Guest of the week

Oil & Gas research activities very poor in Nigerian universities – MD  Well Fluid Services

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Managing Director, Well Fluid Services Limited Mr Okoro Martins in this interview  at the company’s exhibition stand during West African Petroleum Exhibition & Conference ( WAIPEC) with Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Nigerian NewsDirect Dr SAMUEL IBIYEMI speaks on the award by National Association of Polytechnic Students (.NAPS) for innovation and poor research activities by Nigerian universities. In this interview, he identifies NOGIC as driver of success recorded by indigenous Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board ( NCDMB) and suggested strategies to improve milestones recorded in the implementation of NOGIC Act.

First, let me congratulate you on your award as the Commander of the Nigerian students. Can you tell us how you bagged this award being the CEO of an Oil and Gas company?

Okay, I was just in my office, when I received a call from the National Executive Council of the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPs) that I have been recommended for an award in recognition of my contribution to the Oil and Gas industry. During my interaction with them, they made me know there were certain students who passed through my company during their Industrial Training attachment. They found out that there were some specific equipment which I have built that are useful in Oil and Gas industry. So, based on that, they held a session to approve the recommendation to honour me with the Commander of the Nigerian Students (CONS).

Can you mention some of the equipment invented by your company which are unique in the Oil and Gas industry?

We have a lot of them, one of them is the sound trap which is used to collect sound that is produced along with crude oil during processing to prevent it from going from process facility. Secondly, we have the effluent water treatment unit, which is used to treat produce water so, that it doesn’t dump the oil into the environment. Also, another equipment is the gas ejection skid which is being used to measure the exact volume of gas you inject into your well during secondary recovery, as well as some other ones. This attests to the fact that I’m well grounded in the practical aspects of the oil and gas services sector as someone who has passed through the polytechnic. So, that was how they considered me for the award.

How did you come about these equipment? Were they invented by your company or how?

What I do is that, I look at what is existing and I prove what is existing to come out with what I have. Some of them, I read about them in books, when I think about how it can work practically and bring them to existence. For example, like the gas scrubber, which I designed, though we call it the knock-out vessel which am using as part of my EPS package. I looked at the drawing to see how it works and I was able to bring it to life. This is part of what I do. So, part of it is that, I tried to see for myself how things can work. When I go for international exhibitions, part of what I’m looking for is what I can produce back home from the exhibition. Some people go there to see what they can buy and companies they can represent as agent but I go there to see the kind of equipment I can bring back home to our West African countries, build on it and make it work.

Now, how do you see research in Africa, especially in the Nigeria’s Oil and Gas industry?

Research is very poor and I have been quarreling with lecturers in the universities over commitment to research.  if you look at a country like Norway, most of their information are loose information and they have problem with sand. So, the government of Norway invested money in research on how they can detect sands and also be able to quantify how much sand is produced per barrel of oil. Today, Norway is known as one of the major countries that is producing sand detection equipment. So, if you go back to countries like United Kingdom, (U.K) most of the lecturers in their universities are captains of industry. In other words, they bring their experience in the industry back to the classroom but Nigeria is not like that. People who are lecturing are very far from those who are practicalizing it. So, the students cannot grap practical knowledge on time. I think research is very poor in Nigeria and it is an area where we need to look at. This is an area where companies can collaborate with universities to get out the best. We can look at the challenges they are facing in the Oil and Gas industry and try to build the equipment that will meet up the challenges.

For some of the equip-ment you invented, have you been able to receive support from the government to encourage more home grown solutions in time of recession like this?

In fact, it’s just recently that I’m trying to talk to the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) that, this is what I produced and they are trying to give me guidelines on how they can register it. I have not actually been making it known to people that this is what I can do, rather, since I built it, I have been trying it in the Oil and Gas industry and it’s working.

What’s the level of patronage now?

The level of patronage has been high especially with the Sand trap  that I built and used it to carry out test on 42 wells of Total E & P.

Can you mention some of your clients?

I work for Total E&P and Seplat Petroleum. Besides, I also work for marginal field operators like Prime, Millennium Oil & Gas and Bayelsa Oil & Gas among others.

Are clients considering your products because of the Nigerian Content Act or their uniqueness?

Local content Act is a driver for all these projects because before now, when you produce an equipment or you manufacture any equipment locally, the first question you will be asked is where is the design? Who approved the design? Where did you get the materials? The material feasibility and all that. Instead of looking at  the feasibility, whether the equipment is actually working, they will be looking at  paper work, which will kill the interest, However, with the incoming of the Nigerian Content Development & Monitoring Board (NCDMB), they now look at the operation before they talk of the material and whatsoever, which is a good encouragement to the Nigerian content industry.

How do you think that Nigeria can build on this success story of Nigerian Content implementation?

   The NCDMB has actually tried in addressing some of these challenges, but they still need to go further by looking at its implementation by these International Oil Companies (IOCs) because whether you like it or not, we have not fully tapped into the benefit of the Nigerian Content Development, so, we need to tap into it. The NCDMB officials need to open their eyes very well and also collaborate with the Petroleum Technology Development Association of Nigeria (PETAN) for example, so that they will be having feedback that can be useful for them to put more effort at local content. It can be achieved.

So, for the students that honoured you, what message does you Development Association of Nigeria (PETAN) for example, so that they will be having feedback that can be useful for them to put more effort at local content. It can be achieved.

So, for the students that honoured you, what message do you have for them?

What I have to tell them like the message I gave to them that day is that, anyone can become who he wants to become, if he can plan everything. I told them a story of my project which I did for my National Diploma which dates back to 1986. I was able to design and fabricate the solar energy dryer and a solar energy water heater, and it works and that’s how it should be.

You mean as far back as 1986?

Of course I did it in 1986 but there was no support. I was surprised by 2006, which was 20 years after, I went to a Renewable Energy  exhibition in _Abu Dhabi and  I was surprised to see solar energy everywhere. At that time, there was no panel, we were just using our  head to design how we can attract the sun. How we can store  the heat and how we can heat up the water and it worked. So, if there was support from the government by now, then I think Nigeria would have been  better for it, in terms of research on how we can do better things. My advice to the polytechnic students is that, our project should not end on a shelf, but rather it should be a starting point for our greatness. Wherever, we stop our project in school, after coming out of school, we should try to improve on it by getting support on how we can make it better.

What advice do you have for the government in bringing out the best in students?

What I have for the government is that, it will be good if the Minister of Petroleum can get viable projects from all the universities every year, have a board or a group of assessors that look at them and select the best project, so, that they can finetune it to better the Nigerian economy.

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