Early involvement and expanding services lead to greater impact
An interview with Christophe Virondaud, Senior Vice President, Commercial
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Christophe Virondaud is Senior Vice President Commercial of Technip Energies.
Prior to his current role he served in several business development and operational leadership positions, including SVP Business Development of Technip Energies’ Europe, Middle East, India and Africa region. He has also been Managing Director of our Abu Dhabi and Doha offices.
What has changed during your 20+ years with Technip Energies?
In our traditional oil and gas markets, we have continued to innovate by decarbonizing our clients’ facilities and making them more energy efficient. This calls upon our strong portfolio of process technologies, mostly for downstream applications. Also, we are able to assist our clients better at pre-FEED or FEED stages. By engaging early, we help them shape their developments including in areas such as economics and environmental impact. We’ve been providing more services and more technology. We’ve also gained a significant global presence, while retaining our pioneering mindset and adaptability.
The most recent and industry-wide change was brought by the energy transition, and it is to be profound by nature, driving organization and business models adjustments. Political and economic agendas, as seen during the COP26, are contributing to the acceleration of our industry towards a carbon neutral economy.
The energy demand is growing with an increasing need for low-carbon and carbon-free energies. Our future will include massive electrification and increasing momentum around hydrogen, circularity, clean fuels and CO2 management.
More than ever, our energy transition framework based on four domains – LNG, sustainable chemistry, decarbonization, and carbon-free energy solutions – will help us navigate this journey. It also combines with our purpose, Breaking boundaries together to engineer a sustainable future.
Can you tell us more about these new challenges and markets?
At the one end of the spectrum, our traditional clients are transforming and becoming active players in the Energy Transition. In these markets, the expectations are to focus on gas projects with low-carbon intensity, blue hydrogen and blue ammonia, and develop sustainable fuels and chemicals, while integrating circularity. As part of our evolution, our technologies help deal with all sorts of feedstock, like using sawdust to produce bio-oil or waste fat to produce jet fuel.
At the other end, a myriad of new clients is emerging in the energy transition landscape whom we are keen to know and partner with. These may be start-ups and innovators who are open to new ideas, resulting in ground-breaking, unproven and first-of-a-kind projects. Many of these projects are smaller, compared to our traditional hydrocarbon projects, and have a short life cycle. Many are pilot units, and the challenge will be to bring them to commercial scale while managing risks, including technological risks.
These emerging markets offer diverse opportunities where we can bring our know-how. These range from utilities (eg. power generation) to sectors such as the cement industry where we see new needs arising, like CO2 capture.
Our clients and partners recognize that reaching new frontiers and forging new concepts is part of our DNA. That’s why we’re increasingly involved in the early stages of projects, using our experience of mastering risks, budgets, planning, logistics and project execution to deliver their facilities.
Innovation, digital and new products will help clients manage their projects more efficiently and cost-effectively. Sometimes that means developing something completely new and at other times it means using existing technology and solutions for new purposes. In that spirit, we are already developing new services by packaging our expertise in different ways. We leverage our own technologies, as well as those we’ve developed with partners.
We have several long-term agreements with partners across the world, in many domains, and our alliances are truly diverse. They include everything from building the world’s first biodiesel plant a decade ago to strategic collaboration frameworks with clients for further development and commercialization of carbon capture technologies or partnering with Universities to leverage research.
Finally, there is an expectation to go beyond delivery, and opportunities to support our clients with associated services in operations & maintenance
What skills are required to rise to the challenges?
It’s important to have the level of market insight we’ve developed over the years, as well as a global footprint that helps us fully understand our clients’ drivers.
We have a long track record of success in traditional markets and delivering EPC projects. That’s given us the knowledge and experience to provide appropriate and workable solutions. Our teams are focused on understanding the client and the situation they face, look at what’s possible and present new ideas.
One important element of our DNA is that our teams nurture curiosity and openness of mind. This allows cross fertilization of ideas and solutions in a very dynamic way. And the whole organization supports this shift towards energy transition.
What’s the secret behind Technip Energies’ 60 years of success?
There are several reasons, but a key aspect is our project selection process, in line with our values and ambitions. In our bidding process, the project goes through several ‘gates’ that allow us to identify risks as well as possibilities.
Our commercial teams work closely with our experts in engineering and technology. This ensures that there is continuity between the engineering and construction phase, bringing proper execution, on time, on schedule and within budget.
Commercially, our objectives do not simply revolve around volumes. It’s about the quality of our portfolio and the growing importance of the energy transition projects. We have energy transition targets too. As our salespeople have a solid engineering background, they can listen to clients, understand their issues and propose the best solutions.
In addition to project delivery, we think about how we can implement continuous improvement. We adapt existing technologies and solutions to meet new needs. For example, during the pandemic we developed remote site inspections and focused on remotely operated tools. These services are now part of our offerings portfolio and will keep expanding.
Most importantly, we understand the bottom line – there will always be a focus on capital expenditure, operational expenditure, cost reduction and making a project as economical as possible.
How do you integrate Environment, Society, and Governance (ESG) in tenders?
As the world moves on, there are new influences and limits. When responding to clients’ bids we take into account our own ESG roadmap – this is an important part of our ‘gates’ process.
We always introduce and promote elements of energy transition in our clients’ projects, such as the best available technology or energy-efficient processes to reduce CO2 emissions upstream, or capture CO2 downstream.
What was achieved in 2021 and what are you looking forward to in 2022?
We have achieved a lot in 2021, with €9.8bn of order intake. We started work on a major contract alongside our partner Chiyoda for the delivery of 4 mega LNG trains for the North Field East (NFE) project in the Middle East. Other awards cover the first green hydrogen project in India, the first industrial concept for offshore floating wind platforms, as well as the first sustainable aviation fuel using our Hummingbird® technology.
We started 2022 with a FEED contract for BP’s Net Zero Teesside project which aims to decarbonize their operations and become the UK’s first decarbonized cluster. We will pursue and increase our energy transition-related projects and continue to develop our services offering.
Now, projects often start small, but want to have a big impact. Delivering proof of concept and, in time, economies of scale, are essential. Our people’s mindset and passion, our track record, expertise and partnerships mean we can make a big contribution, and we’re determined to do so.