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Cover story: Seeking a new future

by Indrajit Sen on Oct 15, 2017

Linh Austin, the vice president for McDermott in the Middle East and Caspian regions.
Linh Austin, the vice president for McDermott in the Middle East and Caspian regions.
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McDermott International is moving on to ‘greener pastures’, and I mean so quite literally. The American company, which has enjoyed a formidable presence in the Middle East’s oil and gas market as a top-tier engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, is now looking to diversify its business and venture into the renewable energy domain, its regional leader told me during an exclusive interview.

For a company that has thrived in the Middle East for more than 60 years now, on the back of its core strength in offshore oil and gas engineering, venturing into a space that would test its competencies, does seem ambitious however. It won’t be naïve to think that the decision to foray into the clean energy sphere was not taken overnight, but may have been the result of a larger thought process to secure McDermott’s future in a changing energy landscape.

“I think we did think about it (getting into the renewables sector) a couple of years back. We have come to a point, where we have done a lot of thinking and need to act now. Renewables themselves have gone through a transformation in the last 36 months, which has changed the story about why a company like McDermott would consider getting into that space,” Linh Austin, the vice president for McDermott in the Middle East and Caspian regions, says.

“Over the years we entrenched ourselves into the offshore EPCI market. We are looking at energy from a broader perspective. Most people would not expect McDermott to go into onshore renewables, but we are taking a look at that,” Austin reveals. “We are looking into the broader energy space, in terms of how to grow our footprint in the Middle East and the Caspian.”

The key question I felt an urge to ask then was what led the management to be convinced in favour of foraying into an energy domain where operations are fundamentally different to conventional upstream engineering, and where projects McDermott has had no experience working on. Austin says the company does have a plan to balance both, consolidating its core business, and doing the groundwork for its new venture.

“We are looking at how our skillset complements the renewables business. We perform engineering and fabrication. In terms of onshore renewables, there are elements that are the same [as performing the logistics for an offshore EPCI job]. Renewable projects are usually out in the middle of the desert, so how you get the logistics to support that and build that are important.

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