Lee Engineering’s Sustained Quest to Transform Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Industry

Since the enactment of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act (NOGICD) in 2010, Lee Engineering and Construction Company Limited has continued its efforts to transform the industry into an equipment manufacturing hub, writes Peter Uzoho.

A good number of local companies in the Nigerian oil and gas sector are committed to exploiting the opportunities presented by the enactment of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act (NOGICD) established in 2010.
The implementation of the law has led to a considerable improvement in capacity development, with some local actors now pioneering in areas hitherto reserved for foreign companies.

Therefore, committed entrepreneurs are now striving in various aspects of the industry to provide excellent services, thereby paving the way for growth and development.

In this regard, Lee Engineering and Construction Company Limited, an Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Operation and Maintenance (EPCOM) company has not only shown an outstanding achievement, but is poised to occupy the front of the stage in the manufacture of industrial equipment.

Encouraged by the Local Content Act and the invaluable support of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), the company has committed over $100 million to construct a manufacturing yard on a land of approximately 10,000 square meters in Warri, Delta State, its operational base. .

The project, which is expected to be commissioned before the end of March, will ensure the manufacture of all necessary equipment for the oil and gas industry locally and in Africa.

Speaking to a reporter during a guided tour of the facility, which is believed to be 90 percent complete, Lee Engineering and Construction Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Leemon Ikpea, said that once Once commissioned, the plant would serve as a hub for local manufacturing of various equipment for the oil and gas sector and beyond.

He noted that, “Currently, all sorts of steel making machines have been installed while Nigerians with the necessary expertise are operating them flawlessly.”

Recounting how he came up with the idea, Ikpea said it dates back to the 1980s when he worked as an administrator in the industry, specifically at Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company Limited, (WRPC).

He said that while working as a manager at Snamprojettif, a contracting firm serving the WRPC, he saw the potential of Nigerian skilled workers and realized that it could be improved for good. of all.

“When I was a manager, I didn’t just sit in my office. It took me some time to understand how the company works; at that time, I noticed that many Nigerians were doing various jobs as electricians, welders, etc. Foreigners were mostly there as overseers. There were a lot of skilled Nigerian workers around,” he explained.

The wisdom of capitalizing on available potential led Ikpea to incorporate Lee Engineering and Construction Company in 1991. Thirty years later, the company has established itself as a major player in its core concept of engineering, procurement, construction, operation and maintenance (EPCOM) and started manufacturing industrial equipment.
Ikpea and its team of young but enterprising collaborators are not new to manufacturing, as they have proven their competence in recent years.

Testifying to the firm’s efficiency in carrying out the work, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) had commented on the performance of Lee Engineering in the execution of its Utorogu Gas Plant in Delta State.
“As much as possible, SPDC employs Nigerian companies and workers to execute projects. In the case of Utorogu, Lee Engineering and Construction Company Limited – a Nigerian company – won the main contract which carried out the design, procurement and construction works required to upgrade the Utorogu plant.

“Much of the heavy equipment used to connect gas wells to gas power stations was built in Nigeria and much of the construction materials and supplies, including electrical cables, raceways and fittings , paint and civil infrastructure materials, were made locally,” SPDC said.

Ikpea confirmed that the materials used for the work were made at its factory in Warri. He said that after executing such prestigious works, including the construction of the Port Harcourt Refinery Jetty, and currently involved in the fabrication of two modular refinery plants, his company was poised to expand the frontier of manufacturing industrial equipment in Nigeria and Africa in general.

The company’s unwavering commitment to making Nigeria a hub for local manufacturing of various equipment is to be commended. The company currently employs over 2,000 people.

Its efforts have multiplier effects on the economy in terms of reduced burden on currencies, growth and infrastructure development, creation of additional jobs, revenue for government coffers in terms of taxes and levies , reducing port congestion, reducing wasted working hours.

To encourage companies like Lee Engineering, the federal government should force ICOs to patronize local players.

Explaining why it embarked on the multimillion-dollar manufacturing plant project, Ikpea said, “Our mission is to produce high quality, reliable and durable products through hard workmanship and competent technology, in compliance with regulatory laws. We intend to change the current focus of customers purchasing similar components overseas with scarce hard currency, and in doing so, boost the domestic economy and reduce lead times.

“If you look around in the oil and gas sector, most of the production is off the shores of this country and if we fold our hands and wait for the government, foreign companies and partners to transfer the technology to this country, I don’t see that happening.. Given the situation in the market, if they transfer technology to you, the question will be: who will buy from them?

Prior to the pre-commissioning era, Lee Engineering had critical partnership with foreign equipment manufacturing companies who provided the machines to be used for manufacturing.

Through this relationship, more than 30 company personnel have been sent overseas for on-site training on the installation and use of the equipment.

To further ensure compliance with the requirements of the global standard, Ikpea participated in the Factory Acceptance Test in Europe and is currently waiting for the project to be fully completed, before it is tested and ultimately commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari.

A senior supervisor, Mr. Osere Damian, who spoke to reporters, said that more than 10 people in his department had undergone overseas training in the past 10 years in preparation for the full launch of the project.

He listed some key oil and gas products that the plant will manufacture and manufacture to include high pressure tanks, heat exchangers, water bath heaters, glycol, skids, scrubbers, process modules, storage tanks/columns and flare systems.
Other items are: drums, pipe reels, enclosures, gas cylinders, flanges, among others.

He also revealed that once fully operational, the plant can manufacture all the equipment needed to establish a refinery.

Also addressing journalists, the Director of Supervision, Quality Control and Standards (QAIQC),
Mr. Akporhuarho Fidelis, said that the company does not take compliance with the standards for granted.

“We test each product and manufacture it according to customer specifications and international standard requirements,” he added.
Although President Buhari has yet to visit the factory site, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo had visited the factory and pledged support from the Federal Government .

Speaking to the media after an inspection round, the minister said that “equipment made here is to facilitate the production of crude oil and gas, much of the equipment currently in use is imported from overseas. By the time this factory is complete, many of the things we import will no longer need to be imported, they will be made locally here at Lee Engineering.”
Speaking on the expectations of the Federal Government, the Minister said, “We are interested in employing Nigerians and from what I see at the moment, even though the equipment is not there yet, they have already sent young Nigerians abroad for training and they always intend to send more, so this is something we are very happy about.”
“President Muhammadu Buhari promised to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next 10 years; one of the ways to do this is to encourage industrialists to create new industries and expand the ones they have to enable them to employ more people… By the time the factory is completed l Next year, the nature of its specialization would create a situation where the country will no longer need to import and even people from abroad will be able to come and buy here,” explained the minister.
To achieve such lofty goals, the federal government should put in place the right policies to encourage patronage from indigenous businesses like Lee Engineering. IOCs and other industry players should be discouraged from importing products that can be produced locally.

Margie D. Carlisle