A dynamic and proactive companyJuly 14, 2022
António Magalhães, managing director of Prometeus, talks to The Energy Year about how the company has taken over more of Angola’s cleaning services value chain and its involvement in solar panel cleaning and other power solutions. Operating for three decades, Prometeus is an Angolan provider of industrial cleaning, gardening and pest control services.
Can you provide us with an overview of your company’s services?
Prometeus is a very wide-ranging company employing more than 2,800 people with activities covering the whole country.
We perform pest control and disinfection on offshore sites and work closely with the oil sector, but our business portfolio is very diversified and includes gardening, industrial cleaning, residual collection, aeroplane cleaning, hygiene and maintenance of official vehicles, hospital cleaning and building site maintenance services, which are all supported by a 24-hour helpline for our clients.
How have you taken over more of the cleaning services value chain?
For cleaning services, we have our own factory that manufactures products for internal use, including disinfectants such as an alcohol gel, Sterifec, which we have produced in-house since before the pandemic. Our disinfectant products are officially certified in Angola by a government body called INIS [National Institute of Health Research]. We have a good image in the market, and we take quality very seriously.
Our advantage over competitors is that we are certified by APCER in terms of quality, environment and safety, and by the ANPG [National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency]. We have secured all the required certifications, which was a process that required a lot of hard work.
What have your core business activities been during the pandemic?
During the pandemic, some companies, including oil and gas companies, decided to outsource some of their services to local partners, and they preferred to deal with only one partner instead of multiple partners.
We worked with the National Covid Centre as a partnership during the pandemic, and we conducted conscientisation, hygienisation and disinfection activities. We started by providing disinfection tunnels, and then we expanded our range and performed very well during Covid, which was not easy because performing Covid-related disinfections requires consistent and well-organised logistics.
What is the company’s approach to working on renewable energy projects?
Cleaning is just the basics. We try to acquire expertise through innovative experiences, venturing into new business areas, and energy is an interesting sector for us. We are now undergoing an equipment acquisition process to clean solar panels. This equipment, however, will be acquired only when we see there will be enough local demand. Solar panel cleaning will be necessary in the future because these panels gather too much dust. We want to be the partner of choice for solar-power-related companies and find potential partners. Our strategy would be to deploy our security team with a vehicle to dust off the panels and therefore guarantee their maximum efficiency.
To this end we are participating in several international conferences and exhibitions – in the Netherlands, for instance, where an event for the industrial hygiene sector took place. There, we saw a practical demonstration of how to use the equipment. We are a company looking towards the future.
How can local companies be more involved in providing off-grid power solutions?
We are a dynamic and proactive company. The latest addition to our portfolio is a partnership with PowerBlox a Swiss company that develops disruptive electrification solutions for off-grid applications so energy can finally reach places it never reached before, UN-choice. The system consists of intelligent energy cubes with integrated batteries providing 200 watts of alternating current which can be powered by a solar panel to supply a household or small commercial business with electricity.
The key advantage of the product is that it does not require an inverter. Furthermore, there is a counter incorporated into the machine which measures consumption and allows one to keep track of how much energy has been consumed. It is very interesting because installing it does not require any complex engineering work. This could be very interesting as a social project conducted by oil companies, as it can be easily scaled up by putting more cubes together for more power.
Can you give us an example of the potential benefits and setbacks of such a technology?
Prometeus conducted a social project for UNITEL to bring electricity to a school and a medical centre in Malange, Angola, using batteries covered by the solar panels, and it was such a success. The potential social impact of this device could be a game-changer for people living in rural areas. There is a lack of interest in these kinds of projects mainly due to maintenance issues, as they require money and periodic controls.
What are the main barriers preventing you from further penetrating the energy segment?
The government has asked the private sector to create private models to explore energy, but the quota allocated to commercialise energy is too small. For an investor it is hard to invest into bringing electricity to a village when there will be no return for decades to come after the investment. We are studying a project for 2,000 villages, divided in phases, first 10 villages, then 20, 100 and so on. The secret to success is to create an entity to manage these projects after they are executed. In this way, it is possible to keep the structures functioning and to support the growth of the communities.
What is your strategy in terms of partnerships to attract more potential oil and gas clients?
We have a technical team carrying out studies for industrial waste treatment systems, especially oil. After contacting the National Waste Agency, we learned of the urgent need for these systems, since in Angola there is a lot of work with the oil sector. It is not easy to enter this sector, as there are already international players; however, we are looking for partnerships in this segment.
We also have an industrial cleaning team that specialises in silos and oil tanks and we’re partnering with a company that has robots for these specific activities. If there were demand, we would gladly deploy such services.
Also, we have another company called Prorumos. It provides capacitation courses for oil companies in spaces such as defensive driving, firefighting, etc., but in order to work in these kinds of extreme conditions, our manpower needs to develop a specific skillset. That’s why we have also established a partnership with the Aberdeen Drilling School, where together we train directors, technicians and engineers at oil companies.