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