AlMansoori Specialized Engineering CEO Nabil Al Alawi speaks with Pipeline Magazine’s Julian Walker about his outlook for the oil and gas industry and where the UAE service company is looking for growth opportunities.
Nabil Al Alawi’s AlMansoori came into 2019 full of optimism about the oil and gas industry and is very bullish about the growth opportunities.
“We are very, very bullish. We know we have gone through a very low cycle over the last 2-3 years. This has been very challenging from whichever way you look at. With our company strategy having a diversified approach towards geographical locations and services, the major part of our work is here in the Gulf region and as all the contracts in the Gulf are long-term, we had ongoing contracts that although slowed down, never stopped,” said Al Alawi.
He added: “When we look at the forecast for this year and the next few years it is all positive. Rig counts are going up in the UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. There is also activity and rig increase taking place in India due to opening-up of the market for foreign players in the new licensing rounds. We have capitalised on these changes by bringing our services to India. All of these are strong indicators of regional growth. The high activity level of shale drilling in the U.S. is putting a premium on assets. This helps the service providers to push our prices back up where they realistically should be.”
Al Alawi said that he was excited about the next growth phase and he feels that the firm’s clients are starting to see this growth.
Focus on India and Saudi Arabia
“AlMansoori will be focusing on two countries in particular this year and these are Saudi Arabia and India, both expected to be key growth markets. These will be in full support of AlMansoori’s aspiration of 30 per cent business increase from 2018 to 2019. The acceleration in the rig-fleet size and the unconventional activities in both countries will be underpinning our success,” explained Al Alawi.
AlMansoori has been in Saudi Arabia for 15 years and the plan is to expand rapidly in the Kingdom.
“Our client there has said we have to commit to support them otherwise they will go to a competitor. We are very happy with the client and that they appreciate our quality service. They have been very supportive of us also. They are one of our best clients. It is a win win for us in Saudi Arabia as we have one of our best clients and it is a market we want to grow in,” said Al Alawi.
According to Al Alawi, AlMansoori had developed the right strategy to grow rapidly in their directional drilling business in India.
“We had some great contracts late last year. We can see a huge growth in that market in India.”
AlMansoori is planning to increase its directional drilling business.
“This business was one of the services that was slow for a long time but the differentiating technologies like rotary steerable and logging while drilling technologies are no longer controlled by the major international service companies. This will allow us to rapidly grow our directional drilling business whilst earlier we were limited by not having access to this technology.”
Technology at the heart of AlMansoori
“The most recent exciting technology we have brought through is called logging while tripping. It is a unique logging capability and we have the exclusivity for the whole MENA region working with the company that has the proprietary technology of this tool.”
Al Alawi said that with using conventional logging tools with radioactive sources in it there is the risk that once the tool gets stuck, an environmental liability is created.
“Our logging while tripping tool gets deployed inside the drill pipe. After drilling the hole is finished the tool is dropped inside the string and full logging takes place during the trip out of the hole. After introducing it successfully, we can see that the results and quality are as good as cable logging,” he explained.
“We are being hired by companies doing horizontal drilling where the logging tools cannot go to the bottom. We are hired in all difficult drilling conditions. We think once our clients get to know that this is a tool that saves them money and reduces risk, they will decide to standardise and use this tool. We are very excited about this new technology. Like everything new it will take time to be adopted.”
Al Alawi said that 2019 will also see the company focus on their e-Slick Line technology.
“We have already done 2-3 trial runs in 2018 that went really well. We can now do e-Slick Line and cable. This is a one of a kind slickline cable, which has an installed copper wire in it enabling us to perform standard slickline operations at the same time record logging data in a real time mode. As a regional and local company we are the only provider that has this technology the “e-Slickline” in the MENA region; we believe this is a breakthrough in the slickline industry, the first ever “Electrical Slickline” and we are proud to be the first company offering this solution. We have pioneered it here in the region and it has been successful. We think it is going to be a big growth area for us in the coming years,” noted Al Alawi.
AlMansoori doesn’t have a traditional R&D department but what it does offer is the best in class of technologies from around the world.
Al Alawi explained: “We don’t have an R&D department. We scout around for the latest technologies from around the world to then bring these technologies to the region. We don’t have to use our own technology as we can search around for the best. We have a chief technology officer whose full-time job is to scout for new technologies from smaller companies and then to tie up with the companies.”
