13 September 2015, Lagos – Traditionally, General Electric (GE), as the name suggests, has huge interests in the power (electricity) sector. The multinational has a subsidiary (GE Power and Water) wholly devoted to power generation, transmission and distribution across the world. It manufactures gas engines, gas turbines, wind turbines, steam turbines, generators, nuclear reactors, etc. GE is a big player in the Nigerian power sector where there is dire need of electricity. The subsidiary is also in charge of the conglomerate’s water and process technologies.
But beyond the GE area of core competence, it equally has interests in virtually every area of human needs. The American giant has interests in aviation, capital, healthcare, home and business, transportation, etc, with a subsidiary in charge of each interest. GE’s latest leap in Nigeria is into oil and gas. Under the auspices of GE Oil and Gas, the leap is not into the exploration or exploitation of the crude, but into the oil servicing sub-sector where GE is currently into the refurbishment of the Christmas Trees subsea production equipment at its Onne, Port Harcourt, Rivers State site. The site occupies over 3,500 sq. meters of land with standard equipment installed.
Officials of GE Oil and Gas described the refurbishment of the subsea production equipment as an innovation in this part of the world as it is the only organisation in sub-Sahara Africa to do so. In essence, before GE Oil and Gas opened the Onne site, oil firms in need of their subsea production equipment refurbishment had to do so abroad, spending huge sums of hard currency in the process.
The officials claimed to have deployed at least two refurbished Christmas Trees recently. Meanwhile, refurbished Christmas Trees come nearly as new subsea equipment as they have a lifespan of between 15 and 20 years.
The GE Oil and Gas officials, Uzochi Nwogwu, Chief Operating Officer, West Africa; Kenny Yeats, Operations Leader/Regional Services Manager; and Sunny Ojieh, Local Content Manager, West Africa, spoke during a facility tour of the Onne facility by select journalists.
According to Nwogwu, “Onne represents our local content footprint in the oil and gas sector with giant strides in job creation, training and capacity building and supplier development”. The COO explained that the Onne site provides jobs for 600 hires and service trainees, representing 93% of local workforce and seven percent expatriate. He added that the expatriates are trainers while locals carry out the work 100%”. Indeed, preparatory to the Onne facility, GE Oil and Gas recruited 14
Nigerian graduates of engineering, sent them on a 24-month subsea-based training in the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and Brazil.
The trainees, who began the program in June 2013, have since completed the exercise and form the core-technical staff of the facility. The GE Oil and Gas officials told journalists that about $2.4 million was spent training the Nigerian graduates.
Speaking on the rationale behind the training programme, Yeats, said: “Investing in Africa’s future leaders is a big focus for GE because we believe that when you equip people with necessary tools and empower them with specific skills plus techniques, they would be able to deliver sterling performance”.
Nwogwu expressed similar sentiment when he said: “The graduate engineering program is designed to have hands-on experience in subsea production equipment and learn about all the components and how these are assembled. The content is structured to relate to the real world of subsea products and engineering, helping the trainees to connect the dots.
“The trainees are assigned mentors in the workshop who help them to learn and see more about our products. This has helped them to gain practical exposure, simulation experience, product knowledge and system understanding”.
Whereas the sheer size of the Onne facility, the scope of work and the funds sunk are mind-boggling, the GE Oil and Gas officials said it will be a tip of the iceberg of the multinational’s operations in Nigeria when another facility in the pipeline in Calabar, Cross River State is completed.
This is understandable to the extent that the Onne site refurbishes subsea production equipment while the Calabar facility will manufacture. The manufacturing facility will create more opportunities for Nigeria as it has the capacity to create 250 direct jobs and estimated 2,000 indirect operations. Being established in collaboration with Calabar Tech, the GE Oil and Gas officials boasted that the Calabar site will lay the foundation for knowledge and technology transfer to Nigerian sub-suppliers, academic institutions, among others.
Ahead of the take-off of the project, next year (2016), the officials said 15 Nigerian engineering graduates, representing the first batch of trainees, were sent abroad for training in February 2014. The graduates are made up of three manufacturing engineers and 12 technicians.
“By 2018, this state-of-the-art facility will be a hub for GE’s industrial businesses including turbomachinery, fabrication of subsea wellheads, power generation, aero, distributed power and repair service”, Nwogwu, the COO, GE Oil and Gas, West Africa, said.
The facility, according to him, will include a training centre for technical and leadership development.
“We have signed an MoU with Calabar Tech with commitment to invest in capacity/capability build. GE is investing $2million to support building upgrade, curriculum development, teacher training and equipment upgrade”, he added.
On the financial outlay of the GE Oil and Gas in Nigeria, Nwogwu said the multinational will spend over a billion dollars on the Calabar project, among other projects in the country, over the next five years.
*Wale Akinola – Vanguard