The recent discovery of oil offshore Guyana has created significant excitement for the future of the country and its developing industry. Naturally, the Buzz Phrase being kicked around in every conversation is Local Content. With Local Content legislation being developed under guidance of those experienced in the field, the next logical step is to ensure that the country is prepared to meet the demands of such legislation implementation.
Although the Trinidad Energy Sector model is drawn into reference quite often, the landscape of the Guyana Energy Sector is expected to look significantly different, at least in the beginning. The production of Oil from a deep-water reservoir via an FPSO, and the subsequent exportation of that Oil via a tanker being loaded offshore, means that the product may never actually come ashore in Guyana.
Notwithstanding plans for a refinery, Guyana will likely never see the highly visible downstream, value adding, industrial plants producing LNG, Methanol and other Petrochemicals found in Trinidad. For the most part, the Guyanese Oil Industry may remain invisible to the public eye. The lion’s share of the industry would be operating over 100 miles offshore. This is where the Guyanese people must be focused on developing their local content skill set.
Historically, we have seen a trend in emerging energy markets where multi-national contractors, while servicing global operators, choose to employ local personnel in non-technical and low level positions in an effort make quotas and appease the demands of the governing bodies. This approach does not help the development of the work force or assist in the transfer of technical knowledge or skills. Some might argue that this can be viewed as a strategy to preserve jobs for expat personnel for a longer term.
The introduction of Local Content legislation by government, although an excellent initiative to protect and advance the Guyanese people, is not enough to ensure preparation for the forthcoming demand for a skilled local labor force. Private sector, both local and international, has an important role to play in the identification of specific demands and the development of infrastructure to meet them. Guyana is well on its way to having the demand for non-technical and low level positions filled by local content, however, there is a great challenge ahead with preparing to fill the highly technical demands of Deep-Water operations with local personnel.
Throughout the life cycle of a Deep-Water Subsea Development there will be a demand for several technical roles to be filled. Some of these include Hydrographic Surveyors, Dynamic Positioning Officers, Subsea Engineers, Remotely Operated Vehicle Operators, Directional Drillers, Subsea Tooling Specialist, to name a few. Career development for these roles is a timely process that requires infrastructure and exposure to on the job training opportunities.
Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Operators, for example, are required during exploration and production drilling, installation, commissioning, inspection, repair, maintenance, intervention, and decommissioning of all subsea assets in Deep-Water developments. At peak demand, during the Subsea Installation Phase, there could be as many as eight (8) work-class ROV systems in operation, spread over multiple vessels. This would require a combined crew of at least 48 personnel at any given time, and over 96 personnel if manned on a rotation basis.
Twelve years ago, in Trinidad, there were less than a handful of ROV Operators. Today there are at least fifty (50) ROV operators of varying levels of competence. This incredible growth was due to identification of demand, both locally and internationally, and the development of infrastructure to meet that demand. The Trinidadian ROV operators exported their ‘brand’ and became permanent crew on vessels operating in the Gulf of Mexico, Africa, India and Brazil. These high-quality ROV operators were recognized internationally in the same way the Oil and Gas Industry has recognized the skills of talented welders and directional drillers from Trinidad over the years.
Currently, there are founding members of the Trinidadian ROV fraternity representing ROV contractors and O&G Majors at the Superintendent and Client Representative levels. This speaks volumes for their competence and ability. Recently, a Deep-Water salvage and pipe recovery job off Guyana, which would normally have been manned by internationals, was conducted with an ROV that was manned 100% by Trinidadians. Jobs like these could, and should, be manned 100% by Guyanese in years to come.
The first step to making this a reality is introducing Industry Induction Training so that existing technical personnel, with training and experience, can transfer their skill set into a new discipline. The second step is for industry to embrace the injection of skilled labor and implement mentorship programs within organizations to provide on the job training and competence development. Finally, there must be buy-in and support from all stakeholders in the process to ensure that the quality of the development and the overall performance on the job is not compromised.
Starting educational programs and degrees in schools geared towards this type of development is great; however, it is a long-term approach that will not have a positive impact for many years. If Guyana wants to get a head start on taking advantage of the opportunities that will present themselves in the very near future, there needs to be a sense of urgency towards technical skill development. There are significant resources, which include knowledge and experience, readily available in the region that, if engaged, can accelerate preparations for technical local content demand.
Trinidad & Tobago