Exclusive cover interview: Strength in depth
WorleyParsons' breadth of project capabilities is helping the company stand out in a crowded market, says Adham AlKady, VP Middle East & North Africa, Hydrocarbons, Infrastructure, MM&C
In today’s crowded and sometimes challenging oil and gas market, it is more important than ever that companies can differentiate themselves from the competition.
This can be done in a number of ways; honing in on a particular market niche, for example, or providing a specialist service in a specific region.
But WorleyParsons is taking a different approach, and instead is offering its customer base the proposition of working with them across the entire life cycle of a project or projects – from inception to operation.
“We can work across all phases of a project’s life, and we have found that many of our customers really do want that service. It is a great strength for the company,” says Adham AlKady, VP Middle East & North Africa, Hydrocarbons, Infrastructure, MM&C, who came into the position around a year ago.
The business concentrates on three major sectors: Hydrocarbons, Infrastructure (inc. Power), and Minerals, Metals & Chemicals, while the operations are supported by four central business lines.
The first is ‘Major Projects’, which focusses on large complex projects, specialising in full project delivery in the PMC, EPCM and EPC arenas. ‘Services’ is its local delivery system, and is based on a deep understanding of local markets and customers’ expectations combined with the best technical capability locally and globally, to deliver projects across the asset lifecycle.
The third business line is ‘Improve’, which plays the role of optimising the performance of operating assets and building long-term relationships with customers to support their capital efficiency and effectiveness in brownfield projects.
Not happy standing still, WorleyParsons last year launched its fourth business line ‘Advisian’ which, AlKady says, bridges the gap between management consulting and technical consulting by providing strategic business-level advisory coupled with deep technical expertise across the entire asset lifecycle.
He elaborates: “It begins at the time when the customer is thinking about a project, so it’s at a stage where it’s an idea. A customer usually needs somebody to validate an idea from either a commercial or technical point of view, sometimes both. This means we are able to engage with customers even before the concept stage; we look at the feasibility of an idea, from the state of the market, to the effects on the environment, all the way to life of asset viability.
After that, we can carry out a commercial feasibility study, and work with the team at the company that is looking to start the project, and we are able to work right through to the execution. It puts us in a very strong position compared with pure consultancy companies who can carry out feasibility studies but cannot work across the project as they don’t have the technical expertise. They can’t move a project forward.”
He continues, “Looking at it from the other end of an asset’s lifecycle and with our operations expertise, we can also assess asset business performance in the context of the technical challenges and work with our clients to deliver sustainable performance improvements beyond just cutting costs, looking to extend asset life.”
It is the organisation’s local presence combined with its technical global expertise that AlKady says gives WorleyParsons an edge over others. Indeed, the company is a true multi-national, with more than 28,000 people working across 44 countries with 134 offices giving it geographical diversity and sector diversification and FY2015 revenues of $7.28bn. Here in the Middle East & North Africa region, it has over 3,000 engineers and professionals looking after its key locations Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE & Qatar, Oman, Iraq and Egypt. In some of these locations, such as Saudi Arabia, WorleyParsons has had a presence of over 40 years.
“There have been some areas in the Middle East that have slowed, but there are others that have grown. As a multi-national, we are able to mobilise resources from places where activity may be slowing to areas where business is picking up. As an example, while sour gas activity has slowed somewhat in other locations it remains strong here, such are the demands for gas in the GCC. We are able to mobilise our expertise and bring them to the geographical areas where they are needed,” he explains.
Sour gas and sulphur management and expertise will only continue to get more critical in the GCC, where demand continues its seemingly never-ending ascent. The process of treating sour gas adds to the costs, says AlKady, but the need means that reserves can no longer lie untapped in the ground.
“Another example is enhanced oil recovery (EOR). We are very active across the region, and see ourselves as pioneers in this area, simply because we work very closely with our customers. We want to continue to improve in this area despite being considered a leading player. Our experience in the different methods within EOR provides our customers with optimal solutions and advanced technologies that promise to open up fields around the world to the possibility of advanced, highly economic EOR schemes. We’re looking at deploying our best technology to wherever it is needed across the world. It is critical to maintain efforts and our EOR capability is a big part of that effort working alongside NOCs.
If you look at the unconventional area, we have expertise in America and Canada, and what we’d like to do is bring more of that expertise to this area of the world. We are currently in discussions with NOCs in the region.”
