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Equatorial Guinea: National Companies Take the Wheel

Energy Capital and Power spoke to Jacinto Owono, Director General, Local Content for Equatorial Guinea’s Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons about the opportunity COVID-19 has created for enhanced indigenous participation in the country’s oil and gas sector. The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons’ local content department is prioritizing continued skills development and technical training to give rise to a new generation of engineers, executives and entrepreneurs.

What lessons has the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons learned from COVID-19? What key decisions were taken in the last 18 months to enable the sector to continue operating?

The lesson was to not take anything for granted. With the onset of the pandemic, we knew that we needed to be proactive and adapt as quickly as possible. We had not planned for something of this magnitude – COVID-19 plus the oil price crash – to happen. We had to readjust all of our plans. We had to learn how to work from home and to integrate our day-to-day tasks with technology. Another critical lesson we learned was one of cooperation. I have seen tremendous collaboration in the oil and gas sector among companies, operators, service providers and the Ministry. We worked together and tackled issues as a collective, learning to think outside the box. At the end of the day, I believe we survived because we did not stop operations, despite the pandemic and the oil price drop. We continued working remotely. Everyone was committed to finding solutions to the problems that we faced, and continue to face.

What will be the long-term impact of COVID-19 on local content and capacity-building in Equatorial Guinea?

The aftermath of the pandemic is not going away anytime soon. We are continuing to improve our operations; the way we train our people and the way we allocate our costs. We need to be more cost-efficient otherwise we cannot survive. Notwithstanding this, the pandemic allowed us to be more proactive, especially when it comes to local content. Last April, for example, more than 20 employees on the ExxonMobil-operated Serpentina platform tested positive for COVID-19. Everyone was evacuated, some were repatriated and the platform was shut down for a period of time for sanitation, in accordance with Ministry of Health guidelines. Oil production at the Zafiro field was not impacted and the platform was re-opened utilizing 97% national content. Before the pandemic, I could not imagine the industry taking this risk. Even though our people are well-trained, we are still cautious about giving them the car to drive. Instead, they have been in the passenger seat. The pandemic forced us to give local companies the wheel at a time when international companies faced travel and entry restrictions. Today, some of these local companies have retained their contracts.

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Source: EnergyCapitalPower

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