Altrad: sustainable services in Angola
Angola, June 28, 2021
Kapassui Canungue, Altrad Services’ managing director for Angola, talks to The Energy Year about competition in Angola’s oilfield services market and how the development of local content can best be supported. Altrad Services provides technical and engineering services, mainly for the oil and gas and power generation sectors.
How is the oilfield services market evolving in terms of competition?
The market has become more aggressive. Contractors don’t have jobs to continue their business, so everyone is trying to do everything. Before, we used to be active only in selected segments. You knew that certain contractors were not your competitor. Now everyone wants to do everything. When you see a list of competitors for a tender, you wonder how certain companies got there – ones that weren’t doing this kind of work before.
Some companies try to do price dumping, because they want to take that business from you. In terms of cost, their offer is not viable. We think that the regulators should monitor it more closely, to avoid killing the companies that have built themselves in Angola over so many years based on sustainable services. These are the companies that will keep the oil production going.
How did you manage to ensure business continuity throughout 2020?
2020 was very tough. Early in the year, we had to stop activity due to the lockdown and the pandemic. We were looking for ways to continue operating. That was a very difficult situation, but we have adapted. We’ve had to reduce the number of employees we have here and put some necessary procedures in place. For instance, at our head office we had to create a quarantine space for isolation for the people going offshore to ensure they weren’t contaminated by Covid-19. We have this quarantine base duly certified by MINSA [Ministry of Health], and since then we’ve been able to slowly ramp up activities.
How did the pandemic affect your human resources structure?
That was a tough situation. The most difficult part of the pandemic has been reducing this structure, which we were compelled to do as our work volume was reduced. We had no choice and had to let people go – about 900 people from a total of 1,600 employees. When it comes to a situation like that, you try to choose the best people and keep them. But overall it was extremely difficult.
As of today, what kind of services are you providing?
The main ones are painting, scaffolding and insulation, and secondarily, onshore mechanical, rigging and lifting, crane maintenance, flaretip and exhaust replacement, tank cleaning and on-line desanding. The mechanical part we do mostly in Cabinda with Chevron, where we do onshore mechanical services. We repair the tanks and do tank cleaning as well. On the painting and scaffolding side, we mostly do offshore campaigns. This is all we are doing right now.
We are working all over the country with different operators, from Total to Chevron, BP, Exxon and Sonangol. We have worked with all of these clients providing all of the services that we offer.
Is Altrad Services looking to deploy new technologies or services to reduce the cost of operations?
Yes. We are looking for innovation. We are going through the designing process and positioning ourselves to compete. We are trying to adapt in order to continue the business.
For instance, we are doing that based on our synergies within our Altrad International group, for example providing FPSO flaretip replacement. Back in the day, they used a helicopter to change a flare. It was very costly. Nowadays, we have a system in which we use rope access workers who get there via a tailor-made system that allows them to make the change. It is cheaper, too. This is the type of solution that we try to find to reduce costs.
Another innovation is the means we use to do digging when doing tank cleaning. We previously used trucks to do it but today we do it just using manpower. It is less costly, and the intervention time is more effective. For instance, we tried to adapt our scaffolding in order to be more efficient when it comes to erecting or dismantling scaffolding.
Ahead of the 2021 bidding round, what kind of opportunities are you looking into?
We are looking at mechanical services and painting maintenance services, such as construction. We are trying to be more focused on an integrated solutions system. This will allow us to develop a better maintenance programme, ensuring that we complete projects on time. One example of these integrated solutions can be seen in our upcoming Block 3 revamping campaign for Sonangol P&P.
How can the development of local content be safeguarded?
I think that if the ANPG [National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency] really wants to achieve Angolanisation, we need to create the means to support sustainable companies as they continue training people. Otherwise it will be difficult to ensure that we keep making progress.
For example, we lost a contract with Total, which was our major contract in rope access services. We had to dismiss around 500 people because of this. An especially painful aspect of this was that some of these employees had more than 15 years of training and experience in-house – a result of our strong focus on Angolanisation. We managed to keep some but it was difficult. So we have to start again from zero to train people.
Overall, today we are at about 95% local employees and 5% expatriates. Now we are aiming for the Angolanisation of management positions. I am Angolan and our business development director and our finance director are as well. Our workshops at Lobito, Cabinda and Soyo are staffed entirely by Angolans.
We are also developing strong partnerships with local suppliers, helping them grow and become more consistent in their response.
What do you think the country needs to prioritise in order to stop the decline in oil production?
I think they must continue the construction of new wells. What must be done is to continue searching for new reserves and make sure that we can maintain the level of production that we have today. Angola still relies greatly on oil and gas, so it’s not a good thing to let production fall. It’s too early for that. Perhaps within 50 years things could change.
At the same time, we all should continue investing in Angola and giving support to its contractors. If we have a job, we can help other contractors by giving them work and ensuring we develop the local content. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.