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Mega projects in an evolving energy world: interview with Alain Poincheval

Interview with Alain Poincheval, Fellow Executive Project Director, Arctic LNG2

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Alain Poincheval has a big job on his hands, quite literally. He is our Fellow Executive Project Director of Arctic LNG2, one of the world’s few Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) mega projects. These massive exercises require extensive expertise and sophisticated planning. We asked Alain about executing mega projects and the role they play in our industry, both today and tomorrow.

Q: What makes a mega project? 

Alain Poincheval (AP): There are perhaps 10 to 15 mega projects in the world. They involve significant financial investment by clients and are recognized by the industry as world-class projects when it comes to size and depth of development. They are complex in terms of technology, logistics, and magnitude. And the time from concept to startup usually takes between five to seven years, possibly up to 10 years.

Q: What kind of partnership is needed to make a mega project a reality?

AP: This depends on the size and complexity of the task and ultimately on the choice of our clients. Most of the time you form a partnership to execute those projects, and you may team up with a competitor. It could be through a joint venture, where we form a new company for the project and are jointly liable for its performance. Or it could be through a consortium, where we are each responsible for our own input. Whatever the arrangement, mutual trust is vital. 

Q: Why do operators turn to Technip Energies for mega projects?

AP: Clients come to us because we offer predictability in terms of cost, execution schedule, process performance, and technology management. This relies on two things – people and work processes.

We have a reservoir of talents. With technology in our DNA, our network of experts is definitely a key differentiator. Clients know they can turn to us to provide solutions during the execution phase. 

As for our processes, they are tried and tested. Among other things they allow us to take on large contracts without jeopardizing other projects, and they allow us to smoothly formulate joint procedures with clients. 

Q: Do mega projects help deliver new technologies and/or improve current ones?

AP: Because of the size and importance of mega projects, the industry is often cautious about relying on very new technology. Instead, these projects encourage the novel use of existing technologies. 

For example, for floating LNG, the novelty was about installing a liquefaction train on a vessel that can be up to half a kilometer long and in the middle of the ocean. With LNG in Arctic regions, we are breaking barriers by modularizing the plant and installing liquefaction trains in remote areas with freezing conditions. Essentially, mega projects are all about evolution, scaling up and risk management.

Q: How does Technip Energies implement diversity and boost career development in mega projects? 

AP: For these projects we put together a core team of highly qualified, knowledgeable, and experienced people who leverage lessons learned from previous projects. We also bring in younger talents to absorb this knowledge and this gives longevity to our expertise. 

We are fully focused on our  gender equality and diversity goals. In engineering and procurement roles, we have coaching and development opportunities for all. This year, one of our priorities is also to actively recruit women from engineering schools. 

As construction for a mega project may involve two or three years of work on site, it can be a bit challenging and the work/life balance needs to be taken into consideration. 

Q: You've seen projects from almost every aspect – what’s your message to young engineers just starting out?

AP: As well as displaying humility in adversity, it’s good to keep moving. Be alert and never think that anything is guaranteed. Be prepared for the unexpected and be ready to make decisions every day. Give your team the confidence and power to make decisions. Remember, making no decision is often the most damaging in terms of cost and schedule. 

Team spirit is one of the strongest markers of a project community - we are one, taking care of each other, and always focused on safety as this is a key enabler of success. 

Q: How does Technip Energies’ expertise in mega projects position the company for the energy transition? 

AP: In the energy transition, projects may entail hybridization of mature and less mature technologies or applications to new fields, or scaling-up to wider plants. That might mean installing carbon capture in an existing plant, or low-carbon intensity production. This taps into our skills in energy management, process technology, and applying solutions in different environments.

Technip Energies is well positioned to decarbonize our clients’ operations while relying on our leadership in LNG and low-carbon LNG as a key transition fuel. Mega projects will remain part of our portfolio for years to come.

For other markets, like carbon capture, hydrogen, sustainable chemistry, and offshore wind, projects will tend to be smaller. And that requires more agility. You must be able to deliver in terms of cost and schedule efficiency. 

One of our priorities over the next two or three years is to balance the execution of these two types of project to better serve the energy transition. What will enable us to achieve this is the richness and breadth of competencies of our people.

Q: What will the future hold?

AP: Our success will rely on fulfilling the market requirements in terms of installation, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy efficiency. 

In the future, many of our customers will be smaller companies, involving some start-ups, who know what they want to do and the technology they need. However, they will require help with project execution and that’s where we come in. To operate in this market, we will be more agile, execute faster, have a standardized approach, with a higher digital content and simplified work processes. 

I am confident about the future. We are prepared. We have the people and the capabilities to transform our work practices and lead the way to a low-carbon future.

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