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Manifold technology: How Nigeria recorded oil breakthrough with fabrication of Africa’s largest manifold

by Ignatius Chukwu

October 1, 2017 | 3:54 am
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In the oil industry, a Manifold is a sensitive and specialised equipment designed to carry out many functions. It is regarded as the strategic section of oil/gas technology in the sense that is the facility that sits at the seabed to pick oil from a well, mix (treat) it, transfer it to pipes that would take the oil to a flow station. Since gas and maybe water often comes along with crude oil, it may the Manifold that would do the separation and treatment before transfers begin. This facility is always built in Europe and America and sailed to Nigeria. In 2013, three years after the enactment of the Nigerian Content Act in 2010, one oil major, Total, took what industry watchers called a huge risk, something unthinkable, with the encouragement and prodding of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB). Total awarded the contract to fabricate the largest Manifold ever built in Africa to a Nigerian company, Aveon, through a main contractor, FMC Technologies of Norway. The oil world held its breadth for this seeming breach.

On September 20, 2017, at a spot along the Calabar River, at Rumuolumini town near Port Harcourt, at a 30,000 sqm yard owned by Aveon, the world came to cheer as the 6-slot facility was loaded out for sailing out to sea to begin the strategic function at the Egina offshore oil field expected to add 200,000 barrels of oil per day late 2018.
Among those gathered at the yard to hail Nigeria and launch the craft (Manifold) that was already sitting on a barge and pat the chairman of Aveon, Tein George, and his GM, Technical, on their broad backs, included the GMD of NNPC; Maikanti C. Baru; the GM, NAPIMS, Rowland; Executive Secretary, NCDMB, Simbi Wabote; the Deputy MD, Total, Musa Kida; the CEO of FMC Technologies, Han Christie Anderson; and the Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Jean-Peter Kjenpruo.
Anderson of FMC explained the intricate technologies that make the Nigerian Manifold a wonder, and for which she felt honoured and proud o Nigeria. “The safety aspect of this success is thrilling, the greatest feat. It is a risky task, with about 5.5 man-hours spent. This is very remarkable. It has been achieved with the best Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) and global best practices. It has pretty tough work requirements. The result is a fabrication that would lie 1.5km deep in salty water for 25 years without any problems. There was significant pressure on delivery. I am happy to deliver a job that will stand for 25 years. The manufacturing documentation of over 100,000 pages (paperwork). Egina is the highest subsea facility we have done around here, all coordinated from Nigeria. It is the most extensive execution from Nigeria. Technologies FMC has been in Nigeria since 1999, now with 400 workforce and 300 of them are Nigerians. This is the first in Africa. Local content required the project to have minimum of 80 per cent but this is 81.5 per cent. Capital investment (capex) into this project has lifted Aveon yard to world class status. Team members are right to feel the pride this project brings. We have made the impossible possible.”
The Norwegian ambassador agreed no less. A man of few words, he said; “This is a state of the art job. We are glad it is made in Nigeria. We can see the satisfaction this feat brings to the workers.”
In his eye-opening speech and interviews, the GMD of NNPC, Baru, said the journey started in 2013 when the NNPC, TUPNI, SAPETRO, Petrobas, and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) contracted the construction of the Subsea Production Systems (SPS) module for Egina Project to FMC Technologies. “We did not know we were on a voyage to break grounds in in-country engineering feat. The success which Aveon Offshore Limited has made in the fabrication and load-out of the subsea structures which include six manifolds with associated suction piles, various subsea tree frame elements, jumpers and control systems of the Egina SPS Module underscores the reasonableness of our decision to support FMC’s sub-contracting the project to Aveon Offshore Limited, the local contractor that fabricated the Egina manifold which is about 40 per cent of the Subsea Production Systems (SPS)”.
He said the NNPC was bent on this kind of experiments such as the 2016 feat at Saipem for yard at the load-out ceremony of the Egina Umblicals, Flowlines and Riser (UFR) module. The present FG has given an executive order to push ahead with Nigerian goods but the oil industry was ahead with the April 2010 Act. “The Egina Project sanctioned in 2013 is the first Deepwater Project after the enactment of the Nigerian Content Law in 2010. By this, Egina project has the highest level of Nigerian content of any such projects in Nigeria. This presents enormous opportunities and challenges”.
The GMD, who went round every inch of the soil of the 30,000 sqm yard at Aveon said: “The technological/industrial edifice is the most complex and compact structure with the state of the art design and construction in Nigeria, having each of the Manifolds weighing averagely 257 tons, the heaviest so far constructed in Africa. The 6-slots production manifold is the first in Nigeria. Others before now were 4-slots. This requires more complex fabrication work. New competences and opportunities have emerged in the industry including new vendors and suppliers, training and mentoring of young engineers, skills, etc, jobs are created in hundreds of thousands.”
He said the NNPC must appreciate the likes of FMC and Total to local capacity development especially for huge funds sunk to develop the Aveon Fabrication Yard which now boasts of a Carbon Steel workshop, duplex welding facilities and painting workshops of over 8,000 square metres and a fully reinforced quayside, etc. “Kudos to Aveon for delivering the project ahead of time and without loss of time or injury (zero LTI) despite over four million man-hours expended on this project. Cost of this project is still within budget. Lessons from earlier ones like Usan and Akpo projects have paid off here. This goes to show that more patronage will help create confidence and competence in local companies. It is high time your company (Aveon) is upgraded from a sub-contractor status to that of a full EPC contractor. You have earned your place in the league of the big players.”
An important voice at the breakthrough was that of the boss of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Simbi Wabote, whose board has the mandate to transfer oil business to Nigerians. Warri-born Wabote was the first head of the Local Content Division in SPDC (Shell).
He said: “I am happy that the procurement manager of Shell (Anthony Elis) is here so he can tell what he saw back home. This is because that is the next project we are looking at, so that they will not deny that this happened. We mobilised Agip, Chevron, Exxon, and Shell here to see things for themselves.”

