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National Oilwell Varco (NOV) Director of Business Development, Babajide Agunbiade MNSE, Ph.D, talks to Africa Oil & Power about the company’s ongoing flexible pipeline projects across Ghana, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, and Angola with an emphasis on local content development.

What have been National Oilwell Varco’s (NOV) key achievements across its sub-Saharan markets?

NOV has maintained its position as the leader in the design, manufacture, and sale of equipment and components used in the sub-Saharan African (SSA) energy industry by pursuing purposeful innovation and fostering a service-first culture. Our primary achievements include:

  • Successful local fabrication of steel bend restrictors in Ghana for both Eni and Tullow Oil.
  • Successful local fabrication and delivery of the offloading buoy for the Total Egina Project in Nigeria.
  • Successful delivery of Tullow Greater Jubilee offloading buoy in Ghana.
  • Successful delivery of flexible pipes across SSA with no failures.
  • Provision of cutting edge technology to enhance optimization in the operations of IOCs and EPCI companies across the region. An example is NOV’s subsea water injection technology, Seabox, which continues to receive praise from IOCs.
  • Continuous successful R&D to develop new solutions that can operate in ultra deep water systems that can withstand extreme internal pressures and materials capable of operational at lowest and highest temperatures
  • Installing the first and only flexible pipeline system in Swamp with Shell at the Odidi field.

In terms of ongoing 2020 flexible pipeline projects across the sub-Saharan region, NOV is currently supplying a flexible pipeline system and ancillary products to the G19 Replacement and Okume field in Equatorial Guinea for Trident Energy, and to Senegal’s Sangomar Field Development for Subsea 7. We are fulfilling Offshore Riser Integrity Monitoring for Eni’s Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) project and a Greater Jubilee Framework Agreement on a call-off basis for Tullow Oil in Ghana. NOV has current contracts with Melcurt for the Okono Okpoho project and First E&P for the Anyala Madu Fields Development, both in Nigeria; and with Cabinda Gulf Oil Company Limited and Operatec for the Lifua field in Angola.  

What was the scope of NOV’s involvement in Ghana’s landmark OCTP integrated oil and gas project?

NOV was responsible for acting as the primary interface between the company, local partner and government bodies, and managing stakeholders’ and client’s (Eni) expectations throughout the life cycle of the project. We conducted local vendor assessment, selection and monitoring for the local fabrication of subsea components (steel bend restrictors and hold-back anchors). NOV was responsible for the development and implementation of local content strategies for the project and for the development of project management plans. Finally, our firm ensured that the aftermarket service of riser monitoring is called-off by the company; that Vortex-induced Vibration (VIV) study and flow assurance for the project were carried out locally; and that several Ghanaians were trained in the areas of offshore installation monitoring for the project. This scope has since been handled locally.

What did the project represent for the company? 

The OCTP project is NOV’s largest project in kilometers for flexible pipes (118km) and the largest flexible pipeline project ever supplied to sub-Saharan Africa. Through the OCTP project, NOV appreciated the need and importance of setting up and investing in not only Ghana but also SSA as a whole. The OCTP story will go on to encourage NOV to pursue establishing in other countries on the African continent.  In addition, steel bend restrictors were fabricated locally for the first time in Ghana. This legacy project was an opportunity for NOV to showcase our commitment to local content in Ghana and SSA. This project not only generated revenue for NOV, but also Ghana’s economy.

What was the detailed local content scope, and how has it shaped Ghana’s petroleum sector? 

The local content scope included: 30 steel bend restrictors, two hold-back anchors, VIV study, flow assurance study, installation surveillance and integrity monitoring training, and the employment of Ghanaians to be trained in VIV study and flow assurance. Through this project, over $20 million was spent via local content into the Ghanaian economy, and several local Ghanaian companies were technologically and financially empowered through. Not only did the OCTP development encourage IOCs and multinationals to be more active in local content, but also it validated the feasibility of locally fabricating industry standards and approved structures. Due to the successful delivery of the project according to quality, time, cost and client expectations, NOV has gained an outstanding reputation in the industry and is now regarded as a critical local content player in Ghana.

