AMEC Black & McDonald

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Authentic Relationships

AMEC Black & McDonald knows a thing or two about building solid relationships. In fact, AMEC and Black & McDonald used to be separate companies until 1990, when they realised they were more successful as a pair than not. Since then, they have worked to build strong and transparent relationships with those around them, such as suppliers, contractors and—most profitably—Exxon Mobil.

As an engineering company in the offshore oil and gas industry in Nova Scotia, AMEC Black & McDonald (ABM) focuses on four main areas: Engineering, Procurement of material, Construction coordination and Maintenance support (EPCM).

Combined, the company has a track record that includes all Atlantic Canadian offshore production facilities, as well as significant contributions to onshore gas pipeline and refinery assets. Clients benefit from over 100 million hours of offshore and onshore experience built over the past 30 years. It’s no wonder that Exxon Mobil chose to work with them.

Exxon Mobil is ABM’s primary contract. The project, named “Sable”, consists of five offshore platforms and two onshore plants. It’s ABM’s job to provide EPCM services to all seven sites.

Mark Healy, General Manager of ABM, explains that the Sable project has helped the company grow to over 70 technical and support staff—not including unions and trade labour. “When I took over three years ago, we were at 17 people,” he says. “We have experienced a lot of growth here.” The workforce is not the only thing that has grown since the Sable contract. ABM’s relationships with local businesses have also blossomed.

“We have a very strong relationship with the community which grew as we started working with Exxon Mobil,” says Healy. “It echoes down to the supply community. We’ve developed very strong contractual and business partnerships—they are as key to whole success of the project as anyone else is. They’re critical for our success.”

Although most efforts are focused on Sable in Nova Scotia, ABM also has a few contracts in Newfoundland. In fact, they have a small office in St John’s.

What really matters
To the folks at ABM, the top priority in any project is health, safety and environment. In fact, ABM hired someone whose primary focus is to make sure those three bases are covered and that everyone is complying with all the regulations.

“Our processes are very sophisticated and well-established for the protection and safety of our personnel and the environment,” says Healy. “Our company, as well as Exxon Mobil, has high expectations with respect to the environment in which we work. We want to ensure that our employees and any contractor we partner with works to leave as little a footprint as possible.”

For ABM, their largest consideration for safety and the environment comes with engineering their products. They are mindful of their designs and how they are expected to be maintained. Although the operators themselves—Exxon Mobil in this case—are responsible for environmental impact, ABM wants to make sure the products and services they provide set them up for success.

“Everything we do has health, safety and the environment in mind, so we can provide design and construction services that ensure these facilities are operated and maintained in the best way possible.” While there are inherent risks in the offshore oil and gas industry, ABM believes it is important to have a safe work culture where people believe that all incidents are preventable. If there is reason to believe a project in unmanageably risky, ABM is not interested in pursuing it.

“The safety side of our business is absolutely the number-one reason that we operate the way we do,” explains Healy. “If we’re involved in a project and we believe it can’t be done safely then we won’t do it. We do not want anyone taking undue risks to get the job done. If the job is done on-time and on-budget but people get hurt, then the job is not successful.”

ABM in demand
If there’s one trend that Healy has noticed since beginning his career, it’s the global demand for oil. ABM has had to adapt to the market to better serve its clients. Granted, the current market is fluctuating and there has been a drop in commodity prices, but if you put that aside for a moment, Healy maintains that global citizens want more of it. Of course, the increasing demand for our oil and gas resources means increasing demand for companies like ABM.

“The growing need for oil has meant the operators have had to find new and creative ways to be more efficient and to access the resources as much as possible,” says Healy. “As far as we’re concerned in Nova Scotia, we’ve seen the Sable project—which is in its tenth year now—reach peak performance. The biggest change is the fact that everything is able to be produced efficiently with world-class safety standards.” What’s really impressive is that ABM is able to help the Exxon Mobile reach maximum productivity even with amount of logistics that are involved with a project like Sable. Healy explains that the project in Nova Scotia is unique in that there are seven sites to manage, which is a lot of coordination—including the coordination of boats and helicopters to move personnel from site to site.

Coming down the pipe
AMEC Black & McDonald have a few things they’re looking forward to. In the short term, they want to renew their contract with Exxon Mobil for continuing support to the sable field. It’s been a great opportunity so far and they hope to continue adding to the success of the project. Farther along, ABM wants to position themselves as the pre-eminent Atlantic-Canadian EPCM contractor to support all of the oil and gas operations in their region. One specific project they anticipate in Nova Scotia is the Deep Panuke site that is already underway, slated to have first gas in 2010. In Newfoundland, ABM is interested in the Hebron project, a significant site that expects first gas in 2015.

Apart from that, Healy says that the company will continue on its path. “We want to keep strengthening relationships to position ourselves to work on future projects.”

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