Michael Ross
Vice President and Country Manager for Mexico
View from the Top

Safe and on Time Key to Working with Unions

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 08:51

Q: In which oil and gas segment does Kiewit see the biggest business opportunity in Mexico?

A: We can see a great deal of potential in the midstream sector, especially in the area of fuel storage. We are also working hard to identify more opportunities in other segments of the oil and gas industry; however, it is difficult to identify which project will move forward and will become a reality and which ones are not viable. Kiewit was fortunate to be involved in the development of the Puerto Progreso storage terminal. Progreso is one of the first new liquid fuels terminals in Mexico. We have been working on the Progreso project for over 11 months with the first shipment of fuel scheduled to arrive on May 28. Progreso is a great example of our commitment to deliver our projects on-time and on-budget.

Q: What challenges did Kiewit find when developing the storage terminal in Puerto Progreso?

A: Before beginning the project, we thought one of the hardest aspects was going to be handling some of the related workers’ unions, as they have a reputation in the country of being hard to deal with. Fortunately, we have had excellent relationships with all the unions we have worked with in Mexico. We believe this is in part due to the union’s recognition that Kiewit wants to provide their members — our employees — with a very safe, clean work environment and that we want to provide good long-term career opportunities for our craftsmen and women. We want to provide our workers with very safe and secure daily working conditions at our sites. We have solved every minor or major conflict with our workers thanks to our relationship with their unions and our shared commitment to delivering the best outcome for the project.
To construct the storage tanks at Progreso, we hired a Mexican tank-building company. The initial work did not go well but Kiewit and the subcontractor worked together to identify a number of time-saving ideas, including the introduction of new equipment that dramatically improved the productivity of the tank-building company’s craftsmen and together we managed to make up lost time and to take the erection of the tank off the critical path. Instead of going through a negative cycle, we decided to be proactive and help the subcontractor with tools, technology and work processes to help make it more successful in its work. Their productivity increased so much that the company even bought some of the machinery we lent it.
Q: How attractive are the Mexican upstream and downstream sectors for Kiewit? A: While we are seeing a great business opportunity in the midstream sector, we do not limit ourselves to only those kinds of projects. Kiewit has strong expertise in the upstream and downstream sectors with several projects in the US and Canada and it is looking to bring these capabilities to Mexico. 
Q: How did the first project developed by Kiewit in Mexico secure it a strong foothold in the country? A: The first job we performed in Mexico was to install two natural gas compression stations for TransCanada in Tula and Valle de Reyes, a project that showcased our capabilities in the oil and gas industry. The biggest difficulties we faced during the project were not technical but on the regulatory side, related to getting all the rights of way and permits. By closely collaborating with TransCanada we finished the project on schedule and in compliance with all safety standards. 
Q: What would make a company an ideal partner for Kiewit? A: We are looking for potential engineering and construction partners. While we have substantial experience in those areas, we still lack experience in the country. Partnerships with these types of companies would help us develop a much broader understanding of how to be a successful EPC company in Mexico.