Global consultancy forecasts big SA oilfield services growth for Saldanha Bay
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Global consultancy forecasts big SA oilfield services growth for Saldanha Bay

Global consultancy Deloitte says South Africa’s geographical proximity to the expanding West African oilfields, together with its deep-water harbours and its engineering expertise, offered favourable conditions for a material expansion of the country’s oilfield services sector over the coming decade.

Southern Africa oil and gas industry leader Anton Botes argued on Thursday that there was particular potential to develop sizeable services industries at the ports of Cape Town, Saldanha Bay and Ngqura.

Speaking at a briefing hosted to outline the international consultancy’s ‘Energy & Resources Predictions 2012’ report, Botes said Cape Town had already emerged as a services hub. But there was also potential for other South African ports, as well as Namibia’s Walvis Bay, to begin more fully exploiting the services opportunities that will arise from the ongoing expansion of oil exploration and production activities off the coast of West Africa.

“Oil companies make use of specialist suppliers to provide technology, maintenance, engineering, spares and logistical services . . . we believe that over the coming five to ten years there will be tremendous growth in the area of oilfield services as a sub-industry, servicing the huge amount of activity up the west coast of Africa,” Botes said.

The Cape Oil and Gas Supply Initiative had already been established the to seeks ways to expand the domestic servicing and refurbishment of oilfield vessels, as well as the supply of equipment, technical skills and consumables to the West African oil industry. It was also exploring the construction of oil platforms and modules.

In addition, South Africa’s Industrial Policy Action Plan, or Ipap2, was envisioning the development of new ship repair capacity, improved marketing of South African engineering services to oil companies operating in Africa and an expanded oil and gas logistics industry.

A feasibility study into the development of an industrial development zone at the Port of Saldanha could also facilitate the creation of new specialist infrastructure to develop the Western Cape harbour into an oilfields servicing hub.

Deloitte’s global energy and resources head Carl Hughes warned that the offshore services value chain was set to become more complex and demanding. But he also argued that there was still significant potential for South Africa to expand into the sector, probably in partnership with the international services majors.

“Oilfield services companies internationally have arguably grown even more quickly in the last ten years than the oil super majors,” Hughes said, highlighting the growth performance of companies such as Schlumberger, Weatherford International, Baker Hughes, Petrofac and the Wood Group, which he said had become “substantial” enterprises.

South Africa, he said, should seek to create conditions that were conducive to attracting some of these groups to invest, as international experience had demonstrated in places such as Aberdeen, in Scotland, Stavanger, in Norway, and Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, that the oilfield services sector “is a great creator of jobs”.

“In many senses, these days, you probably create more jobs through oilfield services than through exploration and development,” Hughes enthused, noting that while some of the skills required might not be immediately available there were also areas where the skills set demanded was not overly specialised.

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