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Interview

Brian Kelly – Regional Leader Asia Pacific, SNC Lavalin, Australia

SNC-Lavalin’s Brian Kelly details his strategic priorities, the company’s main achievements in Australia, and his focus is on expanding the scope of the company’s services while further strengthening its reputation for safety and excellence to embody a truly integrated EPC in the Asia Pacific region.

In December 2014, you were appointed Senior Regional Executive Asia Pacific for SNC- Lavalin, following the company’s acquisition of Kentz, for which you were country manager Australia. What have been the main highlights for the company in Australia since you assumed this position?

SNC-Lavalin’s acquisition of Kentz in August 2014, has transformed the company’s capabilities. Integrated into the Oil and Gas division of the SNC-Lavalin Group we can offer our clients full end to end services in the oil and gas sector. Kentz is well known for its construction and technical services expertise and for that reason we have maintained the SNC-Lavalin Kentz Field Operations which can also service the company’s other three sectors, Power, Mining and Metals and Infrastructure.

In Australia, the last sixteen months have been particularly exciting, as certain major projects have reached or are about to reach completion, and we have had to ensure that our contributions in these projects continue to be executed with the highest quality and safety standards.

In recent years, we have secured contracts on Australia two largest projects, the Chevron-operated Gorgon project and the Ichthys LNG Project. The Gorgon project is one of the most important LNG projects at a global level and the largest single resource project in Australia’s history. For this project we won a number of contracts. We have completed the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services of the construction village with our partners, and are currently executing an EPC contract on the telecommunications and electronic systems, and with our joint venture partners, the structural, mechanical, piping, electrical, instrumentation and commissioning support, for the construction of three LNG trains, with a total capacity 15 million tons per annum, including associated utilities and domestic gas processing and compression. This world-class project recently entered production, highlighting another delivery of a successful and safe project for the company.

The Ichthys LNG project is developing the largest discovery of hydrocarbon liquids in Australia in 40 years and we have also secured a number of contracts on this project over the past four years. In 2012 we were awarded the temporary facilities telecommunications system and site wide fibre network followed by the underground electrical and instrumentation package both of which are now complete. We are now moving forward on the structural, mechanical and piping package for the two process trains in a JV and the overall process and utility electrical and Instrumentation construction package.

What were the main challenges the company faced while working on the Gorgon project?

From a global perspective, one of the most unique specificities of the Gorgon project is probably its location on the Barrow Island, a “Class-A” nature reserve – on which 24 endemic species exist along with many other rare species. All materials and machinery brought on the island had to be fumigated and quarantine controlled. All contributors to the project also had had to ensure that no foreign species would be brought from any of the ships, planes or cargos that would reach the island. Environmental considerations and requirements on Gorgon were probably among the highest and most stringent ever implemented on a project of this type, which required us to develop our exceptional expertise within an extremely regulated framework. Finally, we had to ensure that the frequent and highly active cyclone seasons hitting the island would never compromise the project’s safety.

In this regard, our presence in Australia since the beginning of the major LNG developments in 1985, combined with our international LNG experience forged all around the world over the last twenty years, were probably our best assets to make this project a success. When we were awarded our Gorgon contracts, Kentz was simultaneously operating on other significant international LNG projects, such as Shell’s GTL project in Doha, the world’s largest GTL plant and one of the world’s largest, most complex and challenging energy projects ever commissioned – so we already had the experience to guarantee our customers we could meet their expectations.

We now believe that the expertise we have developed by contributing to the Australian LNG projects can now be mobilized and leveraged in other geographies, such as Canada or West-Africa – as operating in these projects could display some strong similarities with the challenges we faced in Australia.

As regional leader for the Asia Pacific, what kind of opportunities do you identify in the region?

Over the last few years, our main focus has been on Australia, where obviously a large number of LNG projects were in construction. We also contributed to ExxonMobil’s PNG LNG successful project in Papua New Guinea, where in 2012 we became the lead contractor of the operator for safety-related activities. We are proud of the fact that on this project and many others we have won many safety awards in the region, which has helped us to position ourselves as a safety leader in the industry.

In Australia, CAPEX development has recently declined as the major LNG projects start transferring to an OPEX phase. The Gorgon, QGC, PNG LNG and Ichthys projects have undeniably strengthened SNC-Lavalin’s overall expertise in this field and also demonstrate our capabilities to undertake very challenging projects in the region. We firmly believe this successful track-record will increase the likelihood of being involved in other major LNG developments in the Asia-Pacific region. Perth is our technological hub for the region, but we have also recently opened an office in Singapore – offering both offshore and onshore solutions, and we will be investigating opportunities throughout the region.

In Australia, we now want to leverage the expertise accumulated during the construction phase for brownfield engineering contracts. Furthermore, we are also particularly interested in operation and maintenance contracts, and we have already identified some very promising targets for which we are currently tendering and negotiating. In the upcoming years, we want to maintain our commitment to the Australian LNG sector.

To what extent does now being integrated within the SNC-Lavalin group foster new business opportunities?

Since we are part of the SNC-Lavalin group, we are now able to diversify our offering in Australia and other Asian countries through the other divisions represented in the group. Historically, Kentz’s main capabilities were in EPC, construction services and field expertise, and we can now offer our clients a larger EPC offering. Within the region we are also establishing our Power division through the development of the power team in our Kuala Lumpur office, creating an “energy’ hub in South East Asia. Together with the Oil and Gas sector we can provide multiple services to our clients leveraging the expertise of a wider pool of in-house resources.

Globally, SNC-Lavalin recently undertook the “Step Change” process, which sets up operational excellence targets for the entire group. We will continue to be agile, flexible and, above all, more responsive to our clients’ requests. In the meantime, this global strategic program aims at enhancing the company’s effectiveness, and we will particularly chase any cost saving that we can detect within our operating model, in order to continue to meet the cost-effectiveness expectations of our customers.

These initiatives underscore SNC-Lavalin’s focus on repeat customers and long-standing business partnerships, so ensuring we are able to meet our customers’ evolving demand is absolutely paramount to the company. In a way, we consider that the on-time delivery of successful, safe, cost-effective and environmentally respectful projects is the best and maybe the only way to reach new customers, and to strengthen our long-term customer base. In this regard, Kentz’s formidable reputation in Australia is particularly helpful. Kentz has a very strong customer base in the region and thanks to SNC-Lavalin’s broader offering, can now have a wider reach and tremendously expand this repeat customer base with our other sectors in the group.

What are your main objectives for the next five years?

From Perth, our Asia Pacific regional hub, we will continue to develop the skills of our employees, which indisputably are the company’s best asset. We want to further improve our already excellent track record of project execution. Finally, we have been extremely successful in the region over the past few years, and although we have already set the bar high, our main objective is to ensure we continue to grow and to be seen as the partner of choice to safely deliver world-class projects.

As someone who has risen through the organization particularly quickly to a Regional Leader position, what advice would you give to a young engineer joining SNC Lavalin?

Always take up the challenge! Furthermore, our industry is cyclical, highly technological and requires us to move frequently from one project to another, so it is extremely important to be open to change and the opportunities change can bring. More importantly, we are in the lucky position at SNC-Lavalin of having very experienced people, so always striving to learn from your peers and colleagues is an important piece of advice. Finally, this industry in general and our company in particular are always looking for challenge-driven and eager-to-learn people, and we have many success-stories of people starting as apprentices who then successfully moved up to senior positions! Our industry may be described as challenging, but if a young engineer can handle the pace and is performing, then he or she will undeniably get very exciting opportunities to thrive within the company.

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