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Interview

José Luis Fernandez Bris – Managing Director, Amec Foster Wheeler Iberia

José Luis Fernandez Bris, managing director of Amec Foster Wheeler in Spain discusses the broad portfolio of services the company can provide to energy companies, the role of its Spanish foothold in the signing of EPC contracts with Spanish energy firms worldwide, the competitive edge its global position provides in terms of supporting projects, and the possibility for Spain to become an energy hub for the rest of Europe.

Can you start by introducing the operations of Amec Foster Wheeler in Spain, the affiliate’s strategic significance to the group and the scope of your offering here?

“I believe the future of engineering resides in international cooperation.”

Established in the early 1960s, Amec Foster Wheeler Iberia celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. The offices in Las Rozas de Madrid, Spain opened in 1997. Currently, we have over 435 professionals working in the company and our activities are divided between the Oil & Gas, Petrochemical and General industries. Most of our operations are related to the Oil & Gas sector, with around 70 to 80 percent of our revenues stemming from downstream and mid-stream related activities. The Spanish office is our global center for excellence in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) regasification plants.

Maintaining an office in Spain for 50 years would have been impossible with just a focus on the Spanish market, hence from our offices here we have executed projects in European markets such as The Netherlands, Hungary, Bulgaria and Russia; in Africa and the Middle East in Egypt and Kuwait; in China; and also in most Latin American countries. We now have a multi-billion-dollar Project Management Consultant (PMC) contract for the construction of a new refinery and an LNG Regasification Terminal for the Kuwait National Petroleum Company.

In Mexico, we are also involved in a project to modernize one of PEMEX’s refineries, which needs new units to comply with the introduction of more stringent transportation fuel quality requirements in the country.

One key factor in deciding which Amec Foster Wheeler office develops a project is the cultural affinity with the country, such as in Latin America, and existing relationships with the customer, together with our track record and related expertise.

The business here is mainly focused on downstream. However, many Spanish energy companies are present in the upstream part of the value chain too. How do you leverage on your Spanish connections to foster capital projects with the Spanish energy giants?

Amec Foster Wheeler’s operations here in Spain benefit from the company’s global profile. The Spanish office helps the company reach out to Spain’s energy giants and Amec Foster Wheeler has worked on several global projects with Repsol, Cepsa and Enagas. In order to increase our chances of collaborating with these players, we work closely with the company’s upstream specialists in cities such as Aberdeen, Reading, London, Houston and Calgary. The goal is to optimize our support for the customers’ operations and help our global company to better understand the needs of these Spanish clients with whom we enjoy a long history of collaboration.

Our international locations are also assets that we can leverage to support Spanish energy giants once the project moves into the execution phase. In other words, we can do the front-end work close to the customer’s team, and once the project moves into the engineering, procurement and construction phase, we can execute through our regional offices close to the project site. When we work in a PMC role, we can mobilize people to work in any contractor’s office. In addition to the operational support that we offer to execute the project from our offices in these geographies, the knowledge transferred resulting from such an international profile allows us to innovate more than what could be imaginable if we were to work alone. I believe the future of engineering resides in international cooperation.

What about partnerships with other EPCs here in Spain?

Amec Foster Wheeler has historical ties with multiple Spanish contractors on various projects. We have partnered with other Spanish EPC contractors, such as Tecnicas Reunidas, Intecsa and SENER in domestic and overseas projects, sometimes with the purpose of sharing risks or sometimes to combine and complement both companies’ expertise.

What is the special contribution of Spanish engineers to this type of integrated collaboration model?

Generally speaking, the capability of engineers across the world varies depending on the environment they are facing. Spanish engineering project management and execution capabilities have been recognized worldwide since the 1960s as the country rebuilt itself. As a result, the industrial culture consolidated, and engineering capabilities improved. Spanish engineering universities were known to be amongst the most demanding by 1980 and this characteristic has survived.

