ISQapave: a one-stop shop in AngolaFebruary 22, 2022
Jorge Correia, managing director of ISQapave, talks to The Energy Year about the likely impact of renewed upstream activity on Angola’s inspection and maintenance segment, as well as the company’s plans to become a one-stop shop. A JV of Portugal’s ISQ and France’s Apave, ISQapave provides certification, quality control inspection, calibration, training and NDT services, mainly to the oil and gas sector.
What impact might the renewed upstream activity have on Angola’s inspection and maintenance segment?
We have fierce competition here in Angola, even with local companies. We must not forget: our activity is very much dependent on the oil price. The oil price has doubled from the average price in 2020. The market is opening to maintenance programmes and new oil programmes. We are very optimistic about 2022.
The last few months have been interesting because of the oil price. The companies that left Angola are now coming back. They are already getting contracts and securing positions in the market. It’s a new cycle.
Currently the Angolan fields are going through their maturity phase and now we see smaller clusters of drilling. It will be interesting to see what happens with onshore drilling and how that is going to affect the country. It’s new for everyone, and everyone has expectations.
A large part of the onshore should be destined for local companies and local operators. This is great news, but personally I don’t know how it will evolve. I believe that there is going to be a second auction of onshore blocks, and we are looking forward to it.
What are the latest updates on ISQapave’s activity?
We will be moving to a larger facility by Q2 2022 and will be able to provide maintenance inspections. We aim to be a one-stop shop and to differentiate ourselves from other companies. In terms of oil and gas infrastructure we do everything on the topside, including corrosion inspection and asset integrity from the pressure valves to the pressure tanks.
Our laboratory is without a doubt the biggest lab in Angola. We have valve testing and fuel tank calibration. We also have tools for testing and measuring pressure, temperature, humidity, weight and electrical calibrations. Beyond that, we’re bringing in more capabilities.
In 2021, we were awarded a new contract for non-destructive testing through rope access, which is a means of doing our day-to-day work. Those operations started with a new client and have been so successful that we are discussing a larger scope than the initial tender.
As you further develop the company’s workforce capacities, what are your priorities?
At the moment, our training is mostly at the customers’ facility or online. We see our future growth in developing a training facility to train third-party manpower. For example, during 2021 we started confined space training on our premises, and we will soon have rope access training. We’ll also be doing electrical certification for electricians.
Beyond this, we want to move into recruitment for various industries, not just for oil and gas. We are preparing a team of certified welders. As we do that type of training we can supply that manpower to the client, guaranteeing their work because they were trained and certified by us. This could be for seasonal positions where a company doesn’t want employees on the full-time payroll.
Which services does ISQapave provide for the solar power sector?
We want to find out where there is a gap and where we can add value to that cycle. On solar panels, we can do feasibility studies, as well as structural and capacity analysis – everything from inspection of the moulding on the structure to post-installation inspection.
ISQ has developed a software that can remotely inspect the solar panels via drone to see if there is any damage and if the panels are producing the right amount of energy. Our experienced technicians can be sitting in Portugal while remotely inspecting assets in Angola. This software is currently working in Portugal but we hope to bring it to Angola because it is very easy to implement.
We’ve already had discussions with TotalEnergies and Sonangol. They see this activity starting in Q3 2022, and we will definitely try to partner with them. Remote inspection is one of the strengths of ISQ Portugal. Our plan is to bring in technology and to train our local people.
Is ISQapave prepared to be involved in onshore projects following the 2021 onshore bidding round?
We have the capabilities for doing civil and road certification and analysis. At the moment, we have three tenders submitted to the Angolan government in partnership with road construction companies where we would be the fiscal or inspection entity.
Back in the day, ISQ did the inspection of the Benguela Bridge. They also did the QA/QC of the Angola LNG plant. Those capabilities have been passed on to ISQapave.
How do you plan to push forward the company’s diversification agenda?
Both ISQ and Apave continue innovating and growing. As ISQapave, we are very fortunate that as soon as we see a gap in the market, we can try to fill it with what we’ve already got in-house with our shareholders. One of our biggest advantages is that we can absorb their technology.
One of the areas we are diversifying into is industrial hygiene and environmental studies. We already do noise pollution analysis and air quality analysis. It is something we want to get stronger on.
We also know that there is a great push by the government to diversify into agriculture and mining. There are new laws being passed to support this. Moving forward, we want to get into agriculture and make a difference. Apave and ISQ also have experience in mining. If opportunities arise, we will try to grab them.
How important are the government’s latest local content reforms for spurring the country’s socioeconomic development?
Governments should regulate the industries, but they must let the market – including the companies and entrepreneurs – set its own path.
I appreciate that the Angolan government sets the goalpost for local content. At the same time, local content should include everything that is made in Angola.
The onshore developments are fantastic. But the country will have to acquire the technology and know-how to make them a success. We will need foreign companies for this.
We mustn’t forget that Angola has a 32% unemployment rate. There are a lot of people who are experienced in oil and gas who are unemployed. Local companies have to look for those capabilities in the country. We cannot forget that there are a lot of people coming from university. The government announced in November 2021 that companies employing students aged 18-30 would not have to pay the government taxes for that individual for the following 12 months.
How do you assess the competitiveness of Angola’s oil and gas sector?
This is the land of opportunity. Angola is a great market to be in, but not for companies that are fly-by-night. The days are over for the companies who want to come in to make a quick buck.
The smaller companies have to organise their accounting and they have to have proper structures in place. A couple of years back, no one in the smaller companies had heard of the ISO 9001 certification and now it’s almost compulsory. We are also aiming to have a bigger scope of certifications because we have more than 100 workers, and in the oil and gas environment everyone is focused on compliance.
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