Weir Oil & Gas’ new boss Ronan Le Gloahec talked about how Weir is stepping up a gear and starting to operate facilities in the region that is a major breakthrough for the engineering firm.
Weir has a 146-year history in the industry and it was this long-term history that first pulled Ronan Le Gloahec to the role that he took up in late April this year as regional managing director for EMEA at Weir Oil and Gas.
“Before I decided to take up this role I knew that Weir was well known in the industry because it is one of the oldest engineering business brands. What I had not realised is that we had been in the Middle East region for 133 years when we started in Egypt in 1884 with the first desalination plants,” said Le Gloahec.
When Le Gloahec started in late April he committed to visiting all of Weir’s 10 manufacturing, engineering, and services centres around the Middle East, Europe and the Caspian region in his first 100 days. Le Gloahec was about to complete the task the week after Pipeline’s interview in July with a visit to the final centre on the list in the Caspian.
“Going to all our regional centres has given me great insight into our regional operations. I think we have an outstanding regional footprint from Aberdeen to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Caspian. We really do have a wide coverage across the regions,” he went on: “More importantly the pride I see working for Weir in the region is second to none. I see a lot of pride in that heritage of the 146 years history of innovating engineering.”
Facing the head winds
Like the whole oil and gas industry, Weir has had to face a major downturn over the last two and half years.
“What we have seen is probably the most significant downturn that we have experienced in the Weir markets in the last 30 years. The fact is despite the headwinds in the last two years, we have maintained our capability unlike other players in the industry,” said Le Gloahec.
In fact, Weir has seen the downturn as an actual opportunity “to work with oil and gas customers and help them reduce their total costs.”
He explained: “We have been privy to these initiatives because we have supported these markets for such a long time. We are entrenched within the Middle East market and countries in the region have invited us to the table to work with operators/customers in upstream, midstream and downstream to see how Weir can support them in lowering their cost base.”
Le Gloahec added: “Because we have invested heavily in the region we have been able to participate in these efforts on a country level. We have also made a significant investment with a new manufacturing HQ in Dubai and this has given our customers the confidence that we are a local and loyal solutions provider.”
Disruptive R&D philosophy
As well as working with customers on bringing down their overall cost base, Weir has, at a division level, maintained its investment into R&D.
As reported in its 2016 trading results last year the Weir Group spent 1.5 per cent of total investments on R&D.
“We have committed to raising this to 2 per cent going forward. The R&D philosophy of Weir is we are always trying to bring products/solutions that are disruptive in nature. They have to be aligned with where our customers are headed,” said Le Gloahec.
He added: “We want to address a gap. We are bringing digital into the picture. We manage such a breadth of assets for our customers that we can make better informed decisions on site with the help of digitisation.”
According to Le Gloahec, Weir is a leader in the pressure pumping industry and they have recently strengthened their pressure control position with the acquisition of KOP Surface Products.
“This acquisition is a testimony of our ambition where we not only fund our R&D efforts but we are also always on the lookout for disruptive solutions that are complementary to Weir’s existing portfolio.”
Moving up a gear to operate
As part of what Weir offers, the firm has an OEM segment but also has two key service offerings.
“One of them is operations and maintenance, whereby a customer would hand us the key to their facilities and we would operate and maintain them. Our services aim at extending the life of their assets.”
“We really have focused on the operating part and this year we have been awarded some key projects in Iraq, whereby we are operating key facilities on behalf of the customer. This is quite a breakthrough for us, as we have a strong franchise in the maintenance domain. However, to take us to the trusted advisor level we had to be given the chance to operate, which we have done,” noted Le Gloahec.
He added: “In Iraq, our first project was mobilised in February for a Chinese firm then we had two at the end of June with Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Lukoil on West Qurna-2. We are operating the gas processing plant in West Qurna-2 for Lukoil and we have a team of 60 there. Between the three projects we mobilised 260 employees in the last 6 months, with a high percentage of local talent.”
Le Gloahec made it clear that he hopes the success in Iraq will be replicated outside the country.
“We are talking to Lukoil about furthering our cooperation. On the back of this success we are leveraging the good work done in Iraq to potentially expand that within other countries that Lukoil operates in.”
New fracking solutions
Weir’s leading position in pressure pumping means they have had the opportunity to discuss at the right level with a few key partners on what needs to be changed in the fracking world.
Le Gloahec said. “A key challenge in the fracking industry is the amount of moving parts on site, the amount of unproductive time and exposure to safety with high pressure operations. So at OTC in Houston this year, we rolled out our new simplified fracturing system, where we are doing a lot more with a lot less.”
He added: “We have a fewer connections on site and we have a larger bore, a much straighter streamlined offering that allows us to do it with fewer connections, so less HSE exposure and reduced time on location. This was launched initially in the U.S. and Canada but we have seen quite a bit of interest in the international market.”
Full stream offering
In the Middle East region, Le Gloahec feels that a mix of solutions is the ideal way to approach the market and he feels Weir has that right mix.
“We understand what Middle East customers are facing. In order to produce at a lower cost base it is very important to have a high level partnership with our customer. They look for trusted advisors who have been in the country for a long time and have the right engineering discipline and we can offer all of that.”
He explained that Weir’s trusted advisory role comes into play in helping customers extend the life of an asset but also in optimising the performance of an asset.
“We have the capability to take an OEM pipe, use the latest technology to get a deep understanding of its performance and make it more efficient. Once we have re-worked the assets we become the engineering partner of the OEM.”
He added: “We operate not only on the OEM front but we have also built a very strong franchise on rotating equipment that is both turbo machinery as well as local service centre equipment. We are quite involved in the up and mid-downstream segments of the industry through our rotating equipment vertical.”
“Going forward, we really want to maintain this full stream offering where we go from wellhead to the grid and/or wellhead to the pipeline. We see this as our distinctive advantage where we can relieve our customers from the actual operating of assets and having the Weir team
backing them up from field development all the way to abandonment of the assets and then maintaining the facilities throughout by extending the life of these assets,” Le Gloahec concluded.
This interview appeared in the August issue of Pipeline Magazine