Advancing Shallow Water TechnologyWed, 01/22/2014 - 14:40
C&C Technologies, the provider of survey and mapping services for the onshore and offshore oil and gas industry, is in the process of bringing a new product to the market known as autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs). “These remotely operated robots move along the surface of the sea, substituting manned vessels. ASVs are smaller than regular crafts and also grant the user the option of being operated from onshore locations such as Ciudad del Carmen. Their cost benefit is significant, as an ocean class DP2 vessel with a capacity of 30 people starts at about US$100,000 but ASVs can perform similar tasks for a fraction of that price. One of our companies in the UK is finishing this product. Considering its cost and potential, it will be a technological hit,” says José Aguilar, Director General of C&C Technologies Geomar de México, who highlights the correlation between C&C Technology’s market presence and its technological developments. The company is set to make the ASVs the backbone of its business line for the next few years. Over the past five years, the main market for C&C Technologies in Mexico has been offering services for the construction of submarine pipelines and flow lines in shallow water. C&C Technologies’ expertise naturally lies in shallow water exploration. “In order to build a robust future, C&C Technologies has invested in the latest technology,” says Aguilar. Although other companies try to compete in the submarine line area, Aguilar says C&C Technologies is chosen over other contenders as PEMEX favors its technological innovations. “The Mexican oil sector will not bloom unless offshore platforms and submarine lines are developed. PEMEX still has to develop approximately 40 lines, giving C&C Technologies an opportunity to build and extend infrastructure,” says Aguilar.
Despite being present in ten countries, C&C Technologies is biding its time in Mexico. The company is already active in Brazil and the US but is choosing to wait and see what derives from the Energy Reform before expanding its presence in Mexico, despite having been invited to participate in bids. A similar situation occurred when C&C Technologies was invited to participate in a binational initiative involving Mexican and US companies aimed at forming a service pool. This project was put on hold because many participants felt uneasy regarding the outcomes of the Energy Reform. Although the company is providing deepwater services in Brazil, C&C Technologies’ Mexican company has not worked in this sector due to a lack of projects. “Our market begins when fields are developed and begin producing, therefore there is not much for us to do at the time,” explains Aguilar.
Although Aguilar does not consider gas exploration to be a particularly attractive business in Mexico, C&C Technologies has worked in Lakach. But while new fields developments are still in the works, Aguilar points out that most projects in this sector have been continuously delayed over the past five years. “It would be more feasible for PEMEX to stay onshore and leave offshore exploration to companies that are already proficient in this area. Brazil is experiencing many problems with its deepwater operations and its reservoirs have not been as successful as expected. This could happen in Mexico as well, especially considering the lack of technology and capital. Mexico cannot afford this kind of risk,” says Aguilar.
A PEMEX grounded onshore would fit with C&C Technologies current project portfolio, since its onshore operations constitute between 45% and 55% of the firm’s activities at the moment. To hold on to this business, the firm has largely muscled out its competitors. “We created a market that had a very scarce supply. I do not see any competition at the moment,” says Aguilar. C&C Technologies now has five active projects in the southeast of Mexico. Aguilar attributes this success to C&C Technologies having mastered the usage of technologies developed for offshore in onshore projects. With technological capacity not being an issue, the obstacles C&C Technologies faces when performing onshore surveys are entirely social. Aguilar points to illicit activities happening at PEMEX facilities, such as fuel theft and vandalism. Interventions in pipelines and component theft are commonplace. “The authorities are not doing enough about this situation and we are caught in the middle of organized crime groups’ assaults on PEMEX. We already have many things to take care of and our sole responsibility is to look after the physical integrity of the pipelines. As service providers, our duties include reporting anomalies, but we do not have the power to solve this issue.” Aguilar identifies unemployment and lack of opportunities in the Mexican southeast as situations that incite people to attack PEMEX. “C&C Technologies has the technical ability to overcome any challenge. Social unrest is the only problem we face and we cannot contain it.”