Ai­bel Thai­land proves Thai­land’s skilled work­force can com­pete on a global level.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - HENRI VIIRALT

Si­t­u­ated on the Ut­sira Height in the North Sea, some 160 kilo­me­tres west of Sta­vanger, Jo­han Sver­drup is one of the largest oil fields on the Nor­we­gian con­ti­nen­tal shelf.

With pro­jected re­sources be­tween 1.9-3 bil­lion bar­rels of oil equiv­a­lents, it is also set to be one of Nor­way’s most im­por­tant in­dus­trial projects over the next five decades.

In 2015, Sta­toil, the ap­pointed work­ing op­er­a­tor for the field, awarded the con­tract for en­gi­neer­ing, pro­cure­ment and con­struc­tion (EPC) for the deck of the drilling plat­form, with an es­ti­mated value of NOK 8 bil­lion, to Ai­bel, a lead­ing ser­vice com­pany within the oil and gas in­dus­try, which op­er­ates in Nor­way, Thai­land, Sin­ga­pore and Den­mark.

The plat­form deck for the drilling plat­form com­prises three sep­a­rate mod­ules: the main sup­port frame, which was built in Ai­bel’s yard in Thai­land, the drilling sup­port mod­ule, as­sem­bled in the com­pany’s yard in Hauge­sund, and the drilling equip­ment set, de­liv­ered by a part­ner, Nymo, in Grim­stad.

For Ai­bel Thai­land, lo­cated in Laem Cha­bang, around an hour and a half’s drive from Bangkok, be­ing awarded this pres­ti­gious con­tract was an im­por­tant win, built on years of solid co­op­er­a­tion with Sta­toil on the Gu­drun and Troll projects that proved be­yond doubt that Ai­bel is ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing ma­jor EPC projects while com­ply­ing with strict, Nor­we­gian tech­ni­cal qual­ity re­quire­ments.

“The Jo­han Sver­drup project has been a pro­gres­sion from past work with Sta­toil, a con­tin­u­ous de­vel­op­ment in size and ca­pac­ity. The tech­nol­ogy and com­plex­ity in­volved in this plat­form is some of the high­est in the in­dus­try,” says Nick Rout­ledge, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Ai­bel Thai­land. “For Ai­bel Thai­land, the im­por­tance has been the con­ti­nu­ity in work. We’ve been able to em­ploy a nearly 2,000-head work­force for close to two years dur­ing a pe­riod which has been con­sid­ered very low for the in­dus­try due to the drop in de­mand for oil.”

Although Ai­bel Thai­land had set nu­mer­ous records on the project in terms of in­stal­la­tion time and amounts of work un­der­taken at the Laem Cha­bang yard, the sheer com­plex­ity and the tight sched­ule of the project meant that the work­force was con­stantly chal­lenged from be­gin­ning to end.

“Com­plex­ity re­ally is key here – the main chal­lenges re­volved mainly in wrap­ping our heads around the scale. There were a few de­lays com­ing through which we had to man­age, but we man­aged that quite suc­cess­fully. Keep­ing the fo­cus on qual­ity and main­tain­ing the rig­or­ous sched­ule dur­ing a lengthy project such as this can be chal­leng­ing wher­ever you are in the world,” Mr Rout­ledge says.

Suriya Pho­jit, the con­struc­tion man­ager for the mod­ule built at Ai­bel Thai­land, whose re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on the Jo­han Sver­drup project ranged from man­ag­ing and over­see­ing the day-to-day con­struc­tion, en­sur­ing com­pli­ance with Sta­toil’s ex­pec­ta­tions, as well as li­ais­ing be­tween the work­force, sub­con­trac­tors and the client, says that com­plet­ing the project in ac­cor­dance to Sta­toil’s strict re­quire­ments has been a mile­stone achieve­ment for the Thai team.

“This has been the largest mod­ule built not only by Ai­bel Thai­land, but it’s the largest mo­bile unit built in all of Thai­land. In terms of com­plex­ity and tech­ni­cal standard re­quire­ments, it’s three times larger than the pre­vi­ous M11 mod­ule, which I used to man­age. De­liv­er­ing on time and meet­ing the safety and qual­ity ex­pec­ta­tions from the client has been ex­tremely sat­is­fy­ing on a per­sonal level,” he says.

Mr Rout­ledge points out that the en­tire plat­form is de­signed to have a 50year life­span, which is quite ex­cep­tional con­sid­er­ing that most plat­forms are usu­ally built to last for 20- 30 years. In prac­tice, it means that the plat­form has to stand and face all the el­e­ments off­shore for the en­tire du­ra­tion. There­fore, the qual­ity of work­man­ship and the ma­te­ri­als have to be of an ex­tremely high standard, as­sur­ing that the paint has to last and the metal can’t cor­rode over the decades.

“The Sver­drup project stands as a key step­ping stone for us, I can say that. Corny as it may sound, it’s true that we’re in the ma­jor league now. When you’re say­ing that you’re build­ing some­thing of this com­plex­ity in Thai­land, you’re met with raised eye­brows since peo­ple didn’t think it’s pos­si­ble that this size of plat­form can be built here and so this project puts not only Ai­bel Thai­land but the Thai work­force on the map,” Mr Rout­ledge says.

For de­vel­op­ing the work­force for fu­ture projects, Mr Rout­ledge would like to pro­mote fur­ther train­ing on the con­struc­tion and en­gi­neer­ing side; in­clud­ing tak­ing en­gi­neers to Ai­bel’s fa­cil­i­ties Nor­way, which in turn will help bring fur­ther projects to Thai­land. He’s also quick to point out that the scale of the Thai fa­cil­i­ties will play an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant role in the com­pany’s over­all strat­egy be­cause of the un­favourable weather con­di­tions in Nor­way, re­strict­ing work to in­doors.

In terms of diver­si­fi­ca­tion and risk mit­i­ga­tion for growth, he says that Ai­bel is ven­tur­ing be­yond the oil & gas sec­tor, and that they’re al­ready bid­ding on var­i­ous re­new­ables projects in off­shore wind in the Far East.

“The cul­tures of Nor­way and Thai­land are very dif­fer­ent from each other, but there seems to be a good align­ment be­tween the two and de­spite the dif­fer­ences, it’s easy to find syn­er­gies. The Nor­we­gian ap­proach can be a bit black and white, straight­for­ward and some­times con­fronta­tional, whereas the Thai cul­ture is any­thing but. It’s im­por­tant to man­age the mix of the two and in do­ing so, you can put a very strong team to­gether where they un­der­stand their re­spec­tive cul­tures and draw out the best from each other. It will help us move for­ward to­gether, and I think that’s what we’ve achieved here in Ai­bel Thai­land,” Mr Rout­ledge says.

PHOTO: FUTUREBOARDS Ai­bel Thai­land proves the king­dom’s skilled work­force can com­pete on a global level in the oil & gas in­dus­try

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