So far, so good, but the spectre of low oil prices is one that must be addressed by any company working in the energy industry. Speaking about the drop in oil prices and its effects on WorleyParsons’ operations in the engineering, procurement and construction sector, AlKady is pragmatic, looking at the period as a chance to ensure the business is working as effectively as possible.
“Sometimes when you are a player in a market, you have to do what the market dictates. Everyone has gone back to the drawing board in one way or another, and we ourselves have looked at ways we can reduce our costs, and pass that on to the customer. On some occasions, we’ve worked with our customers to do this.
“We are conscious of market trends, and sometimes you have to evaluate where you can ‘sharpen your pencil’, see where you can be more efficient, and improve process and systems. But I think that’s the same in boom periods; companies constantly have to look at improving and progressing.
We work in an industry where you don’t get the chance to start again, so we have to make sure we are producing our very best on every project we do. That is the same in a boom period or a downturn,” says AlKady.
“At the heart of WorleyParsons is the concept of ‘delivering what we promise’. So when we discuss projects with customers, they can be confident that we will deliver. It has to be a cultural belief, you can’t just adopt a corporate approach in a week, a month or even a year. It took us years of experience to get to the position we are in today.”
As part of the effort to drive forward and be at the forefront of the sector’s technological advancements, WorleyParsons has been fast to develop and roll-out its Digital Enterprise offering (part of Advisian).
“It’s something we’ve already worked on with one of the region’s major national oil companies that attracted a great deal of attention at last year’s ADIPEC event. We demonstrated how our capability to gather digital services coupled with new technology was able to support this NOC’s demand for the digital asset,” says AlKady.
He continues: “Customers see a lot of value in the digital enterprise field. You can analyse, modify and troubleshoot huge structures on a screen. The ability to look at certain networks within a structure is hugely valuable, and I think customers see that.
Some of the marine structures in the region are 50 years old, requiring overhauls or maintenance. Over the years, changes will have been made but this historical information isn’t always easy to access. Today, when we work on projects, digital technology is used and so it allows us to build a 3D ‘as-built’ model of the asset for the customer, which can be more easily kept up to date afterwards allowing modifications or maintenance to be simply tracked going forward.”
“It’s becoming critical for customers to have this technology, rather than just using paper copies that might be lying around in different locations, it makes life so much easier and their future will be more cost effective and efficient.”
In addition to its work in the hydrocarbons sector, the company’s energy portfolio extends into areas such as renewables, nuclear and thermal power stations. “This sector’s diversification has served us well in other areas, with WorleyParsons having been involved in ten of the world’s largest renewables projects,” AlKady says.
Away from the day-to-day realities and challenges of steering the business, AlKady brings up the importance of WorleyParsons’ commitment to in-country value (sometimes referred to as nationalisation schemes) on a number of occasions, and seems genuinely passionate about the company’s efforts to develop the region’s next generation of top-tier engineers.
“We believe that developing regional talent is not a luxury but a social responsibility. We’ve developed national talent in Oman and Saudi Arabia for the main operators in these countries, as well as for other markets such as Kazakhstan where nationalisation is also a strategic priority. We have done this by taking fresh graduates and developing them to become very successful engineers. We have developed a programme that runs across a number of years, which takes in all areas of the job. We create graduate development programmes that include not just technical training, but allow them to develop managerial and leadership skills. We empower them to manage their own career path. We’re uniquely placed to offer project delivery application training – on the job training combined with study, experience on-site – it is really sophisticated.”
To this end, WorleyParsons is establishing a campus of the WorleyParsons Academy in the region, and it will be only its second in the world (the other being in Houston), located in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
“There is a need for it in this part of the world; we want to take the best graduates from the universities and develop them over a period of time. It is critical that they have the experience and ability to manage teams, assets, third parties, and so on. We want to give them that capability to manage and deliver,” says AlKady.
“It is difficult for universities to send us engineers with a full knowledge of what they are expected to do in real life, and on the job. So I think we are bridging that gap by bringing them into our company, and helping them develop. We have many engineers that have been through the programme and have been successful.”
AlKady seems like a man with a spring in his step, invigorated by what is still a new role, and hungry to make his mark.
“I am excited by the brain power the company has. I look at the engineers, the capabilities and technology, and it makes me feel empowered. I feel very confident about the future of WorleyParsons in the region. We’re here for the long-term and we’ll continue to adopt and use new technologies that the region needs, while delivering top-notch service in terms of schedule and cost to help support our customers. I’m hugely optimistic.”