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Business Spotlight: Petroceltic

12 Oct 2013

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Scottish Oil Club in Edinburgh to hear an insightful talk from Petroceltic’s CEO, Brian O’Cathain, on the challenges the business faces in Algeria.

Petroceltic in Algeria

Petroceltic is a small company with a large gas field. In 2005 the company was awarded the Isarene licence to conduct business in Algeria. Fast forward seven years Petrolceltic has just received permission for development and is expecting first gas by 2017. Brian expects that by that time, the Algerian field will be the company’s largest and provide the business with the most return.

Petroceltic are currently conducting a rigorous rock formation analysis exercise to determine how far they are able to drill. The Isarene field is located in South Eastern Algeria and covers an area of 2,564.8km². 

The Complexities of Doing Business in Algeria 

With a reputation of crime, corruption and terrorism, Algeria has a negative perception of a country to work and do business. It was only ten months ago that a group of Islamist militants attacked the Amenas gas plant that claimed 40 lives.

With the prevalence of social media, the crisis at the plant reached Facebook and Twitter before homeland governments had been made aware of the crisis. Whilst social media governance is a consideration for businesses across the globe, in a high risk area like Algeria, it’s important that employees are cautious of the content they share.

Brian is confident that a similar incident would not happen at the Petroceltic field. The site is surrounded by sand dunes and is 100km away from the nearest road. The only way in and out is by helicopter or road, which is how employees arrive and leave the site. This has led to the Petroceltic field being one of the safest in Algeria, due to the remote location and security measures.

Furthermore, political bureaucracy can mean lengthy waits until a business receives approval to operate in Algeria. However the Algerian government is welcoming of foreign business and is likely to approve 90% of applications. For small businesses who have a lot of patience, this is a fantastic opportunity.

Attracting International Oil Workers to the Sahara

With that said, it’s not surprising that Algeria is a tough sell to oil and gas workers. Salaries and rewards are thought to be less than those offered in Middle East, and with the threat of Islamic attacks, professionals are looking for safer and more rewarding destinations to work.

As a prime supplier of gas to Europe, the Algerian government are increasing military presence on oil and gas fields to protect migrant workers.

In terms of Petroceltic, there’s also the reassurance that the base is not easily accessible. The field’s designated landing facility means that it’s fully protected and only employees can access the base.

With high growth expected, the majority of roles available are expected to be contract roles, which are expected to span 2 to 3 years.

Final Thoughts

Algeria is a key part of Petroceltic’s strategy for developing energy resources. Brian’s talk at the Scottish Oil Club was incredibly inspirational. In particular, it was very refreshing to meet a well-rounded oil and gas professional like Brian who not only had the technical understanding of how to run an international gas business, but also the business acumen and financial savvy on how to improve and optimise performance.

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