Like many graduates in Nigeria, 29-year-old Vivian found it difficult to find work after completing her engineering degree. Employers, she says, prefer experienced professionals: “It was hard for young graduates like me to compete.”

But Vivian was determined to succeed. Three years after leaving university in 2011 she won a place on a 15-month training programme with engineering and construction contractor Saipem. The programme was run on behalf of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) to develop local skills for the oil and gas industry.

Vivian earned the chance to work as an engineer on SNEPCo’s Bonga North West deep-water project, which began production in August 2014.

After three months in the classroom Vivian spent a year gaining valuable experience in the field. She learned how to manage multiple contractors and how to engineer materials for safe installation in deep water.

“The chance to work on Bonga North West was fantastic and it changed my life,” Vivian said.

Building up local expertise

SNEPCo has long been a driving force in the introduction and development of skills, technology and expertise in the Nigerian energy sector. In Nigeria, 95% of the 4,000-plus Shell employees are Nigerian.

Similarly, 90% of the people who worked on the Bonga North West project during its four-year development were Nigerian. And SNEPCo awarded all five of the major engineering and construction contracts for Bonga North West to companies that were either indigenous, have local staff, or invest in the country.

The five companies completed the project ahead of schedule, with no reported injuries to staff during 4.16 million hours of work.

One of them is Weltek, the Nigerian engineering and construction firm which SNEPCo selected to do all the expansion and modification work on the huge Bonga FPSO.

“We have been working with SNEPCo for about 25 years,” managing director Pedro Egbe said. “But this project is the highlight. It has helped our employees to further develop their skills and for us to grow as a company.”

At 300 metres, the existing Bonga production vessel is about the same length as three soccer fields. Weltek had to design, build and install new equipment on the facility’s decks to tap into the North West reservoirs without interrupting output from the existing Bonga field.

“Shell has helped us to upgrade our facilities and to attain the quality and safety standards necessary for a project of this magnitude,” Pedro said.

Watch a short film to see Joey Uyanwuye, Project Manager for Bonga North West, describe how the project has brought much-needed jobs, training and business for local people.

Bonga North West

The Bonga North West oil and gas field lies around 120 kilometres off the coast of Nigeria. It is close to the Bonga field, Nigeria’s first oil and gas project in more than 1,000 metres of water, which started production in 2005.

New wells and equipment below the surface produce a mixture of oil and gas. This is transported by a new undersea pipeline to the nearby Bonga floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) facility – one of the world’s largest – which SNEPCo upgraded to handle the additional flow coming from Bonga North West.

Once separated from the gas, the oil is stored on board before being loaded onto tankers for export. The gas is piped to the NLNG plant onshore where it is cooled to make liquefied natural gas for shipping to consumers around the world.

Specialised skills

Natasha Okwuosa is the industry’s first female abseiler in Nigeria. She was trained as part of the Bonga North West skills development programme. Hers is a highly skilled profession that involves abseiling down the side of a platform or production vessel and working in a safety harness high above the sea.

SNEPCo has helped Nigerian companies achieve several national milestones in the oil and gas industry, increasing the number of people with skills like Natasha’s.

More in about us

Ensuring safety for all

How do you work 4 million hours without a single injury? Bonga North West project team members in Nigeria describe the making of a strong safety culture.

Bonga North West - overview

Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd (SNEPCo) is producing oil from the Bonga North West field, which lies at a depth of more than 1,000 metres (3,300 feet).

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