As you mentioned, NOV is also responsible for the first flexible pipeline installation in the swamp in Nigeria for the Shell SPDC Odidi project. How did the project enable NOV to increase the value proposition of flexible pipe systems? 

The success of this project was a breakthrough because of its ability to mitigate the massive bunkering happening in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. This solution addresses possible asset integrity issues related to the vandalization of rigid pipeline systems on the swamp. The success of this project ensures that a tamper-proof, flexible pipeline solution now exists to replace the network of rigid pipeline system in the swamp in Nigeria and across West Africa. NOV Flexibles provides a number of professional services related to the Integrity Management of flexible pipes. The NOV Flexibles philosophy is to assist our customers towards a safer and more efficient operation by providing the tools needed for a well-planned integrity management program. Our integrity services include periodic test and inspection, embedded monitoring systems and thorough assessment of all data from flexible pipes in operation. Flexible pipes are a robust solution designed to last for more than 30 years in operations.

NOV Flexibles also offer services in the pre-project phase with the design of feasible solutions based on our vast experience as a manufacturer of flexible pipes combined with our in-house flexible pipe experts, extensive laboratory facilities, specialized software tools, and experienced offshore personnel.  It is also extremely difficult to install bunkering points on our flexible pipeline as compared to rigid pipes. Finally, it has a cheaper replacement cost when the pipeline installation is factored in.

What differentiates NOV’s design and manufacturing capabilities and provision of oilfield services from other multinationals? 

As one of the largest upstream oil and gas equipment manufacturers globally, NOV is just as focused on manufacturing as we are on providing world-class after-service to our clients. We understand that manufacturing is our strength. As a result, we invest extensive time and resources into R&D and leading technology generation to return maximum value to our clients and help optimize their processes. In addition to our solutions in completion and production, NOV is the leading worldwide provider of equipment and components used in oil and gas drilling and Welbore solutions.

In the context of COVID-19, what strategies has NOV implemented to control costs and continue to service clients effectively?  

NOV has significantly reduced profits to help clients save costs. We continue to employ the use of cutting edge innovations to reduce client operational time and costs and have adjusted staff models and work plans to reduce operating costs. The use of platforms and webinars on LinkedIn and Microsoft Teams during the pandemic has helped maintain communication and also cut down travel costs regularly associated with client operations.

What role has digitalization played in cost control? 

Smart Manufacturing is currently appealing to the process and manufacturing industries. Digitalization presents several possible applications for automation, ranging from subsea installation to ROV support, to production management and smarter maintenance systems. Digitalization leads to optimization of component lifetime and maintenance to new system structures where open standards play a significant role. Better connectivity implies information will be more easily accessible. Besides, functions that were separate before are now more meticulously cohesive. As a result, digitalization has significantly increased opportunities for cost control, real-time condition monitoring and reduced downtime.

In addition to NOV’s role in the OCTP project, how has the company contributed to local content development and job creation on the ground? 

NOV has made ongoing contributions to training, empowering and assisting local companies and has a sustainable local content development plan for every sub-Saharan market in which we operate. In addition to creating jobs and revenue for numerous local companies in the region, NOV encourages offshore manufacturers to develop relationships and partnerships with indigenous companies and to maintain excellent in-country manufacturing capabilities and service delivery. For example, in 2016, we assisted a local fabrication company in developing a partnership with a more experienced engineering company in Denmark. This intervention has helped grow the local company tremendously.

NOV’s local content strategy is about maximizing the use of local companies and capacity in projects, thus developing indigenous service providers and suppliers – manufacturers, fabricators, and vendors – to enable us to maintain excellence. By maximizing local participation, projects result in significant local content, engendering technology transfer and development. It is also envisaged that this will induce a spate of manufacturing activity and spur economic growth within our host countries across Africa. Content surveys are conducted at scheduled intervals to identify indigenous companies capable of providing the goods and services NOV requires.

Looking ahead, what are NOV’s objectives in a post-COVID-19 landscape? 

Our objectives are to continue to execute more R&D to establish other cutting edge technologies in this ever-changing oil and gas industry; to invest and lead in bringing technology and digital solutions that will take our clients to the next level; to be attentive to our customer’s needs; to execute and maintain sustainable measures to assist our clients remotely.

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