeria, whereby capacity building and technological advancement have brought us to where we are today. Moreover, we reinvest in our business, resulting in a huge asset base spread over a large area, and our ability to handle this many projects simultaneously.

Could you tell us more about the operations you are starting in Tanzania?

We are bidding to execute a gas pipeline in southern Tanzania, which is several hundred kilometers. We have also expressed interest in building and developing 15 CNG systems. We are trying to become a major contributor to gas distribution within Tanzania. The government has a comprehensive plan and we want to be part of that. We told them that the key is that whatever we have done in Nigeria we would to replicate in Tanzania helping to train local people so that in the long term they will run all the systems themselves. One of the key factors that most East African countries see as appealing is solid plan backed up by experience in capacity building.And ultimately, capacity building is the only way to move forward.