SBM Offshore’s Paula Farquharson-Blengino provides an inside look at the company’s Angola shipyard, a joint venture between partners Sonangol and DSME.
Paenal is the first yard in West Africa with the capacity to facilitate mega FPSO vessels. Images from SBM Offshore.
While driving along the dusty road from Angola’s capital Luanda en-route to Paenal shipyard four hours away, what struck me is the bustling business done by street vendors while smiling children play at their feet. The city is rapidly changing. Partly-finished skyscrapers are growing up in prime locations where previously tin-roofed shacks stood as luxury boutiques and international businesses – including key oil companies - move in. However, the proof of the progress is beyond the city lines.
At a certain bend in the road approaching the town of Porto Amboim the skyline opens up to the sea where a vast floating production, storage and offloading vessel serves as an unmistakable landmark for the shipyard.
Porto Amboim Estaleiros Navais, known as Paenal, is a joint venture company between the state-owned national oil company Sonangol, SBM Offshore, and third partner DSME, which joined a year after the initiative began in 2007.
Within five years this former wild expanse of beach developed into a world-class fabrication and integration yard. The young shipyard has built a reputation with two FPSOs – destined for production offshore Angola – having berthed at its quay where module integration and the final stages of refurbishment took place.
Paenal was established to meet Angola’s need to develop manufacturing technology and integration of modules in FPSOs. With its 2500-ton heavy lift crane (HLC), inaugurated last year, combined with a 490m purpose-built quayside, the yard is fully commissioned and can accommodate the installation of topsides into mega FPSOs. The yard is capable of producing up to 10,000-ton of modules per year, which represents approximately two million man-hours per annum.
In July, the FPSO N’Goma sailed away to the Eni-operated Block 15/06, where mooring operations by the SBM Installer vessel have been completed and hook-up operations and acceptance testing is to follow.
Further cementing Paenal’s position in the oil industry was its successful fabrication, lift and integration of a 1836-ton module onto the CLOV FPSO in December 2013, for French oil major Total followed by Angola’s first naming ceremony at the yard. It was quite fitting that the French giant, which celebrated its 60th Anniversary in Angola, gave the young yard a foot in the industry door. The lift also made the record books as the first ever topside module integration performed in Africa, thanks to Paenal’s heavy lift crane, Jamba.
Total’s FPSO project was the first to put Paenal in the news when CLOV pulled up quayside in November 2013 and set a record for Paenal and Africa by being the first FPSO to berth at a West African quayside.
In addition to FPSO projects, the fabrication of two well-head platforms – at 3200 metric tons each – is currently progressing at Paenal. Both are destined for the Mafumeira Sul field in Block 0 offshore Angola. Paenal, in consortium with DSME, was awarded the project by Chevron and work under the Angolan scope began in May 2013, with a first steel cutting ceremony.
With Angola being the newest player in pre-salt oil and gas exploration and looking to raise production from a current average of 1.75-2MMb/d next year – and sustain this until 2020 – the opportunities for Paenal are wide open.
Earlier this year, at the World Petroleum Congress, Angolan Petroleum Minister José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos announced several initiatives, including offering deepwater and ultra-deep water blocks off the south of the country next year, as the African producer pushes for its target output.
In July, the minister attended the naming ceremony for N’Goma FPSO at Port Amboim saying “Paenal is indeed a yard that closes a gap in terms of local content. For Angola, it represents an instrument that will allow and has already facilitated the transfer of knowledge and technology, while always focusing on training and the employment of more Angolans to contribute towards the sustainability of the oil industry related activities in Angola.” SBM Offshore employs over 1700 people in its Angolan operations (including Paenal) and has been established in the country since 1997. The company began serving the Angolan market in 1968, with the delivery of the first catenary anchor leg mooring (CALM) buoy. The shipyard at Paenal was a natural progression in the company’s strategic investment in the country.
The region of Kwanza Sul was chosen for the excellent location, close to Port Amboim, for the availability of local labor and the support of the local authorities.
The qualified and trained workers are the result of a long-term investment over the past eight years by partners SBM Offshore and Sonangol. A training school was set up in 2008 and has since trained 420 local people from the Port Amboim area. Previously unemployed or working as fishermen or farmers, they are now skilled welders and fabricators employed by the yard.
The knock-on effect of a stable source of work for a vulnerable community has profoundly transformed not just the workers but the livelihood of entire families and local businesses that live to the rhythm of Paenal. The yard is the biggest employer in the region with a workforce of over 1200 employees.
“The fact that Paenal is a fabrication shipyard with 85% Angolan nationals employed represents a success story in the development of the country’s facilities and infrastructure. We continue to strive to develop the yard’s full potential and to grow its personnel,” says Jean-Philippe Rodigues, SBM Offshore Business Development Senior Vice President in Angola.
In line with the partners’ plan, the yard is becoming a thriving hub and is attracting other businesses and support services, which is also fostering growth for the community; in part by Paenal giving preferential consideration to local suppliers. Among the companies to set up operations in Port Amboim since the yard opened are Friedlander Angola, Conduril - Engenharia S.A., Heerema Marine Contractors, PANALPINA and PIC.