Production Strategy Drives Platform DemandWed, 01/22/2014 - 14:40
Given the demand outlook for both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic offshore infrastructure markets, certain companies are making significant investments in fabrication facilities in Mexico to take advantage of the coming opportunities. An example of this is McDermott, an engineering, procurement, construction, and installation (EPCI) company that has been operating since 1923, which started developing a fabrication yard in Altamira in 2007 to serve the local market as well as international clients. This yard was inaugurated in 2008, and has now officially replaced the company’s Morgan City fabrication yard, which was decommissioned in 2013, as McDermott’s only fabrication facility in the Americas. Juan Manuel Pineda, Vice President and General Manager of McDermott Mexico, characterizes the evolution of the project since then in very positive terms: “We have been progressively expanding the facility, its capabilities, workforce and the number of projects. Personnel from our fabrication yards around the world have been actively engaged in assisting our Mexican yard management team to develop this outstanding facility.” This evolution has also been obvious in the yard’s physical properties, as Pineda explains: “The Altamira yard is 119-acres, with 40-ft quayside water depth; it was designed by leveraging best practices and lessons learned from long established McDermott fabrication facilities worldwide, to ensure an efficient, first-class operation with deepwater access and no restrictions to the Gulf of Mexico. It has been built through staged upgrades from the original capital expenditure commitment. Structurally, the most significant upgrade, completed in 2011, is a large 1.26-hectare enclosed assembly area with protective covered bays, equipped to allow work to be performed during inclement weather for improved conditions and productivity.”
The Altamira shipyard is now addressing the needs of both the Mexican market and McDermott’s larger market in the Americas region in general. As Pineda puts it, “going forward, Altamira and the opportunities that the Mexican market now offers will play a significant role in McDermott’s global operations, even more so as Altamira has become the focal point for fabrication serving the Americas region, both for PEMEX’s domestic requirements and export work for international clients.” The Altamira shipyard is competitive nationally and internationally and Pineda is quick to list its most important advantages. “The attributes that set our yard apart from its domestic competitors include the deepwater protected quayside, topside integration capabilities for Tension Leg Platform and semi hulls at our 500-meter long quayside, which can also support FPSO module fabrication and integration.”
McDermott got started in Mexico with standard shallow water projects; some of the first tenders it was awarded included two small shallow water platforms, which served as useful projects when it came to establishing a background and experience working with PEMEX. In 2013, McDermott won contracts for the construction of platforms Ayastil-B and PB-Litoral-A. “This evolution shows that we built our expertise alongside PEMEX, which is essential since the international recognition we had outside of Mexico could not supplant our lack of experience with PEMEX. When PEMEX tenders full EPCI projects for production platforms, compression platforms, and even living-quarter platforms, we offer all our capabilities in order to offer a competitive solution,” says Pineda. McDermott’s influence in Mexico and in PEMEX’s operations is not to be underestimated; for example, when during the execution of PB-Litoral-A, its FEED analysis (front-end engineering design) concluded that a float-over method was more convenient for the topside installation than a traditional crane lift, due to the larger size of the platform involved. PEMEX was reluctant to accept this approach due to its inexperience with the technology involved. Although this situation could have resulted in extensive delays or outright cancellations, McDermott was able to overcome this obstacle and convince PEMEX of this installation method. “We managed to do this thanks to our extensive track record of successful float-over installations in Southeast Asia, which has led to the firm becoming experts in such operations,” says Pineda. “Our high standards for project execution, our approach to risk analysis and project controls, our advanced technology across marine operations and fabrication yards, and our borderless approach to safety regardless of project, country or customer, are just some of the factors we stress when promoting our float-over capabilities.”
McDermott’s international presence and asset inventory stretches vastly beyond the Altamira facility to include an extensive fleet of vessels, a network of global engineering offices, and fabrication yards in China, Indonesia, and Dubai. The advantages for PEMEX in having a partner that can manage the entire lifecycle of offshore projects are described by Pineda: “We provide PEMEX with the opportunity of using just one contractor for full EPCI services where we can integrate our assets, and the ability to reduce the cost and complexity of interfacing with multiple contractors. It also allows us more scheduling flexibility and management efficiency.” The capacity of the Altamira facility is also capable of meeting the needs of the future Mexican deepwater industry.
“We have been working in deepwater for many years, and we are already familiar with what Mexico will require to develop projects through a range of subsea and floating solutions.” “We have systems and processes to execute projects that are different from those of our competitors in Mexico in welding, rigging, assembly, lifting of big structures, safety, and other areas. We sometimes provide PEMEX management teams with technical training, and we have hosted many workshops for their employees over the years, covering topics such as deepwater, shallow water, installation methods, pipelines, and new technologies,” says Pineda. As Altamira’s operations grow, McDermott’s needs in terms of human resources will be aligned with PEMEX and Mexico’s needs in terms of national content and professional development of the oil and gas workforce. “We are currently building a training facility at the Altamira yard. Besides the basic orientation training for newly hired employees, we have an established range of competency programs to keep our employees updated on the latest technologies and McDermott procedures.”