The benefits of betting on Angola’s local contentApril 6, 2021
Alberto Figueiredo, CEO of Operatec, talks to The Energy Year about the state of the Angolan upstream sector and the company’s role in training and supplying the workforce that makes it run. Operatec is an Angolan company that specialises in workforce supply and subsea services for offshore oil and gas activities.
How do you assess the state of the Angolan upstream sector?
Five years ago, we were producing almost 2 million bopd and now we’re producing around 1.2 million bopd. According to the Minister of Petroleum, if we do not invest, the decrease will be about 15% every year. That is very bad.
However, the new government, the new minister of petroleum and the ANPG [National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency] are all focused on increasing production by creating incentives for the oil producers. That will be great for the government as they will get more funds. It will also be good for the sub-companies because when the operator decides to invest more in production, it also means a lot more work for the sub-companies. Companies, people, governments – we are all together and focused on the same objective.
Could you give us an overview of Operatec’s services?
Operatec is an Angolan company incorporated in 1996. We have been focused on oil and gas since 2007, when we started providing manpower services for the operators. In 2009, we started providing diving maintenance and installations of subsea assets using divers and diving equipment. Then we invested in H2S equipment and now we also provide the diving support vessels (DSVs) to support our diving activity.
Our main client is Chevron. We are growing with Chevron and following their procedures. We are the most reputable local company that provides services to Chevron.
What is Operatec’s main competitive advantage?
Our first strategy is to satisfy our customer. Normally we meet with our customers to ask for an evaluation of our service. Whatever we do, if it is not approved by our customer, it is worth nothing. We analyse proposals; we sit with our partners to see if they are possible. We look at what would be involved and what the investment would be. And then we decide if we can do it. If we cannot do it, we say that it is not the moment to do it. That is why we are well rated by Chevron – we are flexible in listening to what our customer needs.
What is the scope of Operatec’s H2S services?
H2S is a new segment that we started two years ago to provide safety equipment and personnel. Our services include manpower and equipment rental for onshore and offshore facilities. Our core experience includes high-angle rescue, confined space, safety watch and supplied breathing air systems. The initial investment was about USD 5.5 million and now we are investing in further equipment. We also want to expand in Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Mozambique, making more investments in that area.
What are the company’s current projects in the training arena?
The Operatec Maritime Industrial Training Centre (OMITC), which provides safety training, is the only centre in Angola with OPITO accreditations. We invested in 2014 in Cabinda and we saw that it worked very well.
In 2018, we invested in a new facility in Luanda which is 90% complete [as of February 2021]. We plan to start the installation in May 2021. During February 2021 we opened the centre to begin offering the theoretical side of the training.
Why is it important that companies like Operatec train an Angolan workforce?
When the government made it mandatory for all people working offshore to be trained and get certificates such as the HUET [helicopter underwater escape training] or the BOSIET [basic offshore safety induction and emergency training], companies were sending employees to South Africa, the UK and other countries to train their people, which increased the costs quite a lot.
We saw this as an opportunity and invested. This is the way we can reduce costs in the oil and gas industry: to bet on local content. It can benefit operators, service companies and employees. This is the way forward: to be trained locally.
How is Operatec diversifying its range of services?
We acquired JAMI, then a non-skilled service provider, in 2014. We invested about USD 4 million and restructured the company and now it is a well-rated company performing skilled services via onshore and offshore maintenance for Chevron.
We have been struggling since 2015. We are surviving by finding new ways to be sustainable. Last year we purchased an old oxygen plant in Cabinda and we are rehabilitating it to be the JAMI Fabrication Yard, which will manufacture metal structures, tanks and more.
We also invested in another subsidiary company called Angola Oilfield Supply Service (AOSS), which we now control, working in procurement and logistics. It was recently awarded two contracts – one at the end of last year with Chevron for procurement and logistics. It is also participating in bids for BP, Exxon and Total.
How does the company manage the requirement of technology transfer?
We form strategic partnerships. We make agreements with expert companies, starting as partners to receive the transfer of know-how and technology from them. Then they become our suppliers and we control the activity. This is the way we plan and it is why we have kept growing all these years. Currently we have these kinds of partnerships in the areas of H2S and rescue.
What is the company’s strategy to achieve further cost efficiency?
We are investing in people and in new equipment. In diving, for example, we ordered the manufacture of new diving equipment from a supplier. This was a USD 5.5-million investment. And we invested further to train people on this equipment. All of this is done to reduce costs, which will also reduce costs for our customer and help to reduce overall costs of production for the oil.
How can a company remain viable during economic downturns such as the one we are experiencing?
A strategy that I apply in business is one I lived in the war period: not to panic. In every crisis we face – be it in 2009, 2014, 2017 or with the 2020 pandemic – we focus on what we have to do to sustain the business. Our revenue has decreased by 80% since 2015 but we are still here, investing. We decided to invest in those segments that give us sustainability rather than only pursuing big revenue. In doing so, at least the business is sustained.