Total shines, dares others back
Wabote said the Aveon feat was similar to other service companies in the different scopes in the Egina Deepwater Project. “Let me promote the ideals that Total has brought about in terms of local content in the history of this country. In the Egina project, Total took risks, took every beating they could take from those nay-sayers who said the kind of thing Total was trying to do was not possible in Nigeria. I traveled to Koje in South Korea with the DMD of Total to actually see all those modules and components that fabricated in Nigeria within the FPSO. He took me round to everyone that was integrated in Koje in South Korea. I was proud to see inscriptions on the modules with Made in Nigeria (applause). I have found a partner, Aveon, in the oil and gas industry, and the executive secretary of the NCDMB, Wabote.”
The deputy managing director of Total, Musa Kida, pushed the pride of Total higher. He said; “Total is very proud of Egina project, the first big project after the Nigerian Content Act. Total took a big battering and we gave a lot of concessions, more than we could ordinarily have. We did all that because Total believes in Nigeria and the ability of Nigeria. This is evidence of that belief. This load-out/sail-out is very significant. This is further proof that Total is on the way to delivering Egina project by fourth quarter of 2018 as scheduled because Aveon has delivered ahead of deadline. This is a critical component of Egina project. It will lead to increase of 200,000 bpd when it kicks off.”
The DMD went on: “One of the most remarkable feats in this manifold sail-out is that it recorded no loss of any type (zero LTI). We preach safety as a core value because we believe that nothing can be sustainably achieved without respect for the highest safety standard. We are happy with Technologies FMC and Aveon Offshore Limited. Our greatest achievement is when we deliver despite obstacles. It was an avenue to expose new technologies and welcome new entrants into our operations.’
He said Aveon delivered the first three manifolds earlier in October 2016. “This is to operate at about 1.5 km deep at the sea bed (water depth). The GMD was the GGM of NAPIMS when this project started. Today, we celebrate one of the major milestones of the Egina project. It is noteworthy that despite these challenges and delays, Aveon delivered the foundation structures and later three manifolds, now the rest three.”
His pride came thus: “Total believes that Nigeria can only grow from size to size. We implore other IOCs to please follow the examples we are trying to set so that together we can make Nigeria great.”

Locals now proud
Wabote of NCDMB said the Egina Project afforded Nigerian companies the opportunity to demonstrate their capacity and maturity since the Nigerian Content Act of April 2010. It also afforded the NCDMB the opportunity to get fully involved in contract initiation and pre-contract award phase. “The NCDMB strategy on Egina sought to ensure the full utilization of existing in-country capacity; push for the upgrade of existing facilities to meet the targets specified in the Nigerian Content Act; and embark on capacity development initiatives where local capacities did not exist.’
He said the strategy enabled the board to extract maximum Nigerian content scopes and compel the EPIC contractors to seek out local service companies with capacities to execute scopes which were earmarked as in-country. “We expect cost of future projects to crash due to gains made in capacity development gains made in Egina project. Board now targets 50 per cent in-country demonstration and capacity (FPSO) modules fabrication and integration in the next three and four years and 100 per cent integration within 10 years.”
He said this would encourage the Board to push for higher local content in upcoming projects such as Sabazaba and Bonga South West. “Today, Aveon is counted among the heavy fabrication yards in Nigeria with fabrication capacity of 10,000 tonnage per annum and staff strength of over 600 (actually 1,500). You were given the opportunity and you did not let the nation down. The NCDMB will support projects like Aveon’s by embarking on the categorization of fabrication yards and other major service companies for specific work scopes in a way that will facilitate contract opportunities. These measures will enhance transparency, further boost investor confidence, and shorten the contracting cycle.”

