The domestic LNG revolution

This interview was originally published in the Africa Energy Series: Equatorial Guinea book.

 Marisol Ovono Nchama, CEO and President Elite Construcciones

Elite Construcciones is a fully Equatoguinean engineering firm, founded in Malabo in 2012. The company has extensive experience in the energy industry, servicing Equatorial Guinea’s offshore oil and gas installations, as well as expertise in civil engineering for infrastructure. In 2018, Elite Construcciones is focused on growing its oil and gas portfolio in Equatorial Guinea, while remaining diversified in the infrastructure and other segments, and looking outward to potential new opportunities regionally.

Equatorial Guinea’s engineering and construction space is dominated by international companies. How did Elite Construcciones find its place in the market?

Originally I was working for ENCAT as construction manager for the Atlantic Methanol Production Company (AMPCO) methanol plant at Punta Europa. From there I went to SOGECO, again working on building oil and gas processing plants. In 2012 that company pulled out of the petroleum sector. We got the finance together and the support from oil and gas clients to begin Elite Construcciones. The main clients of the new company at the time were the American firms working here and AMPCO. They needed a reliable local engineering company to work on all their projects. That’s how we built up our reputation and portfolio and from there we have serviced and looked after Equatorial Guinea’s oil and gas companies for the last six years.

How has Elite had to adapt its service offering to counter the downturn in the oil sector?

As individuals we had been working in the oil sector, so our main focus at the start of the company was on the oil sector. When that wasn’t working, we changed focus and looked to the government to see what work was available to a company with our skill set. Luckily, we had worked with the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons (MMH) before in the development of the Mbini Industrial Park. After the government saw what Elite was capable of, they awarded us two compressed natural gas (CNG) bus station construction projects, together with the German-based Bohlen & Doyen. From 2014 to 2015 we worked on the civil engineering and all the construction work for that project. This was the first time a fully national company had participated in such a specialist development. After the government delegation came for the inauguration of the CNG plant and saw an Equatoguinean company was capable of developing sucha complex project, the MMH decided to make us the national company in charge of such jobs. Why bring companies from outside if we have a national company that can do it here? That’s why we can get the projects we are doing now.

How has this pipeline of work developed over those six years of operations, culminating in your latest government contract for domestic LNG transportation infrastructure?

Everything the oil companies have required, whether it was onshore, offshore, midstream or wherever, we have been prepared to do. Because of the quality and high standards of the work delivered, we were asked to look at a new domestic LNG project for the MMH, which is a contract that we were just awarded. For Elite Construcciones, this is by far the largest contract we have at the moment, and it comes at a great time, following two years of low oil prices and a depressed industry in the country.

What is the scope of the LNG2Africa project?

We will be working on the LNG storage and regasification station on the main- land of Equatorial Guinea. LNG will be delivered from Punta Europa using smaller scale LNG vessels with 7,000 to 10,000 cubic meters capacity. From the jetty there is six kilometers of pipeline to the storage facility. The LNG will be regasified and sent by pipeline to the Akoga Cement plant, which will have a capacity of 3,000 tons per day. The Akoga Cement plant will serve the local market, as well as neighboring countries. That is a 16 month, €53 million contract and it is the first step in the LNG2Africa initiative. It is now at the stage where we are clearing the land for the terminal, doing environmental studies and getting ready to break ground. For this project we will also be working with our German partner, Bohlen & Doyen, for some of the specialist work. The goal is to be commissioned in 2019, as requested by the MMH. Wherever we go, for any non-specialist work, we employ locals. This is very important to use as a national company, to benefit the areas where we work and transfer useful skills to the communities of that area.

Is there potential to expand the use of the LNG into other regional projects?

At the moment, the cement plant is the main focus of the LNG imports. There’s also a power plant that’s being built, which will power the cement plant. There is a provision to feed back into the grid from the power plant if required. We are building a loading dock, for loading LNG trucks. The trucks can be loaded at the facility and from there go to Bata and be used at the Bata power station, which has already been converted from heavy oil, to heavy oil and gas. With this LNG transport potential, and the good quality roads linking Equatorial Guinea to Gabon and Cameroon, anything is possible. That’s why this is a great project and there is a lot more to it.

How important is it that a national company leads this domestic LNG project?

It is important in the sense that this is an African initiative. As a national company, we have project managed it and we are leading it and making it happen. We have used expertise from specialist companies from all over world but rather than these companies coming into Equatorial Guinea to conduct these projects, we have actually done it in Equatorial Guinea as a local company. We can now take that expertise wherever we want to go. We have the blueprint to go to other markets and create a similar infrastructure. Elite Construcciones, working with the MMH, has a lot of potential for the future in the LNG sphere in Africa. We believe in clean gas. We believe in a lower carbon footprint. We really believe that the vision of the Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons is a good vision.

This interview was originally published in the Africa Energy Series: Equatorial Guinea book.

 Marisol Ovono Nchama, CEO and President of Elite Construcciones