When ExxonMobil announced a significant oil discovery offshore Guyana this year, behind the scenes of the successful exploration effort was a team of real estate, information technology and procurement experts.
From setting up office space, to securing equipment and contracts for operations, to building residential housing for expatriate employees in remote locales, ExxonMobil Global Services Company (GSC) provides critical support to exploration, development and production activities in frontier locations worldwide.
“We help the business focus on its core job of finding and producing oil,” says Peter Sturla, Global Real Estate and Facilities (GREF) Angola project manager. “Above all, we want employees to be
safe. As such, we strive to provide them with secure and comfortable offices and living quarters so that they can concentrate on the jobs at hand.”
Sturla is currently overseeing construction of a new 60-unit housing complex in Angola for expatriates supporting the company’s upstream operations. In the past five years, he has helped build offices in Dubai and housing in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
A team effort
Three key GSC organizations help get operations up and running, and provide safe offices and housing for employees when ExxonMobil enters a frontier location. GREF leases or builds and manages office space and housing facilities for expatriates. ExxonMobil Information Technology (EMIT) professionals provide computing, network and telecommunications capabilities, and Global Procurement secures the goods and services to run the operations – everything from drilling equipment to pens and pencils.
Often, new exploration and production areas are in remote locations in underdeveloped countries. Office space may be limited or unavailable. Telecommunications links are nonexistent. Even roads and airports needed to get essential supplies into these areas can be limited.
“For our permanent facilities compound to support LNG operations in Papua New Guinea, the company started by putting in roads to get to our site, building power generation and water treatment plants and installing telecommunications,” says Scott Clare, manager of Asia-Pacific real estate and projects for GREF. Now that LNG production has begun, GREF has also completed construction of a state-of-the-art facility to support ExxonMobil’s workforce.
The ExxonMobil Haus in Papua New Guinea (PNG) now accommodates more than 300 employees and features many of the same amenities as the new Houston campus, including adjustable workstations in an open, collaborative environment outfitted with high-definition wireless projectors, 55-inch light-emitting diode displays and ClickShare presentation technology. The 72-acre site includes a recreation center for employees.
“We accomplished this in a country that has few examples of this type of advanced construction and with a workforce made up mostly of local workers,” says Dave Baker, senior project manager.
First on the ground
The GSC team’s involvement starts at the beginning of a project. “We’re integrated with the business to understand its long-term strategy and to deliver solutions to get operations up and running,” Clare says.
Today, ExxonMobil has 18 venture offices throughout the world.
The company often establishes new offices in frontier locations in a hotel, as it did in Guyana.
“As ExxonMobil enters a new country and works with the government to set up production-sharing agreements, the advance team needs support and equipment from the very first day,” says Jeff Marsh, who oversees procurement for drilling and exploration projects around the world.
GREF, EMIT and Procurement work together to set up offices, communications networks and living arrangements for personnel. They also work closely with ExxonMobil Security and Medicine and Occupational Health to
ensure that working and living arrangements are safe.
“Proximity to our office and a local airport is critical in selecting a housing location,” Sturla says. “In developed locales, we look for housing that’s already built. Here in Angola, we’re consolidating current housing into a new compound of three-bedroom houses.”
While GREF handles work and living arrangements, the Procurement team develops contracts and secures suppliers. “Often, there are limited suppliers to choose from and logistics challenges. We also have to understand the rules and regulations in the specific country and develop the right agreements,” Marsh says.
There is continual planning to make sure that resources and services are available in remote locations. “When you’re drilling 120 miles offshore South America and something breaks, you can’t pick up the phone and get a replacement part delivered immediately,” Marsh says. “One of the first contracts we put in place for drilling campaigns is a shore base for materials and equipment. An idle rig waiting for equipment can cost hundreds
of thousands of dollars a day.” Providing infrastructure for information technology can also be challenging. “We may be operating in an environment with harsh conditions, such as the North Slope of Alaska, where below- freezing temperatures and polar bears are a threat, or in politically unsettled locations like Basra, Iraq,” says Kellie Canaday, whose team sets up IT infrastructure and communications for upstream locations worldwide.
Security issues and logistics can make getting people and equipment into a location very challenging, she adds. “Often, the sites lack basic infrastructure, and when there are no existing networks we can tie into, we deploy satellite and microwave services to provide network capabilities. As projects evolve, we work to develop more permanent communication solutions, such as fiber optic cable.”
GSC’s support provides a lasting positive effect on the local population, including job creation, skills development, and economic impact through local leasing and purchasing.
When offices become operational, the company hires local workers to oversee office management and to provide procurement, contracting services, IT and other support.
“ExxonMobil develops the national workforce, optimizing skills and bringing our global knowledge and expertise to train local engineers, human resources folks, procurement specialists, real estate professionals and security personnel so that they can operate our sites consistently anywhere in the world,” Sturla notes.
Concentrating on people
But the underlying impact of GSC’s involvement at frontier sites is its capability to provide safer, more secure, productive and cost-effective offices and housing for employees. Along with that goes the installation of computer and telecommunications systems and the purchase and delivery of needed equipment and supplies.
“You want explorers to explore, developers to develop and producers to produce,” Clare says. “Our team’s business is to give ExxonMobil employees quality office space, secure residential facilities, and other technical tools and equipment so they can produce oil and gas.”
“Partnership is key to our success,” Canaday adds. “We work closely with the business, and understand the direct impact their work has and the value it provides. From bringing up a site on day one with IT services to experiencing the startup of production operations, there’s tremendous satisfaction in seeing these projects come to fruition.”