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Interview

Anje Deschoolmeester – Manager Western Europe, DNV GL – France

DNV GL’s Manager Southern Europe, based in Paris-France, discusses the role and the development of the Group’s French subsidiary since its establishment 20 years ago.

Thirty years ago in 1984, DNV signed its first contract in France. Twenty years ago, the company opened its French office, and last year, DNV under its new name DNV GL became the uncontested leader in its field. We believe it would be interesting to start this interview by understanding how important is the French office to the O&G BA today?

France is home to major players in the oil and gas industry and out of our top global O&G clients, 3 of them are headquartered in France: Total, Technip and GDF Suez (now Engie). Alongside operators and EPC’s, France also hosts a considerable number of manufacturers. Although the current trend is to manufacture in countries with lower production costs, high quality and innovative solutions and components are still engineering or manufactured in France, which serves to explain our presence in France.

DNV GL provides technical advice, consultancy and risk assessment services to the Oil and Gas industry. What type of contracts and missions are carried out from France?

Our oil and gas unit comprises more than 30 people and mainly delivers risk management advisory services in areas such as safety risk , management system and reliability studies. We also perform third party verification and certification and offer project management solutions for verification and technical advisory projects, while the execution is conducted in other global offices. We serve mainly challenging markets in the offshore and entire gas value chain industry.

DNV GL was recently awarded a new contract by Total E&P in Angola. What is the role of the French subsidiary in winning assurance and consultancy contracts abroad on behalf of major French companies? How do you foster and boost further ties with the Headquarters here in France?

The role of the French office in winning foreign projects depends on the nature of the latter. We are project managers and can act as the interface for our clients. DNV GL is committed to foster loyal and lasting partnerships with its clients. In order to fulfill this objective, our teams must adapt and adopt the culture of every country of operation. It is critical for us to understand and recognize the specific regulations, customs and requirements in each country. We are handling a project for Technip and Total in the North Sea whereby project management for verification is conducted from Paris while execution falls under the umbrella of our Danish and Korean offices; risk and reliability management is coordinated between here and Oslo. Overall, our local office enables us to be more mindful and responsive to our clients’ needs and signals.

Our portfolio is partly composed of Capex projects, which are in turn deeply impacted by the current crisis. During economic slowdowns our Opex projects are thus even more important.

DNV GL is deeply attached to the development of its professionals, which ultimately constitute our main assets. DNV GL subscribes to a development philosophy whereby 10% comes from learning, 20% from coaching and 70% comes from field experience. In that regard, training centers and exchange programs are essential. We offer them international training and knowledge booster programs. For instance, some Russian and Japanese colleagues were recently dispatched to Paris to learn from our missions and assimilate our skill set in order to apply them later on for projects carried in their domestic markets.

We understand that from France, you cover the Oil and Gas in Western Europe (Spain, Portugal, Belgium). What exactly is your scope of activities in Western Europe given that like France, none of those countries are key oil & gas producers? Are such countries serving as training centers or providing other assets for the group?

In Spain, we are still undertaking projects on behalf of the remaining major O&G players. We work closely with Repsol, which recently acquired Talisman, demonstrating its commitment to further develop in the upstream sector. We therefore collaborate with our UK colleagues to facilitate this transition. In Portugal, players like Galp Energia are also aspiring to entrench their presence in the upstream realm. Belgium on the other hand is home to important players in the downstream sector: refineries and petrochemicals. Our team there has developed into a competence center for small-scale LNG fueled vessels. The port of Antwerp was a notable precursor in that regard.

You were given the mandate of driving sales and business development in French-speaking North-Africa. What is the role of France in building networks in regions with close cultural and historical ties to France, such as Algeria for example?

When you travel to North Africa you can immediately recognize the influence that France exercised over time, especially in regards to regulations. In Algeria for example, national laws are almost identical to French laws. Within this context DNV GL adapts and capitalizes on the knowledge and expertise acquired in France. It is part of our mission to safeguard life, property and the environment and we see that we are able to live our objective by helping clients and countries in Francophone Africa.

How challenging do you find the business environment in North Africa and let’s take a closer look to Algeria. The country’s Minister of Energy unveiled a $90 billion investment plan which in his own words highlights his commitment to “launch a number of new projects in 2016”. How will DNV GL position itself to seize these opportunities, and in this context, what could be the role of the French subsidiary?

It is very challenging to do business in Algeria because of the tedious administrative processes in place and the security challenges. Since 2008 we managed to demonstrate our competencies and trustworthiness and were able to penetrate the market. I take pride in the HSE brand that we erected in Algeria as well as in the well established partnership with local authorities. Today, we work with the national (Sonatrach) and international oil majors (TOTAL, Engie, Repsol,..) present in Algeria. The investment plan unveiled by Minister Yousfi and the CEO of Sonatrach englobes upstream offshore projects and further development in shale gas, which signifies interesting opportunities for DNV GL. We want to help Algerian players establish well-designed practices characterized by safety and quality in those new fields where they are less familiar with.

Globally, DNV GL dominates the market with a 21% market share. French player Bureau Veritas is also performing very well. How challenging is it to conduct business in a country where Bureau Veritas services and presence have been locally entrenched for decades?

It is obviously very challenging to position ourselves in a country that hosts a dominant domestic player. Until a few years ago, DNV GL didn’t participate in calls for tender issued by Total for classification, yet three years ago, we broke this trend by winning an important classification contract on behalf of Total in Congo. Nowadays, DNV GL is consistently conveyed to present its services and solutions to major French operators and EPC’s.

Our main competitive advantage, besides our independence backed by a foundation, resides in our yearly investment (5% of our turnover) into research and innovation with the need of the industry players in the center and resulting in new best practices and standards to make the world safer, smarter and greener. Our efforts to introduce cost-efficient solutions allowing more standardization are welcomed by our clients and partners.

What are your objectives regarding the development of the French affiliate?

The French oil and gas industry is undoubtedly technology-driven and privy to complex and challenging projects, which compels us to articulate solutions that respond to these characteristics.

My main objective is to build recognition for our French office , within both risk management and verification, in challenging markets. Our ultimate objective is to progressively win more market share from our well-established competitors. We realize that despite not being able to compete with France-based resources, we have the advantage of our global network of colleagues and their expertise in DNV GL, which extends well beyond what most competitors can offer our clients.

Click here to read more articles and interviews from France, and to download the latest free oil and gas report on the country. 

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