Interview

April 15, 2024

How IKIKE project earned me NSE honour — Engr Ikechukwu Okereke

How IKIKE project earned me NSE honour — Engr Ikechukwu Okereke

With over 25 years of experience working in the oil and gas sector for multinational organisations and currently the Package Manager for the Ubeta Project at Total Energy, Mr. Ikechukwu Okereke is no ordinary mechanical engineer. His passion for creating value and pioneering groundbreaking ideas has set him apart from the crowd. Throughout his extensive career, Okereke has consistently demonstrated a relentless drive to create value and push the boundaries of innovation.

His unwavering commitment to excellence and his ability to spearhead game-changing ideas have earned him a reputation as a trailblazer in the industry. In this interview, Okereke discusses his latest accolade – the prestigious Fellowship award from the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE). This recognition highlights his exceptional contributions to the field and also sheds light on the trajectory of his illustrious career. By sharing his experiences and insights, he hopes to inspire the next generation of mechanical engineers, encouraging them to pursue their passions, embrace challenges, and strive for excellence.

Congratulations on your recent award! Could you walk us through what project earned you this honour?

Thank you for the kind words! I am truly honored and humbled to have received this prestigious Fellowship award from the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE). It was a complete surprise, and I’m still trying to process the news.

The project that earned me this recognition is called the IKIKE Project. It is an offshore oil and gas-producing project that I have been heavily involved with over the past few years. The IKIKE project is located in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria and is focused on the development and production of hydrocarbons from an offshore field.

As the Head of Construction and brownfield on this project, I have been responsible for overseeing the design, construction, and commissioning of the various aspects of the work required for the successful operation of the offshore facilities. This included everything from the design of the production platforms and subsea infrastructure to the selection and installation of the Module, pumps, piping, structural, risers, and other critical equipment.

I am truly grateful to the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) for this award, and I am excited to have worked on projects like IKIKE that are helping to drive the development of Nigeria’s energy sector and create value for the country and its people.

What were some of the key technical challenges you had to overcome in this project and how did you approach solving them?

One of the key challenges we faced with the IKIKE project was the harsh offshore environment and the need to ensure the reliability and efficiency of the mechanical systems in the face of extreme weather conditions, corrosive seawater, and other environmental factors.

We also optimized the platform unavailability by reducing the shutdown duration. Through innovative engineering solutions and a relentless focus on quality and safety, we were able to overcome these challenges and deliver a project that has been recognised for its technical excellence and operational performance.

Amongst the major challenges we faced included load out of the 230-ton module onshore and offshore installation of the module into an existing platform with a clearance of 3mm under heavy tide. We reviewed the installation methodology and proposed a robust approach which helped us to successfully achieve the heavy lift.

How does your award-winning work align with the industry’s sustainability and emissions reduction goals?

IKIKE Project aligns well with the industry drive to produce clean energies and minimise pollution.

The project’s focus on renewable energy, emissions reduction, environmental stewardship, and circular economy principles makes it a shining example of how the energy industry can align its operations with global sustainability and emissions reduction goals.

As a mechanical engineer in the oil and gas industry, what do you see as the biggest innovations or advancements happening in your field right now?

In the oil and gas sector where I operate, current innovation is the production and compression of gas for both export and local markets instead of flaring. This is addressing the challenges of environmental pollution and making gas available for local consumption.

Additionally, companies are working to optimise both capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operational expenditures (OPEX) to improve the overall efficiency and profitability of their operations.

These innovations are helping the industry address environmental concerns, improve resource utilisation, and enhance the overall sustainability and competitiveness of oil and gas projects.

How has your engineering background and skill set allowed you to make meaningful contributions to the oil and gas sector?

As an engineer with a strong technical background, I have been able to leverage my skills and knowledge to make valuable contributions to the oil and gas industry by ensuring that project objectives are met by delivering quality projects, within budget and schedule while maintaining the highest level of safety, continuous improvement, and optimisation.

I conduct thorough risk assessments, implement robust safety protocols, implement teamwork, and ensure compliance with industry regulations.

In what ways has the oil and gas industry evolved during your career, and how have you adapted your approach to keep up with changing technologies and priorities?

The oil and gas industry is rapidly evolving, with new technologies and innovations constantly emerging. My engineering expertise allows me to stay at the forefront of these advancements, evaluating their potential impact and spearheading the integration of cutting-edge solutions.

The improvement in technology has led to enhanced oil and gas recovery, improvement in operational techniques, cost optimisation, and improvement in safety and the environment. I have been able to keep up by training, adapting to the changes, thinking out of the box, and collaborating with other professionals.

What would you advise young mechanical engineers who are interested in pursuing a career in the oil and gas industry?

I would advise them to gain and develop relevant technical skills, cultivate a versatile skill set, gain practical experience, develop a resilient mindset, network, and build relationships. These can position them for success in the dynamic and rewarding oil and gas industry.

They need to be confident, open-minded, diligent, honest, maintain a good attitude, and be adaptable to changes.

Can you describe a time when your mechanical engineering expertise helped solve a complex operational challenge for your company or a client?

Offshore installation of the extension module was planned during the dry season due to the sea swell. However, due to delays in mobilising an offshore vessel, the installation had to take place during the rainy season to prevent huge standby costs from running into millions of dollars.

I had to develop a new installation methodology that considers sea swell and dynamic movement of the installation vessel to achieve a tight installation without destroying the existing platform.

Where do you see the future of mechanical engineering in the oil and gas sector heading, especially as the industry continues to evolve and adapt?

The future of mechanical engineering is bright with the advancement in technology, the cream of young inquisitive and smart engineers coming out of the universities and the training programs available both physically and online. Things are a lot easier now than they were during our own time.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I will advise young engineers to believe in themselves, not allow anyone to limit them, and be honest and ready to learn, the sky is your stepping stone.

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