The last 20 years have been strategic in terms of internationalization of Spanish companies, which have expanded their operations to the Americas and the Middle East. Spanish engineers now have better cross-cultural communication skills, which I believe is beneficial to our industry as globalization continues. I think numerous Spanish contractors around the world are now looking to increase their foothold in Asia.

In what areas do you think Spanish engineering companies can still improve?

Spanish engineers are recognized as being good at project execution and project management. This is what our engineers are trained for here, and what we focus most on. However, we probably need Spanish universities to play a more active role in helping to develop the capabilities, expertise and global mindset required to support Spanish contractors competing for multi-billion-dollar international projects.

What are your present downstream operations in Spain?

One of our main downstream projects at the moment is a revamping of the BP refinery in Castellon. Amec Foster Wheeler has been involved in this refinery ever since it was built. We have participated in most of its expansion and modernization projects for many years, first when it was PetroMed, and then for BP after the acquisition. This latest project is very important for BP and has required us to devote significant resources to meet demanding deadlines. The project is scheduled to finished in 2018.

At present, we are developing several important downstream projects for Cepsa in both their Huelva and Algeciras refineries. For Algeciras, we are in the initial phases of what could become the largest bottom of the barrel project in Spain at this moment.

Additionally, we are also working for the Spanish refiner Repsol, to further enhance several of the bottom of the barrel refining units based on Amec Foster Wheeler technology operating in their refineries.

How do you maintain price competitiveness on such projects?

Our clients appreciate that our company has managed to maintain a high level of flexibility in working among our different offices, optimizing services technically and cost-effectively. Our projects for Repsol, Cepsa and BP are proof of our competitiveness and our ability to undertake various projects. Repsol is currently focusing its resources on safety and performance improvement. BP is concentrating on revamping process units, as is Cepsa which is also increasing conversion of heavy refinery bottoms. The fact that customers trust us with such a diversified array of projects means we are competitive in many domains.

Additionally, Amec Foster Wheeler is involved in the development of innovative solutions, as one of the world’s technology leaders in bottom of the barrel upgrading.

The company’s global presence gives our office an edge and an advantage when competing using our own technology, as is the case with our SYDEC Delayed Coker technology. This is dependable technology for residue upgrading refinery. Our Madrid office is a Center of Expertise having developed eight projects in the last ten years. In other words, we supply leading technology and deliver the project safely and successfully.

Madrid is your center of excellence for LNG regasification terminals. With regard to the infrastructures available in the country, what do you consider your role as a service provider for the Spanish energy sector?

Spain is a model for the development of LNG infrastructure. Indeed, the country has built many LNG regasification terminals across the entire country and two pipelines connected with North Africa. Spain has regasification terminals in Coruña, Gijón, Sagunto, Bilbao, Barcelona, Cartagena and Huelva. Unfortunately, the recent economic downturn has been driving electrical consumption downwards and therefore Spain has an excess of capacity with multiple regasification facilities all around the country. Spain will have the opportunity to become a key energy provider when a sufficient gas connection is built with the rest of Europe.

Additionally, with European environmental regulations, the use of LNG should spread. In fact, I am expecting these regulations to transform Spain into an energy hub for the whole of the European Union. Moreover, MARPOL regulations are likely to drive an increased use of LNG as a marine fuel.

Why is Amec Foster Wheeler the partner of choice for all upstream, midstream, downstream Spanish and international projects?

The company has businesses across Oil, Gas & Chemicals, Power & Process, Environment & Infrastructure, and Mining operations internationally. As a result, we have many experienced professionals capable of supporting the development and execution of a wide range of projects, from the early concept phase, through to project delivery and ongoing asset support. This also allows us to share new ideas from one industry to another, encouraging innovation. Our international presence also helps us support clients in a more efficient way than if we simply operated at a national level. Indeed, the close collaboration between our offices allows Amec Foster Wheeler employees to improve their cross-cultural and international project management abilities and develop local knowledge in many countries. Hence, we are able to provide better support to our customers than if our international experience was limited. Indeed, the local knowledge allows us to advise our clients as to which solutions are more likely to fit the country.

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