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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN LPG PLANT SUPERVISOR IN ABU DHABI – INTERVIEW WITH AKINJIYAN OLATUNBOSUN OLAKUNLE

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Tell us about your journey towards and throughout the LPG industry.
Let me start by saying that I’m an international Law and Diplomacy graduate. Before this however, in 2003, I started working in an oil company in Nigeria that I worked at for 3 years as a supply operator. I started off with no experience so it was here that I started taking a lot of courses and meeting with a lot of people which slowly grew my passion for the oil and gas industry. In 2007 I knew there was no way to continue without a University degree so I had to stop work and went to Babcock University in Nigeria which is where I pursued my International Law and Diplomacy Degree. I completed my Bachelor’s degree in 2011 and then started my Master’s in International relations the following year, completing it in 2014.

After completing my Master’s, I was looking for new challenges and chanced upon an opportunity to go to Abu Dhabi later that year. My actual plan was just to head to Abu Dhabi for a while and enjoy the attractive salary package which was much better than what I could get back in Nigeria. This job I applied for and eventually got was as a customer care staff at Emirates Bowling Village. The job was simple, but I need to say again that this pay was much more than anything back home.

In the beginning, adjusting was not easy and quite stressful and during this time I was constantly searching and applying for other jobs that were closer to my passion. It just so happened that

I was lucky enough to be called back by ADNOC for an interview as a supply operator. It would seem that my past experience helped me a great deal. I was extremely fortunate to have then cleared the interview and eventually got the job.

It was then in August 2015 that I started my new career working with ADNOC. I resigned from my customer care position and promptly began work with ADNOC.

What are some of your most notable experiences/ achievements?
First off, let me just say that ADNOC has been a lovely place to work at. When I arrived in ADNOC I began work as a Supply Operator. In less than 5 months I was sent to work in the Dispatch Department as a team member. From here I worked hard and became Dispatch Foreman. Following this I was then sent to the filling plant as a team member and here too I worked my way up to become Filling Plant Supervisor.

It was one step at a time, from one experience to the next, gaining knowledge each at each stage. Having been at 3 different departments now I can really say I have learned so much here. I am currently also working in a new department – The Control Room where I oversee operations in the filling plant.

This latest role means that in this short span of time I have worked in 4 different departments; Dispatch, Filling Plant, Bottling and now in the Control Room.

It’s a massive thing for me and I feel I’ve really grown since I first started. I never knew I’d grow so fast like this. The growth rate has been almost exponential.

I’d also like to say that ADNOC is a really good company that appreciates your effort, when they see that you are good, they use you and you are rewarded for your hard work. I’ll say this everytime; I really appreciate working in a big company like ADNOC, for how they have treated me and given me vast experience and paying me well for my ‘sweat and blood’.

 

UAE LPG MARKET

What stage do you feel the LPG industry in UAE is in?

The UAE LPG market is in its matured stage. I say this because I feel it has met with so many of the people’s and government’s demands. It has paved the way for LPG use in a lot of things such as for electricity generation, autogas, refrigeration and mostly cooking.

It has provided gas to both old and new industries and become a real source of energy. With the way its growing here, people are beginning to stop relying on other types of fuel completely. Houses and cars run on LPG, even big industries run on LPG. Its growing at a really fast rate now. People take it very seriously and they actually prefer it to other types of fuel. It’s easy to handle and is safe to use when done properly.

What sort of yearly production of LPG does Abu Dhabi have?
Abu Dhabi’s LPG output is expected to be about 13 million MT this year.

What is the price of LPG in the UAE? Is this cost subsidized?
The gas itself is subsidized and operates using the Rahal eGas Card System to make LPG affordable by anyone. The cards provide an allowance for the subsidized gas, with Emiratis receiving the highest allowance. Gas cylinders for Emirati families can be subsidized up to 150 AED per month, while single people can use up to 70 AED. Expatriates or resident families can consume the subsidized gas at a rate of70 AED a month; a single resident up to 40 AED. Anyone exceeding the quota will have to buy their next cylinder at non-subsidized rates.

Gas can be bought as:
• 3 types generally. 25 lbs, 50 lbs and 100 lbs. The Government has put a ban on the 100 lbs cylinders recently though.

• 25 lbs (11.3kg) – 20 AED (Subsidized), 58 AED (Unsubsidized)

• Cylinder cost – 225 AED • 50 lbs (22.6kg) – 30 AED (Subsidized), 116 AED (Unsubsidized)

• Cylinder cost – 300 AED

It cost between 5 AED to 10 AED extra, depending upon the location, if the customers want home delivery. It is between 120 AED and 125 AED for a medium- size cylinder in Dubai which is 5 to 6 times that of cost in Abu Dhabi.

Generally, customers bring in their empty cylinders and exchange them with filled cylinders at filling stations.

Is the ruling government supportive of LPG? Have they always been supportive? The government is very responsible and supportive and have always been that way. The government is responsible for implementing policies that have driven growth. They are also responsible for developing strict statutory requirements for storage, distribution and sale of LPG in the UAE. This has given structure and form to the industry priming it for growth.

The government also only issues trade licenses to private companies that are required to satisfy various standards set by the government. A key thing that I feel that greatly benefits the industry here that they do, is that they run have several campaigns for public awareness towards the transport, handling and use of cylinders and regulators keeping the public well informed and knowledgeable on the use of LPG.

