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Ain't No Mountain High Enough: Orogenic features in MPC Resource Magazine [28-10-2008]

After spending a couple of hours with the Founder and Executive Chairman of the Orogenic Group, HELEN ANN PETERS discovers the corporation has been named after the process of mountain formation, known in geology as orogeny. What’s more, having formed this mountain, Ahmad Ziyad Elias is determined to move it.   

 Founder and Executive Chairman of the Orogenic Group of Companies Ahmad Ziyad Elias sums it up this way: “As a geophysicist, the word orogenic is part and parcel of my vocabulary. I chose it to symbolise my vision of building something of impact from the ground up. And I believe that with my team members, who are backed by solid experience and are professionals in their own right, we can build mountains.”

Ziyad founded Orogenic Resources Sdn Bhd in 1993 to undertake data management. Today, four other companies have been started up to join the fold – Orogenic Resources Sdn Bhd, Orogenic Geoexpro Sdn Bhd, Asian Geos Sdn Bhd, Energy Quest Sdn Bhd and International Logging Orogenic Sdn Bhd. Together, they offer a comprehensive suite of products and services to the oil and gas industry, including: 

  • Data management
  • Hydrography and geophysical surveys
  • Geotechnical surveys
  • Exploration and production evaluation
  • Mud logging and well sites
  • Geoscience laboratories

Over the last 14 years, the Group has been relatively low-key, concentrating more on building its expertise than shouting about it. Now, having positioned itself as an integrated E&P geosolutions specialist, it is ready to shed its ingenue image and take its rightful place among the handful of Malaysian companies that have set their sights on going global. Orogenics has carved a reputation as an experienced, dependable and capable player, its client base including some of the biggest names in the business: PETRONAS, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Murphy Oil Corp, Newfield and Talisman.

That Lightbulb Moment 

 Ziyad graduated from University Sains Malaysia and began his career as a geophysicist with Sarawak Shell Berhad in 1983. His next stint at Racal Survey afforded him hands-on experience in acquiring geophysical data and interpreting them. His move to Schlumberger-Geco as a systems engineer put him in the midst of mountains of data which needed cataloguing and tracking for easy storage and retrieval. Added to that was the problem of changing media formats which meant a constant need to copy, edit and reformat data into the current media.

“It was a light bulb moment for me,” confesses Ziyad. “We were sending all this data overseas to the UK and Australia, which cost a bomb, plus risking having all this important information getting lost or destroyed in transit. I thought to myself, why not start (a similar service of) my own? That was how Orogenic Resources was born.”

Orogenic Resources now acts as a centre for the physical storage of tapes, cartridges, documents and other media within environmentally controlled rooms. The items are stored on purpose-built high-capacity racks. The rooms are equipped with fire suppressant and intruder detection systems linked to a 24-hour monitoring system.

The company specialises in the digitalisation of hardcopy data presented in the form of seismic/horizon/velocity logs and drawing maps by converting them into standard industrial format. Many companies that neither have the space nor the proper personnel for data management and warehousing find the service provided by Orogenic Resources invaluable.

“We are not just content with purchasing technology, but constantly encourage our people to develop our own software. Our company is big on R&D and are working on a few proprietary systems that can help us help our clients,” says one of the Group’s Directors Ir Shahabudin Yusof. One such example is the ZaZ system, a web-enabled warehouse management application which efficiently manages data record, storage, retrieval and transmittal. With this system, data can be accessed instantly via the web, thus reducing work processes and minimising human intervention and errors.

Orogenic has also set up a fully equipped geological laboratory in Shah Alam to serve clients in the region.

All Systems Go 

The AG-75 is a motion-compensated marine geotechnical drill rig, the first purpose-built rig for deepwater services in Asia. For ease of mobilisation, the drilling spread is modular and can be broken down to fit standard 20- and 40foot freight containers.

Says Shahabudin: “The rig has been fabricated to the highest standards, with strict NDT and load testing to ensure safe performance under all anticipated operating conditions, especially during deepwater drilling.”

Asian Geos has recently formed a joint venture with a leading UK-based survey company to undertake work in the North Sea, Europe and West Africa. “This move will pave our entry into the Western hemisphere and will allow us to expand the export of Malaysian expertise,” says Ziyad.

“Our partner is broadening its capabilities to include offshore borehole investigations in both oil and gas, and wind farm markets, particularly in the North Sea. Asian Geos will provide drilling rigs and teams made up of geotechnical experts for our partner’s vessels and engineering support from Kuala Lumpur. We are very excited with this new venture.”

Meanwhile, the Group’s geophysical survey unit, Orogenic GeoExpro Sdn Bhd (OGEO), provides survey and positioning services in support of the oil and gas industry. It has wide experience and is actively involved in offshore construction survey, hydrographic and geophysical survey, metocean analyses and oceanography, and ROV services.

