August 2022

Growing in West Africa

International Trade - Our Regional Focus

To mark our Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade, MDL has produced a series of articles looking at our international activities in specific regions. In this article, we take a look at the situation in West Africa.

We have been steadily growing our track record in West Africa over the previous six years, with three new clients secured in the region in the last year alone.

We expect our activity from this market to continue to grow, so it’s important for us to understand the drivers. A quick dip into the situation in the region highlights why we think it is such an attractive proposition.

Our vice president of sales, Michael Blease-Shepley, explains: “Sometimes there’s not as clear visibility of execution schedules as perhaps we see in Europe or other mature regions across the world, so it’s really important to be within Angola, Nigeria and other West African countries to ensure that we fully understand the challenges that our client base is going through.

“There are so many different projects taking place locally, but quite often within Africa it’s not as straightforward as being an approved vendor, or following a system to receive a tender.

“On a lot of projects, second-tier installation contractors mobilise from Europe; but some of the time, there is a requirement for equipment to be local - and that has obvious benefits from a commercial perspective.”


West Africa’s offshore deep and ultra-deep space has continued to attract oil explorers and producers to expand their operations, especially in Southern and Western Africa, where major projects have either started or have been unveiled, awaiting resource appraisal and development.

Several long-term tenders for the development of reserves have been issued in Angola, Ghana and Nigeria. The West African offshore region has also recently witnessed successful discoveries, such as Eni's recent finding in offshore Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana.

Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa. It holds the largest natural gas reserves on the continent and was the world’s fifth–largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2018. Although Nigeria is the leading crude oil producer in Africa, production is affected by sporadic supply disruptions.

Located on the Atlantic coast in the southern part of Africa, Angola is the second largest oil producer in Africa, producing 1.3million barrels of oil per day in 2020.

Ghana is a small oil and natural gas producer in West Africa. Oil and natural gas production are both expected to increase within the next five years with the start of new offshore projects.

Our activity

MDL’s first client in West Africa back in 2016 was MPL, one of the most successful indigenous oil and gas explorers and producers in Nigeria. They were the pioneers of our unique Generation 3 Reel Drive System in the region, which has since become a game changer for other projects in the basin.

Since then, we’ve been working regularly in the region with DOF, which has included three campaigns in Angola, as well as Saipem, Havfram and TechnipFMC.

Our market-leading fleet of equipment creates the back-deck packages with the technical performance, reliability and safety that power the success of projects.

"The best piece of equipment that we have that’s suitable for West Africa is the Generation 3 Reel Drive System (RDS),” said Michael.

This modular and super-compact reel drive both installs and recovers flexibles, cables, umbilicals, wire rope and steel pipe products.

“The integration of the HPU in the tower makes for a skinny system that can deliver the same punch - up to 350-tonne - with significantly less footprint.

“That’s certainly an attractive enabler to drive reels and it’s very suitable for West Africa.”

The design of the system, which does not require a base grillage and can be efficiently mobilised directly onto the deck via its integrated track system, has enabled the quick conversion of OSVs and barges alike into lay or retrieval solutions.

“It makes a great match with our 4-track tensioners, which feature the longest track contact length among portable systems on the market – such as the MDL TTS-4/310 Series Tensioner currently working in the region.” Michael added.

“Having that capacity or capability to conveniently mobilise a complete lay spread on any available vessel gives local installation contractors across West Africa the opportunity to deliver some of these smaller projects that don’t require larger, sophisticated tonnage that carries really high mobilisation and demobilisation costs.”

Capable but compact

Angola is a key hub for us in the West African region. Its impressive economic growth rate is being driven by its oil sector. Oil production and its supporting activities contribute about 50% of the nation’s gross domestic product and around 89% of exports.

At the start of this year, we deployed the MDL Generation 3 RDS on a multi-product installation offshore Angola, shipped from a storage location in Ghana and mobilised on a construction vessel that was present in region at the time.

The lay scope here consisted of four reels each of Strohm and NOV products – 10” production jumper and 7” water injection jumper – varying in size from a diameter of 9.2m to 11.4m.

It was an efficient solution, provided from a nearby location that reduced the carbon footprint of the project, which was a key driver for all stakeholders.

Additionally, MDL engineering had delivered sea-fastening design for the RDS to mobilise it on board – optimised thanks to the MDL Integrated Track & Cradle System, which eliminates the requirement for welding down cradles or cutting off the sea-fastening during the demobilisation - significantly reducing time and therefore costs on multi-reel projects.

The cradles are supplied with boltable inserts to accommodate various diameter reels, as was the case on this project - eliminating the requirement to weld the reel cradles to the deck for multiple reels.

Michael said: “I’m pleased to see the RDS delivering on its expected efficiencies in handling multiple reels of different diameter.

“The compact footprint and highly integrated design make it an extremely efficient enabler for smaller, independent scopes, using locally-available tonnage – helping bring fields online without the headache of bringing in a specialised lay vessel.

“As was the case on this project, our engineering team is on hand to assist with the necessary deck layout and sea-fastening design for further efficiencies and peace of mind.”

Key requirements

Our experience in the region has taught us that a certain flexibility in schedules is needed to operate successfully.

It helps that our equipment is beautifully capable but compact. This means it can be efficiently moved between the different countries in the region.

Particularly key for suppliers working in West Africa is the requirement for local content while maintaining the highest operational safety standards. By involving MDL, the indigenous operators and contractors can progress their projects with peace of mind, benefiting from our market-leading technology and decades of back-deck expertise.

With that in mind, we will continue to work closely with existing clients as they plan their campaigns to identify the most efficient approaches using assets readily available to enable those challenging or overdue projects.

Equally, we want to engage with indigenous companies to help them overcome their specific challenges. We firmly believe that by sharing our knowledge and track record in delivering SURF installation, tiebacks and pipe replacement projects, we can help them deliver - whether in tricky locations or when resources are limited.

You can find out more about our specific work in the Related Articles section below.

We work with your engineering challenges wherever they are in the world. We find the flexlay solution that fits your business needs, empowering you with reliable enabling equipment and exceptional people. If you want to work with a company with a proven track record of delivering project success, get in touch now.