Technip Iberia

When you look at the list of completed projects on its website, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Technip Iberia (TPI) has single-handedly built the entire industrial part of Barcelona. When I put it like that to Jerónimo Farnós he demurred; but there’s no denying that Technip has had a hand in a very large number of developments over its 38-year history.TPI’s headquarters is in Barcelona where it employs some 250 people; there is a production office in Tarragona employing a further 100 staff; and a small commercial office in Madrid. From these offices, TPI is active throughout Spain, having completed projects in almost all industrial sites in the country.

TPI is the Spanish arm of the international Technip Group, headquartered in Paris but with major operations on every continent. These days it is no longer involved in lump sum turnkey construction as such, but specialises in project management, planning and cost control, procurement and inspection, design and engineering, site management and all the complex work necessary for the delivery of complex installations and building on time and on budget. “We are focused on two main areas,” says Farnós. “The first is working directly with our principal Spanish clients, such as Repsol, Cepsa or Enagás. The second is our international clients with facilities in Spain like Dow Chemical, BP, BASF, BAYER and many more. We are active in nearly all industrial sectors, but especially chemicals, food, fuel storage, gas, industrial gases, energy, petrochemicals, pharmaceutical and refining.”

But TPI is increasingly involved in the Technip Group’s global activities too, providing personnel and support to far-flung EPC jobs like the recently opened Dung Quat oil refinery—the first in Vietnam—for Petrovietnam, and a ConocoPhillips project in Germany. Such projects now take up to a third of TPI’s resources, he says. “These are usually multi-centre projects with a hub that coordinates project management and everything else with the collaboration of other centres.” TPI is very experienced in this, and frequently undertakes the detailed engineering and procurement parts of the project, he says.

Like all firms that depend on the spending decisions of clients, TPI has been noticeably affected by the recent credit crisis. Industrial production in Spain is down to under 70 per cent of its maximum capacity. After a boom year in 2008 with a turnover of around €35 million for engineering services, TPI got though most of 2009 in good shape, though the workload began to fall off in the fourth quarter, and 2010 is going to be more difficult, Farnós predicts. “The longer term projects are now complete, or in the final phase, and we didn’t secure any really big new ones last year. But it’s not all bad! We have a sound basis of technical work from our regular clients, and many small projects of up to €1 million. We have won some medium-sized jobs and are hoping to tie up others in the second half of this year.”

The emphasis domestically has shifted from major new construction to revamping existing facilities as clients focus on cost efficiency and in a few cases, capacity extension. “We have adapted to this in two ways: by giving our existing clients the best support we can for the work they have to do and by moving into the export market, where there are longer term, larger contracts. We are also trying to enlarge our base and work in more diversified markets.” No particular sector seems to be booming at the moment, he says regretfully, so it is imperative for TPI to cover all the bases and increase the amount it is doing in the energy sector, get involved with waste treatment units in Spain and become more involved in foreign markets.

There are regions in the world—the Middle East is an example—where investment has continued apace; and others where it is already picking up after the recession. TPI is already very active in the global Technip operations, with 10 per cent of its personnel located overseas at any one time. “This gives them good exposure to international projects and techniques, and working with international clients. Our international activity is especially important for us today.”

He emphasises that a consulting and engineering organisation like TPI stands or falls by the quality of its staff. Each year, it runs an extensive training plan to bring its team of professionals up to date with the latest technical knowledge.

These training courses and seminars—in-house or at external organisations—cover both general and technical aspects, such as specific courses for optimum handling of available tools (with special emphasis on the PDS-3D system and auxiliary modules).“We have a lot of HR initiatives in the company, one of which—Human Resources Without Borders—helps us to be more ‘global’ than we already are. It develops people and skills from an international and not just a local viewpoint, and has a very innovative programme that delivers training and assessment over the internet. At a corporate level, the Technip University is open to the worldwide family of companies.”

The strategic objective is to train people better in the legislation, safety requirements and regulation they will encounter in different projects as well as giving them the technical tools for engineering, project management, financial control and the like. Equally, Technip feels that it is essential to expose its people to best practices on a global scale by fostering mobility and equal opportunity, says Farnós.

And TPI is still very much involved in flagship projects in Spain. A good example is the EPC contract to build a hydrogen plant at the Spanish oil companyCepsa's Huelva refinery, in collaboration with Technip’s operations and engineering centre in Zoetermeer, Holland. This is an upgrading project of the type Farnós was talking about, but one sector that is still attracting new investment is liquid natural gas (LNG), brought in by tankers from overseas and regasified locallyfor the grid. TPI is in the middle of a four-year contract, due to complete in 2011, to upgrade the huge Enagás LNG terminal at Barcelona. “They are building a new jetty and four new LNG tanks, each of them having a capacity of 150,000 cubic metres.”

It’s not an easy time, Farnós concludes, but Technip Iberia is a solid company within a solid and well financed group, and he is confident that its continued investment in training, as well as its impeccable track record, will secure its future profitability and expansion.

Editorial research by Vincent Kielty