What are some of the major barriers to further LPG development in UAE?
I find it difficult to say that there are any real barriers here in the UAE. The only barrier that I could stretch to say it is one, is that customers constantly request for an increase in quota for subsidized gas.

So, the customers do desire more LPG and are normally using more than their fixed quota. There are reasons for this however but aside from this, I can’t say that there are other barriers for growth. There is just a continuously increasing demand for the product as it is required by all industries and households.

 

TECHNICAL OPERATION OF AN LPG PLANT

What does a regular day at the LPG plant look like for you? What is your daily routine like and what is the most important part of your day?

I normally get to work at 15 minutes before time so I can change into my normal work attire, which is my Personal Protection Equipment or PPE as we call it. Once my gear is on I go straight to plant so I can check the activities in the plant. I start by checking the documents of the previous days filling activities and then make my assessment before signing off. After this, I then proceed to the conference room for our regular daily meeting. The daily meetings take about 2 – 3 hours, so they normally go from about 8 am – 11 am. After that, I go to my office and do some routine admin work such as bottling transactions and other paperwork. After this I’m basically in the plant for the rest of the day until my shift ends.

If my shift is 7 hours, roughly 4 – 5 hours are in the plant. I’m more in the plant than I am in the office. My work is more so
in the field (the plant) and not in the office. I’m only really in the office to just go do some finishing touches for some documents.

My most important part of my day is definitely to oversee operators doing the filling and making sure that everything is running smoothly and operating well in the plant which typically is an on-going task throughout the entire day.

Where does the filling plant get its LPG from and where do the filled cylinders go?

We get our gas straight from the Ruwais refinery. The gas is conveyed through a gas pipeline all the way from Ruwais to Abu Dhabi. Once reaching Abu Dhabi, the gas is filled into bullet tanks and from the bullet tank it is transferred to the filling plant. The gas is then used to fill the cylinders. After being filled, the cylinders are transported to private distributors and end users.

How frequent does machinery and equipment breakdown or need require maintenance?
We rarely experience any breakdowns because we set aside a various times during the day to do maintenance and we have full scale maintenance on Fridays where the plant is shut down and there is no production. On Fridays, our maintenance departments check the machines for any possible problems.

Which equipment requires the most maintenance/ repair and which requires the least?
We have many different machines and they are subdivided into categories:

  • Handling and Transportation Systems: Palletizing unit, Cylinder handling unit, Carousel introduction and ejection unit
  • Filling Equipment: Carousel filling system, In-line filling system, Container filling systems, Compact filling system, Universal filling machines Filling heads
  • Checking equipment : Check weighing system, Manual leak detector, Electronic leak detector, Valve tester, Leak testing baths, Weight correcting machine
  • Preparation equipment: Evacuation unit, Valve orientation machine, Valve opener and closer
  • Finishing Equipment: LPG piping system tank yard equipment, Fire water system, Electrical Installations and Data
  • Network: power and data network, Production data management system, Electrical equipment, Fire and gas alarm system
  • Reconditioning Equipment: Shroud and foot ring tester, Pressure testing machine, Purging machine, Valve changing machine

All plant equipment requires maintenance. There are different sizes of equipment, so some machines require weekly and
monthly maintenance and some require also yearly maintenance. We have a separate maintenance team that oversees maintaining all the equipment. I would say that in my opinion our maintenance team is one of the best in the world. I would also like to mention that we have 2 plants, so that in event that there is any problem, we can shut down one plant and switch to the other plant immediately. The plants are about 5 minutes’ drive apart so it is easy for personnel to move from one plant to the other should this ever be the case.

What method do you use to ensure quality and consistency of filled cylinders?
We are currently using a Kosan Crisplant designed setup such that everything is automated. If a cylinder is not lled properly, there is an ejection machine that pushes the cylinder out so we know it is not lled properly. These ejected cylinders are then put on the weight correcting machine and an alternate lling machine that lls these cylinders to the brim before they are dispatched. All cylinders are made sure to be lled properly in this way.

What are some methods that you use to ensure maximum productivity during operations at the filling plant?

For me, I feel that the best way to do this is to have strict supervision of operators and of the machines. It is also very important to manage the staff well and ensure that employees have enough time to rest while at the same time giving employees monetary incentives for good work.

 

THOUGHTS ON AFRICA

In your opinion, what do you feel African LPG markets can learn from the UAE?
To me, I feel that the major things are the storing, distribution and selling process. Basically, every aspect of the industry here can teach them something there.

Most importantly though, the African market can definitely take examples on the safety practices here in Abu Dhabi. In Africa, what is missing is the safety orientation, I’ve seen people smoking beside the LPG cylinders, right next to the pictogram
that says, ‘No Smoking’ on the cylinder. They just need to be orientated and educated. In many countries in Africa, you see so many accidents because of gas explosions and this is caused by the people using the cylinders.

In the UAE, we have little to no accidents here because there is so much awareness and understanding of the use of the cylinders. What should be on their minds, (to learn from us) is that the government should first organize public awareness programs for LPG end users. This is so that they can know the importance of the use of LPG and secondly, so that they can know how to best use it safely. LPG is important but it can also be dangerous if not handled properly. The programs will teach the public so they know both the usefulness and also the best way to handle LPG safely.

[LPG BUSINESS REVIEW]


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Mr. Akinjiyan Olatunbosun Olakunle,

Technical Operations LPG Filling Plant Supervisor,

Adnoc Distribution

 

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