He added: “We have a huge advantage of being flexible about choosing what tool is the best in the market. If this means we buy our competitors’ tool then we will do that. We do this already with Schlumberger as all our high performance directional drilling motors are from them.”
Al Alawi said that: “At the end of the day my business is in service. I want to offer the best quality service with the best assets available in the market. Our method means we can find and implement tools quicker than our larger competitors.”
AlMansoori is embracing digitalisation and the company has changed its systems so that everything can run off smartphones.
“Digitalisation has been there but gradually everything is moving to real time. We’ve changed our systems over the last three years and the future is digital.”
AlMansoori’s CEO gave an example.
“All our standard operating procedures are going digital. With our directional drilling we now have a drilling centre in our workshop where it is connected to most of the places we are drilling. At any one time on a live basis we can see what they are doing in the field. We have a centre in New Delhi where all the rigs we are operating are monitored on a real-time basis.”
For two years AlMansoori has had a chief happiness officer.
“We started it at the same time the government announced there was going to be a minister of happiness. It has made a big change in the morale at AlMansoori. We see it every day,” said Al Alawi.
According to Al Alawi, AlMansoori did a lot of parties to start with.
“Every division has to do a party every month. When you do this you get people to interact socially and this can help perceptions improve. We invited families to the parties and this allows everyone’s families to meet and this in turn helps create a family atmosphere,” he said.
Al Alawi added: “We are trying to create an air of positivity. If we win a contract we circulate it to all our employees. Before only the division who won an award knew about it but now the whole company does. We want to celebrate success.”
AlMansoori is also doing something different when it comes to failures.
“We are also doing something new in our health and safety approach which we are calling Fail Fest. It is a festival of failures, which not many companies are doing. We are doing it because we want to say when you fail it does not mean the end of the world. We look at the four worst failures and then get the guys to come and explain what actually went wrong and why they failed. We all look into it positively and we don’t blame anyone. It is amazing how much people improve when it doesn’t become a blame culture.”
Al Alawi was adamant that in his company he doesn’t punish anyone for safety.
“I teach people that we will recognise safety and reward you for safety but I won’t penalise you if you have an accident.”
AlMansoori really takes prides in having a healthy work force.
“As a responsible employer it is important that we have a rigorous health programme. We started our employee health programme around 12 years ago. When we started it we needed to look at ways to benchmark health. I want to train my people health wise and educate them health wise,” said Al Alawi.
He added: “I am going to tell them about how the body works. Our employees have to take these courses and we have found that people are ready to listen. We have seen a big difference over the twelve years. It is very important for people to be aware of the health issues.”
The success of this health programme means that AlMansoori also offers it to companies it is working for.
“We are now going outside and working with oil companies like Shell, BP and Apache in Egypt and we have brought our health programme to them all.”
Meaningful training and stellar safety record
“Our safety record is very strong. In March we celebrated a new record with Total, 25 years without a lost time incident. Not one single accident, which is an amazing achievement,” Al Alawi said proudly.
“Training has always been a key part of our business. To compete with the big boys we have many handicaps. We don’t have the history to compete with the 100-year old company. To outperform my competitors I knew when I set this company up that I needed the best trained people and the best safety record. I made sure I concentrated on this,” Al Alawi said.
For instance he said: “When you take slick-line work, other companies train someone in 18 months to two years before they can become an operator. I do it in four years. I spend more money on training my people. So when I release him or her I want to make sure they will not make any mistakes. It has really paid off for us. I have seen it over and over again. I cannot afford to make a mistake.”
Al Alawi decided that he needed to build a training centre in Abu Dhabi for his workers.
“I decided to build a dedicated training centre called Gulf Technical and Safety Training Centre (GTSC) in Abu Dhabi 25 years ago. When I started my company the closest dedicated training centres were in Singapore and Aberdeen. Today, GTSC is the fourth largest oil and gas training centre in the world. We built it because we wanted to train our people but today it is a big business. We just upgraded the centre, which we do every five years.”
Al Alawi concluded by saying: “I am very passionate about our company and the oil and gas industry. I love what I’m doing and I have an amazing workforce. We have 3000 plus employees and we expect to add around 500 more in 2019.”
This interview appeared in the April issue of Pipeline Magazine