Ludovic Villatte – CEO, ITP Interpipe – France
The CEO of ITP Interpipe, a global leader in the design, provision and fabrication of insulated pipelines, expresses his company’s commitment to reduce his clients’ OPEX and CAPEX. He also provides insight into the growing importance of QHSE as ITP Interpipe becomes a fabrication contractor.
What made ITP Interpipe a global leader in the design, provision and fabrication of highly insulated pipelines?
ITP Interpipe has been devoted to technical excellence and providing innovative solutions designed to reduce the costs of overall projects. We have always been trying to anticipate our clients’ needs by assessing their field architectures and enabling them to produce in better conditions. Our objective is to be a world leader in providing practical solutions for thermally insulated pipes. We target to outperform the specifications of the clients to develop our capacity to think ahead and fulfill the role of market pushers.
The founders of ITP had decided to build ITP Interpipe to address a market failure with highly insulated systems. At this stage, our specific niche market does not comprise any competitors with the same flexibility and expertise in our range of solutions. Our efforts have yielded considerable results, enabling us to invest in a fabrication workshop in Normandy. Our ambition is to grow carefully and incrementally in order to maintain our pioneer status. We owe our success to clients such as Total, Shell, Tullow, Subsea 7 and Saipem who trusted us in the early stages of our development.
While oil majors actively implement spending cuts and intensify their expectations, are they seduced by your commitment to reduce your clients’ Capex and Opex? Could you also please comment on your major projects at the moment?
Our company actually seeks opportunities to thrive during economic slowdowns. When the barrel is at $120, there is less incentive to find innovative and cost-effective solutions. At the present time, oil and gas companies are taking the time to consider every alternative and solution at their disposal and subsequently providing more opportunities for innovation. ITP Interpipe is therefore capitalizing on the current situation to assist its clients throughout Opex projects.
One of our major projects consisted in a mission in the Gulf of Guinea on behalf of Total. At the time, Total was seeking breakthrough technologies in deep-water situations and was pleased to rely on ITP Interpipe.
You describe your commitment to HSE as the absolute precondition to your company’s success. Why is QHSE so important to your everyday operations?
As I said, we recently established a manufacturing workshop in Normandy. As a result, we had to learn how to incorporate QHSE in our mutation with the support of our clients. To become a leader in the oil and gas industry , we must comply with high standards of QHSE. We are therefore allocating significant funds and time to build a QHSE framework, which corresponds to the very demanding norms of the oil and gas industry. QHSE is also an incredible tool for management purposes as it gives executives incentive to think differently and adopt new approaches. I believe in QHSE if it allows a company to re-examine its vision and functioning. Today, many corporations pursue QHSE simply to broadcast it to the general public. Twenty years ago, ITP only assumed a subcontractor’s role as a technology provider and was therefore less relying on QHSE as it is today now that we’ve become a fabrication contractor. I must admit that mentalities have changed and led to more communication across hierarchies.
You take pride in delivering high-end engineering solutions. What role does your R&D department play into the company’s success? Could you give an example of a substantial technical progress that you achieved?
Research and development provides new solutions at our disposal, that we in turn choose to integrate in our sales portfolio. The oil and gas industry thrives at the cutting edge on innovation and our clients are therefore always keen on adopting new products, even sometimes before they were tested. The difficulty is to carefully examine the purpose of new technologies and make sound predictions on their future applicability and marketability. Engineers sometimes lack the rational approach consisting in assessing the profitability of an innovation and accepting to dismiss an opportunity if it cannot be converted into a sustainable product. We must also be diligent and wisely determine if a technology is worth the time and financial input.
Why are you committed to preserving a fabrication facility in Caen, Normandy? Does the “made in France” label symbolize a clear guarantee of quality abroad?
We are indeed committed to preserving our manufacturing facility in France because it serves as a center of progress and excellence. Our plant enables us to dispatch qualified equipment and trained engineers across the world. The only difference between France and neighboring countries may be the rigid labor market and aspects related to the de-commodification of workers. On the quality end however, it drives for efficiency. Nevertheless, the world is rapidly evolving and talented engineers and graduates with tremendous potential are available everywhere. Actually the ITP team is already very international.
What are the prospects for international development? In this regard, what can be the role of external growth in upholding certain objectives?
As a small company, our objective is to win more important projects, which would in turn fuel greater growth levels. Internationally, we recently collaborated for instance with a Canadian company, but from our perspective most past examples of mergers and acquisitions have yet to lead to any tangible improvements in regards to unlocking technological barriers, penetrating new markets and bolstering sales. We recognize the wonderful opportunities that external growth ventures can provide, but must ensure that any future transaction corresponds to our needs and long-term strategy.
What are your personal objectives for the future of this company? Where do you see growth coming from?
ITP’s historical market is subsea flowlines where you either have large upcoming projects with a demonstrated need for insulated pipes or smaller projects, which also require our services and products for tie-backs. We have also invested the LNG sector and conducted extensive research to build adequate pipelines for this energy. At the time, various companies in LNG were recognizing our product’s valuable contribution to their line of business but it takes a long time to create strong opportunities in the Gas market. The key at the moment is to not solely rely on one project at a time, but rather to develop new market applicabilities for our products. My objective is to integrate more engineers and talented professionals in our team to encourage new ideas and greater performances. Our long-term approach is to become the contractor of choice for implementing thermal solutions and project ourselves beyond flowlines.