Building Ghana’s local strength in pipesJanuary 28, 2022
Yaw Owusu, deputy country manager of Amaja Tubular Services, talks to The Energy Year about new technologies the company is using to promote local content and remain competitive and how the government can help local businesses. Amaja Tubular Services is a 100% Ghanaian-owned company that supplies and manufactures pipes for Ghana’s upstream sector.
Can you give us an overview of Amaja Tubular Services?
We are a joint venture owned 51% by Amaja Oil Field and 49% by Tenaris Ghana. The Tenaris Ghana portion goes back to Tenaris Uruguay, but the entities that formed the joint venture are both Ghanaian companies, making it a 100% local company. We are the major pipe providers for Tullow and Eni, the two largest producers in the country. Additionally, we supplied Aker Energy for their projects in the Pecan field.
We currently have offices in Accra and Takoradi. We have a 24,500-square-metre ultra-modern service centre in Takoradi for pipe storage, about 20 kilometres from the port. At full capacity, we can store about 8,000 tonnes of pipe. Due to the long lead times for pipes – usually seven to nine months and 18 months for chrome pipes – we have a strategic stock base in Aberdeen.
There is also a 17,000-square-metre space at our service centre in Takoradi for our ultra-modern machine shop, which has three CNC [computer numerical control] machines, a swaging machine, a sand blasting machine and a stress relief machine. We have just added Tenaris’ Dopeless machine and a back-on unit. It is a one-stop shop and we can bring in plain-ended pipes and manufacture any Tenaris connection. About USD 16 million of investment has gone into the yard and the machine shop, including for equipment and training. These investments have brought in a lot of local knowledge transfer.
What competitive advantage does the new Dopeless technology give Amaja Tubular Services?
It is an exclusive technology trademarked by Tenaris. The technology replaces putting grease, or dope, on the tip of every pipe with a brush. People sometimes drop their brushes in the well; at USD 90 million per well, you do not want to drop your brush in it. Additionally, putting dope on the pipe wastes time per connection and the rig floor gets very slippery, which becomes an HSE concern.
At the end of the string of pipes, you usually have about four buckets of dope accumulated in the well, which is costly and time consuming to clean up, and can hinder optimal production. Tenaris takes the dope out of the equation, which is also good for the environment.
What is the demand for this technology in Ghana?
Currently, all our clients in Ghana are either fully on Dopeless or gradually switching to the technology, but we have managed to convince Tullow to switch as well. We have the Dopeless assembled in-country and are in the position to thread full length, accessories or repair the same.
The Dopeless technology is a first in the region but ATSL has had precedents of similar relevance in the past. Case in point is the pipe coating project executed in 2017 for the Sankofa onshore receiving facility (ORF) project.
What is the company doing to develop local content in Ghana?
The intention of the company has been to add value to the operations we do in-country by locally threading full-length pipes and accessories. We have often made the deliberate commitment of doing at least 15% full-length pipe threading and 100% of accessories locally. This has been the main driver behind getting the Dopeless machine.
In 2017, we participated in Eni’s ORF project. We provided the pipes, which were concrete-coated line pipes. We do this by mixing iron ore, higher-grade cement and wire mesh and other additives around the pipe under a very strict QA/QC process. By so doing, you convert a 3-tonne pipe into a 12-tonne pipe, protecting it from the hard subsea conditions and rusting, for thermal insulation, to prevent pipes from becoming buoyant, amongst other things.
We could have imported these pre-coated pipes from Brazil, but we brought them here to coat them in Ghana. The entire line pipe concreting for the onshore receiving facility was done locally, which was the first time in sub-Saharan Africa.
What can the public sector do to support local content and companies?
We need the government and local authorities to support local content. The Petroleum Commission has started a human resources initiative for welding, which is very laudable. Beyond being open and transparent, the development of human resources is also key.
They also need to set a target for local content. In the case of threading, for example, you can follow what Nigeria does and say that an entity cannot import threaded pipes into the country. Currently there isn’t any regulation compelling companies to buy pipes that have been finished in Ghana. They can set up a quota for this; it would work very well.
How do you assess Ghana’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy?
We need to accelerate the conversion of the hydrocarbons industry in Ghana and use it as a head start to develop our renewable energy resources. We have abundant solar and wind; we should be able to focus on these low-hanging fruits. Government can also invest in the new onshore discoveries as they are not too capital intensive and channel the monies accrued to develop a robust renewable system for future generations.