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Interview

Riccardo Muttoni – Vice President, Middle East and North Africa, Expro

23.09.2016 / Energyboardroom

Riccardo Muttoni, Expro’s Vice President for MENA reveals how, over the last five years, Expro has expanded its business in the region; how they are looking to expand their portfolio; and why collaboration with customers is critical in a rapidly changing environment.

Today Expro is present in over 50 countries and maintains regional operational headquarters in a number of locations, including Dubai. Can you tell us more about your operations in the Middle East and North Africa?

Having regional headquarters in the UAE is critical in delivering our breadth of operations and continued growth. This country has strong manufacturing and logistical capabilities and is a key hub from which to run our operations

Expro has a long heritage in the oil and gas industry. It was initially founded in 1973 as a well testing company and has grown globally to provide a range of well flow management products and services that measure, improve, control and process flow from high value oil and gas wells.  Our core business is focused on three key areas: well testing and appraisal; subsea, completion and intervention; and production services – delivered through our twelve distinct product lines. We also have a range of emerging technology, including our wireless reservoir monitoring Cableless Telemetry System (CaTSTM), as well as our non-intrusive, production surveillance business, Meters.

We have a large presence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including three operational hubs in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Algeria. Over the last five years, Expro has also undergone an important geographical expansion in the region, including Iraq and Qatar. We are also present in countries such as Oman and Tunisia.

How does having your regional headquarters in the UAE help you in your internationalization strategy?

Having regional headquarters in the UAE is critical in delivering our breadth of operations and continued growth. This country has strong manufacturing and logistical capabilities and is a key hub from which to run our operations. All of Expro’s product lines are present in MENA, including our core services of well testing and intervention – our Jebel Ali staging facility is used as a hub for this equipment. In addition to these core services, our UAE office is responsible for the introduction and support of new technologies and specialist services, such as Drill Stem Testing (DST), fluid sampling and analysis laboratories and non-intrusive sonar meters.

We are expanding our existing business in Qatar and developing a footprint in Kuwait. We are also in the process of qualifying our sonar metering technology for production management and optimization applications in Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman, having established meters business in Iraq, Saudi and Algeria.

In February 2016, upon the appointment of Mike Jardon as Group CEO, Expro’s chairman, Sir George Buckley, talked about maintaining the exceptional results witnessed over recent years. Has this region lived up to Group´s excellent global performance?

It certainly has. Like everybody involved in this industry, the last couple of years have been challenging. However, Expro has proactively managed the business through this cycle, outperforming many of our peers.

Our strong relationships with national oil companies have undoubtedly played a key role in delivering growth in region. Over the last five years we have made a number of infrastructure investments in Saudi, Qatar and Algeria, which has allowed us to continue our business expansion in the region – particularly well testing and intervention. Our early production facilities have expanded in to Egypt, Kurdistan and more recently, Algeria. We have also introduced new services to our portfolio, including DST.

Overall it has been a high growth period for the region, something we are looking to continue in the longer term.

You were recently appointed as Expro´s vice-president for the Middle East and North Africa. What have you identified as your largest challenges and opportunities in these initial months?

While global oil and gas activity has slowed down, this region has, to a certain extent, been bucking the trend. Our focus has been on two key areas: operational efficiency and service quality.

Operational efficiency is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges for our customers, however Expro is ideally placed to support this through our ‘excellence in operations’ and deliver service programmes. We collaborate closely to understand our customer’s challenges and delivery expectations, ensuring we deliver on time and budget. For example, we worked on one project, where early monetisation of a new satellite development was critical to our client. We worked in partnership with them to identify and deliver a new boosting station, which tied in the satellite field to an existing processing facility, shortening the time to market and increasing overall production from the field.

Strongly linked to this is the continued demand for a high level of service quality, which is one of one of Expro´s key differentiators. We are very well known for the quality of our service, including our ability to adapt technology that meets the need of a specific challenge. On a recent project in Iraq, the security constraints presented us with an aggressive contractual target date for full nationalisation of personnel. Through our graduate and learning and development programmes, we were able to quickly identify suitable candidates and achieve nationalisation well ahead of our contractual obligation. This accelerated process allowed our customer to realise early gains for this production surveillance project.

How is Expro pairing the need for innovation and quality with the need for reasonably economic oil and gas projects?

These are two fundamentals of any business that you need to provide simultaneously. Efficient, innovative solutions are needed if we are to deliver marginal oil and gas projects. However your service quality should not be compromised because of this. That is why we have continued to develop both in parallel, ensuring our services are both technically and economically attractive to our customers.

For instance, when a customer in Algeria was evaluating the best strategies to develop a fractured reservoir, our CaTS technology played a key role in enabling a multi-well interference testing programme. With no permanent downhole gauge installed, the alternative would have been to run memory gauges, wait to recover the data from all the wells and interpret retrospectively. Our retrofit CaTS gauges allowed real time data to be streamed on a daily basis from the wells, resulting in a shortened evaluation time. This enabled the customer to make in-time decisions and meet critical development milestones, while reducing technical risk and operational costs.

In another example in Iraq, where joint venture partners are remunerated on incremental production, our innovative clamp-on sonar meters allowed our customer to production test their wells in a single day. The traditional trailer mounted in-line testing multiphase meter would take three to five days to test the well and require significantly more equipment and personnel. This low footprint approach allowed the customer to perform a complete sweep of their wells once per quarter, rather than once every 18 months. It also allowed them to proactively target wells that would require remediation before production losses became significant.

Our success is only possible thanks to the skilled resource that exists in the Middle East. There is a large pool of local talent in all the countries that we operate in, which is important if we are to develop the best people, grow our business and maintain a long-term commitment to the country.

Our investment in recruiting and retaining talent means that Expro offers an exciting career prospect for the national workforce. In Saudi Arabia, over 50 percent of our workforce are local, and in Egypt and Algeria, where our presence dates much further back, this increases to 95% and 98% respectively. Expro´s strategy is very much to recruit and develop where we work.

Our success is only possible thanks to the skilled resources that exists in the Middle East. There is a large pool of local talent in all the countries that we operate in, which is important if we are to develop the best people, grow our business and maintain a long-term commitment to the country

What will be the key for Expro to continue with the same positive growth momentum over the next few years in this region?

Our strategy is focused on delivering multi-product line, integrated solutions for customers, while maintaining Expro’s highest standards of safety and service quality. We recently launched four new business streams, including production optimisation and well abandonment – which reflect the changing needs of our industry.

Production optimisation is a key area of focus within MENA, providing a systematic approach to the complete production system – from reservoir through to surface network and processing facilities. Providing a better understanding of the network allows our customers to prevent bottle necks, optimise production and deliver maximum return for their investment. While our traditional area of work is in or around the well site, our customers have recognised our combined reservoir and production skill set. As a result they are using our expertise to overcome challenges at the root cause, as opposed to individual equipment level.

We have also recently seen an increase in deepwater development activity offshore in the Mediterranean Sea. Expro has a strong portfolio of subsea solutions, as well as our high pressure, high temperature testing capabilities, to capture a significant part of that market.

With a mix of offshore and onshore fields, ranging from some of the world’s largest oil and gas reservoirs, through to smaller aging fields, each customer and project has their own unique requirements. All our products and solutions have been developed in response to the emerging needs of our customers.

Understanding these subtleties and drawing on our depth of experience is important if we are to continue our growth in the region. That is why partnering with our customers is a key value for Expro, and why we continue to focus on providing a personalised service – something that, we believe, sets us apart from our competitors.

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