Lean, local and cost-efficient in AngolaJune 9, 2021
Raul Costa, general manager of Tubostrans, talks to The Energy Year about how local companies can fill services gaps in the Angolan market and save costs for oilfield operators. Tubostrans is an Angolan oilfield services and supply company specialising in filtration and wellbore cleanout.
How did Tubostrans come to be and what are its main assets?
We are a service company and possess our own equipment specialising in filtration and wellbore cleanout and have been in service since 2009. We have approximately 800 square metres of land for our planned workshop in Talatona – very near to the offices of major operators, which makes accessibility easier for them so they can come and see our equipment and work.
The workshop will be prepared as a machine shop to do some servicing and threading jobs as well. We can do all the maintenance of wellbore equipment and fishing tools here. Our workshop has a washing bay and a pressure test bay, which makes it easier to wash and clean the equipment and perform the pressure test and maintenance. We expect to have the workshop fully equipped by the end of 2021.
Our sister company, Pall, providing support and logistic services to foreign companies operating in Angola, has financed the vast majority of our investment.
What were the drivers behind this business idea?
Back in 2009, in Angola, all companies looked for foreign workers to provide simple services that us locals could be doing. Angola had local companies providing services like security, visa services and cleaning services, but there weren’t enough local companies providing certain technical services that I could see being provided by locals in other global markets. My question became: why can’t we do the same in Angola?
This market is very challenging. We need companies that can provide specific services, and in my opinion, it’s essential that local companies develop a different investment strategy, more focused on building a local pool of technical resources operated by qualified Angolan technicians. We need to recognise this is a challenging market with a lot of accountabilities. Responsible investment in human resources and equipment is paramount.
Did the 2020 crisis impact the human resources market for companies like Tubostrans?
In my opinion, yes. One key component for local companies to have is an ample number of people with adequate training and knowledge. With the crisis, people who worked for some of the major service companies, some of them for 20 years or more, are now available in the job market and eager to work. This is a very good opportunity for small companies, who will be able to tap into experienced technicians who will bring excellent skills to them.
How can young local companies help operators reduce the cost of oil production?
Companies like Tubostrans, who have a lean structure, rely on qualified Angolan technicians, with large experience in the oil industry, which reduces the cost from the logistics of bringing expatriate technicians to Angola. This strategy can be followed whenever no state-of-the-art technology or proprietary technology is involved. Angola has been an oil producing country for the past 50 years.
In short, local companies can purchase the same technology from the same vendors, but because they have a smaller structure, and the technology is operated by local qualified technicians, they can provide the same service, with the same quality, at a more competitive price to the operators.
Who are you partnering with to provide services?
Currently we have partnerships with three companies, which enables us to provide several types of services. These companies are Nortech, OWS (Odfjell Well Services) for wellbore cleanout and TRS services, and Roemex for speciality chemicals for the oil industry. With Nortech we have formed a consortium to provide hydraulic workover services, snubbing and P&A services.
Tubostrans is also in negotiations with a large international company that is present in 25 countries and wants to partner with a local company to work in Angola.
As far as filtration is concerned, we now have our own brand-new units and can provide those services without having to resort to an international partner, and using our Angolan technicians.
How do you approach potential international partners?
It’s very difficult to demonstrate to international companies that we are reliable. Our approach with these companies is to show them we are a small but reliable company that has invested a lot of money and time in infrastructure and equipment. We have completed all the required registrations and we are now TRACE certified.
What are the company’s current contracts?
Tubostrans is currently providing filtration services to Total, which is an excellent opportunity to showcase our ability. They awarded us a job for one well, which we executed flawlessly. Right now our unit is still aboard Total’s Maersk Voyager rig.
We also have two contracts with Sonangol. One is to provide triplex pump services and personnel. The other one is through a partnership we have with Nortech, an international company, providing Sonangol with a hydraulic workover unit and a barge for a workover campaign.
Will the new local content legal framework create more opportunities for domestic companies?
With the new law, we expect market conditions to improve for local companies. If the agency [National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency] works with the operators in having them comply with the new law and contract local companies, this will boost the market for the Angolan companies providing services to the oil industry.
That’s what happened with Tubostrans. Total gave us an opportunity to show our capabilities after bringing in the Maersk Voyager. We are very fortunate and blessed for this. We brought our equipment to the country on time and we have initiated in a timely fashion as expected. This began as a trial and we succeeded. I’m confident that they will announce new tenders for more services and I can only hope that local companies can benefit from these opportunities.
What are your objectives for 2021?
Tubostrans is always actively looking to participate in new tenders. I am aware that three operators will launch new tenders soon, based on contracts that are finishing this year. We’ve done our research and feel we are well prepared for when this time comes. If we win, we simply need to mobilise the equipment that we have available right here.