He added; “As we celebrate the Aveon Offshore feat, we must appreciate the IOCs for their support in successful implementation of Nigerian Content and encourage them and other oil and gas service providers to remain resolute and have continuous faith in the ability of local companies to deliver. This will ensure that the Aveon facility and similar ones are well patronized for fabrication solutions. We will keep the workers working.”

Aveon shines: invested over N9Bn ($250m) so far
The chairman of Aveon was the cynosure of all eyes on such a day of feats in the oil and gas industry. Tein George said; “This is a significant milestone. We had delivered three manifolds earlier and now three more. It is over 6000 tons of work. There were doubts about awarding the job to Aveon, a Nigerian company but today is the day of reckoning. Aveon has invested $250m in eight years to develop this yard plus $30m from NNPC/Total to expand warehouses and other workshops plus equipment. This helped us to successfully deliver this job. Some were delivered ahead of schedule.”

George, speaking a hall filled with white-necked VIPs and engineers, said; “This is a good story to tell; that a Nigerian company did this with zero lost time or injury (Zero LTI). This has by underscored by FMC and Total. We must thank the NNPC/Total, NCDMB and others for dedicated support. The communities have been extremely supportive, Fidelity Bank has been a wonderful partner. Aveon is ready to do more, so give us more jobs to keep this place going, else, we have no option to close in nine months from now”. His warning about a shut down in nine months painted the picture of gloom on a bright day, but the NNPC cleared the gloom soon after.

Later in an interview, the chairman added; “We did this with the keen support of the NNPC, NCDMB, Total, NAPIMS, by team work, perseverance, workforce, etc. We are showcasing our capacity and what we have done, one accord, one purse”.

He said $30m was the amount that the NNPC and Total (E&P) enabled Aveon to invest. “It was paid for by NNPC/Total to invest in new warehouses, new quayside, and new equipment to be able to do the very complex project that they awarded to us.”

On the much-touted NCDMB fund for local companies to develop, he said; “No, we did not request it and we have not drawn down on that fund.”

The GM of Aveon, Joseph Adefoye, gave technical details. “The yard is 30,000 square metres of space. We are becoming a global player. The company has been on from 2001 till now (2017). There is need to have these jobs done in Nigeria. We have worked for 29 million-man-hour with no injury or lost time since inception. Jobs came from Shell, Total, etc. We did the Agbami field job. We acquired and developed the jetty here, and want more to join. The slipway is 40 metres. We are looking to acquire Eagle Cement yard which lies unused because cement importation business has collapsed. This yard’s jetty is situated at the Calabar River going to Bonny River. It is infested with wrecks, needing dredging and clearing of wrecks. Over 95 per cent of workforce here is Nigerian.”

NNPC clears the gloom
The GMD of NNPC, Baru, in an interview with newsmen later, said the feat at Aveon is that they have been able to deliver on time. “It is one of the most complicated equipment we have in the industry. The fact that this facility is going to sit 1.5 metres at the bottom of the sea and work for at least 25 years unattended is important. We have previous experience with this yard and they were able to deliver the Agbami Manifold and it has continued to work. Second aspect of our joy is that this yard has delivered within the limit of set time with 5.5 man hours without loss of time or injury. That is remarkable anywhere in the world. The facilities they have invested in bringing this facility to what it is, makes it world class.’

He went on: “Another is the Nigerian content level in this project. The NNPC spends millions of Dollars annually to localize and develop skills. It is also to benefit the economy especially in this downturn when jobs are critical. There is a multiplier effect in knowledge and benefiting Nigerians. With what I have seen, I have made it a point for the NNPC to drive the industry to ensure that more jobs are generated so we can continue to grow the facilities but to ensure that the various workers (1,500) are guaranteed and even employ more. We are going to hasten some decisions to ensure that some very big ticket projects are out. We will see how we can make yards of this nature grow bigger and bigger. We are looking at being the hub of contracts for subsea projects.”


Ignatius Chukwu

by Ignatius Chukwu

October 1, 2017 | 3:54 am
  |     |     |   Start Conversation

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