Of OGEO’s 70 staff, 52 are experienced Malaysian technical field personnel

– surveyors, engineers and geophysicists. The company owns various software licenses and is one of the biggest users of Qinsy software in Southeast Asia. It also owns a Barge Management System (BMS), which can support up to eight offshore installation barges. At the same time, it is developing its own tracking system to support its works.

OGEO has achieved an enviable project track record that includes PETRONAS and other major international companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Murphy, Western Geco, BP and Saipem in Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, PNG and New Zealand.

“With our international track record and valuable lessons learnt from past experience, OGEO has now set its sights on new geographical areas, particularly in the Middle East, India and China,” says Shahabudin.

Energy Quest Sdn Bhd (EQ), a leading oil and gas E&P consulting services provider, is staffed by Malaysian professionals with a combined experience exceeding 500 years! Boasting state-of-the-art tools and applications, it is equipped to meet the most demanding challenges of the oil and gas industry. EQ is involved in all phases of the E&P life cycle, from data review and asset acquisition to exploration, prospect evaluation, resource assessment, field development plans, full field reviews, development implementation, primary and secondary recovery, rejuvenation, IOR and EOR.

EQ’s team of professionals complements the in-house capabilities of clients, ensuring optimum and cost-effective solutions. EQ also provides formal on-the-job training and transfer of technology to clients, and maintains technical partnerships with multidisciplinary oil and gas experts and universities worldwide.

In 2004, Orogenic and International Logging Inc, USA, formed a joint venture called International Logging Orogenic Sdn Bhd. Staffed with highly qualified geologists and engineers, the company offers conventional hydrocarbon gas analysis, geological visual descriptive logs from well cuttings and core, as well as status monitoring. It is now a leading Malaysian company providing these services and counts most oil operators in the region as its clients.

The Orogenic Group’s vision is to be a regional leader with significant global presence in every E&P geosolutions service line that it provides by the year 2011. In line with its desire to be the best, it is constantly pushing the envelope and creating firsts. The company has designed and built its own marine drilling rig known as the AG-75. For this endeavour, it employed the latest cutting-edge design and technologies put together by a group of highly experienced engineers from within the company.

Towards Greater Heights 

The Orogenic Group is bent on further expansion. By Q1 2008, it will acquire a brand new purpose-built geotechnical survey vessel. “By having our own vessel, we will be able to plan our business better and enjoy better profit margins as compared to chartering a vessel. We are allocating more than RM30 million next year as capital expenditure, with the major part of it going towards acquiring the vessel,” added Ziyad. 

Ziyad is a firm believer in the Malaysia Boleh concept. He feels that it is important for industry to support academia and, to this end, keeps his door wide open for local graduates to undergo practical training with the company. The Group currently sponsors a few postgraduates at USM as well as contributes towards industry-related field trips. Ziyad also holds the position of Industry Advisor to his alma mater’s school of physics. In addition, the Group collaborates with Institute Technology Bandung on ongoing studies in the field of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), underscoring the fact that research done by universities needs to be supported by industry if it is ever to see the light of day.

“I believe that Malaysians are as capable as any other nationals. We have the expertise and knowledge, we just need to put a premium on excelling. Our oil industry dates back to over 100 years when the first well was drilled in Miri and yet we seem slow to grow our expertise. Compare this to Norway where the oil industry only took off in the 70s…They have maybe a population of 5 million to our 24 million…yet they are doing such a good job with exporting their expertise. I believe that PETRONAS has played a great role in nurturing local companies to follow its example and think global…so, perhaps, more local companies should seriously take up this challenge,” exhorts Ziyad.

The Group maintains offices in Malaysia, Singapore and Bangladesh but continues to serve clients throughout the globe in countries such as Yemen, Vietnam, Sudan, Korea, China, New Zealand, Turkmenistan and Brunei. It employs about 300 people worldwide with Malaysians making up 95 per cent of this total. Three operating units of the Group have achieved ISO 9000:2001 certification while the rest are in the process of doing so. The Group puts a premium on delivering services of the highest quality in compliance with international best practices and strict HSE guidelines. To date, it has received numerous safety awards by satisfied clients such as PETRONAS, ExxonMobil, Murphy Oil Corp and Shell.

Ziyad says the Group is targeting a revenue of RM125 million this year, with a compounded growth of 15 per cent for the next five years. He is happy with the progress of the Group, but believes it still has many mountains to climb. When asked if Orogenic may venture into new areas, perhaps even become an oil operator one day, he gazes intently straight ahead as if into an imaginary crystal ball. “Who knows…a mountaineer does not stop till he reaches the summit,” he says finally.

Words of a true visionary indeed.

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