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Interview

Brian Dawes – Regional Manager Middle East, Applus Velosi, Abu Dhabi

Brian Dawes, regional manager for the Middle East at Applus Velosi, discusses the company’s current operations in the region, the proprietary non-destructive testing (NDT) technologies that they are introducing to the Middle East, including INCOTEST™, which enables the mapping of corrosion under insulation, as well as his ambitions to grow both in the UAE and regionally over the next few years.

You joined the organization in 2014. Can you provide an overview of Applus Velosi’s current operations in the region?

First and foremost, I am very pleased to say that despite current market conditions, we have been able to significantly grow our market share and expand our operations in the Middle East region. We have built on our longstanding presence in the region, for instance, we have been in Qatar for over two decades now. This puts us in an excellent position to leverage our existing relationships.

Our technologies are novel and proprietary and they are crucial to helping our customers optimize the integrity of the safety and operating conditions of their existing assets.

In terms of our offerings, we have managed to differentiate ourselves from our competitors admirably. Naturally we still provide the full range of conventional certification, inspection and testing services. However over the past 2-3 years we have made many of our activities much more specialized. Health, Safety & Environmental (HSE) services provides a good example. If required, we still offer Environmental Impact Assessments, Hazard and Operability Studies etc. In addition, we now provide Energy Efficiency models, Amusement Park Inspections, Risk Management and Accident Investigation services etc.

We are also particularly excited about our new non-destructive testing (NDT) technologies. As with any service, older NDT technologies have become a commodity. As of 2016, however, we have introduced our own proprietary technologies to the UAE and the Middle East region. This has come as a result of the global merger between Velosi, which is the inspection and testing division of Applus Group, and RTD, which is the advanced NDT division, which was subsequently followed by the acquisition of NDT Technology in the UAE.

The petroleum industry in the Middle East has its own unique features, challenges and opportunities. Can you provide some examples of the new technologies you have introduced specifically to this region?

One excellent example is INCOTEST™ (an acronym for ‘Insulated Component TEST’), a unique corrosion survey method that allows ferrous pipes and vessels to be surveyed through thermal insulation under demanding circumstances. It essentially provides a complete corrosion map of the metal structure and will identify any weak parts of the metal that require maintenance or repair, thus helping to prevent catastrophic failure in the pipeline. We also provide this type of technology for tanks and other processing equipment. This system goes beyond the old technology that only tested certain points of the pipe or tank. We can now specifically identify which parts of the plants need to be focused on for repair and maintenance. By helping to avoid unplanned failures, this technology links nicely with safety services.

Another interesting technology that we are currently endorsing is RotoScan™, which was developed for the inspection of girth welds during construction of long-distance pipelines, both onshore and offshore. New pipelines in oil and gas have long prefabricated sections that are welded end-to-end. The RotoScan™ technology tests the welding to make sure the weld integrity is up to standard. While there are other conventional X-ray technologies that are able to do this, the advantage of RotoScan™ is that it is done in real-time at high-speed. For a pipeline that is being built on a deadline, RotoScan™ ensures that the project stays on schedule and that it will not be delayed by old-fashioned testing processes.

At a time when oil prices are exceedingly low and firms are seeking to minimize costs, how do these unique technology offerings from Applus Velosi contribute to the need for cost-efficiency?

We focus on the value of our technologies and we like to help our clients understand the long-term cost-value proposition. Our technologies are novel and proprietary and they are crucial to helping our customers optimize the integrity of the safety and operating conditions of their existing assets. Our new pipeline technologies like RotoScan™ ensure that our clients’ projects remain on schedule. These techniques also lower the risk of catastrophic accidents that would create costly delays. In addition, these technologies are also more efficient and in an industry where speed is of vital importance, I believe we can offer cost savings through increased productivity.

The fall in oil and gas prices has led our customers to put greater emphasis on the increasing the productive life of existing assets in preference to new capital projects. As a consequence we have seen a surge interest in our Asset Integrity Management services. Technologies such as INCOTEST™ support this trend by providing accurate data on the condition of plant and equipment.

How is being based in the UAE helping the company expand regionally?

The Middle East accounts for approximately a third of Applus Velosi’s energy and industry business. We have over 2,000 employees in the Middle East providing services to the oil and gas business, so it is clear that it is a substantial component of our global portfolio.

In addition, being located in the UAE enables us to attract a wider range of talent than if we were based elsewhere in the region. It is easier to find – and retain – high-caliber talent in the UAE, and in particular, experienced talent, because it is crucial that our employees understand the local and regional business environment and practices. When I was appointed regional director, I recruited a number of outstanding senior managers who have transformed the quality of the company and its services

What new partnerships are you currently exploring in order to expand Applus Velosi’s portfolio in the Middle East?

Some of our most successful partnerships have been with other parts of the Applus Group. This year the most significant was the formation of the Energy & Industry Division, which added a range of Power & Construction services, in addition to the Advanced NDT services which I already mentioned.

Another example of how the company is growing locally is our partnership with K2, another sister organization which has global expertise in rig inspections, rope access and NDT services. K2 is very strong in Asia and the Americas but is relatively new to the Middle East, and it can definitely benefit from the longstanding relationships that we have developed in the region. We are also looking to introduce a wider range of rig inspection services.

Our company’s growth is the result of many acquisitions, and for this reason we have been able to expand the array of services that we can provide. As regional director, I seek to bring existing areas of expertise and technology from the Applus Group internationally to the Middle East region. This requires collaboration with other divisions of the company and partnering with the local services to introduce and provide them to the region.

The UAE – as well as the region – is a place where the National Oil Company (NOC) controls the industry. What is your strategy for fostering good relations with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)?

The national oil companies are our most important customer group. We therefore devote a great deal of resource our relationship with ADNOC, and indeed with all of the NOCs. This includes the appointment of key account managers who ensure that we understand our customers’ requirements, and to coordinate the dialogue between the customer and our various service divisions. The NOCs are huge and complex operations, so it is essential to keep close contact at every level in the organization, and indeed with the many individual departments which have an interest in the services we provide.

This is Applus Velosi’s commitment to serving our clients to the best of our ability.

As someone who lacks an engineering or petrochemical educational background, how did you make the transition into oil & gas and what has kept you involved in the industry for so many years?

My undergraduate university background in modern languages and literature has given me the communication skills required to excel in sales and marketing. This experience has allowed me to learn and understand what motivates our customers and the link between what my customers need and what my company can provide.

When I began my career, I worked in the petrochemicals industry for 15 years at what was then the biggest UK chemicals company. That experience got me involved in the downstream hydrocarbons industry, which later catapulted me into my international career. Prior to working at Applus Velosi, I worked in Kuwait for over ten years, firstly as General Manager of a chemical plant, then as Vice President of an oil & gas investment company. This experience allowed me to build a professional network of contacts across the region in both the chemicals and the upstream oil and gas businesses. I am not a professionally trained engineer, but after almost 35 years in the industry, much of which has been managing production operations, I have a pretty good idea of how we can help our customers to run a safe and effective operation.

What is your five-year vision for Applus Velosi’s regional operations here?

As it stands, we have fairly substantial operations in the region but I expect to see significant growth in the upcoming years. In spite of the difficult times which the industry is experiencing, many countries such as Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are investing in major hydrocarbons projects. And of course the region continues to invest heavily in construction, utilities and infrastructure. This will keep us busy for many years to come!

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