‘Our focus on localisation is an important component for success’
Engr. Patrick Nzekwe is the General Manager of Clarke Energy Nigeria Limited. The company specialises in distribution of power generation solutions and the authorised distributor and service provider for General Electric’s reciprocating gas engines in Nigeria. He spoke to GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR on his company unwavering resolve to develop the power sector of the Nigerian economy using gas.
Your company has been at the forefront of utilising gas as energy resource for power, how has the journey been?
IT has been very tough but we are happy that we are making a lot of progress in that aspect. When we started, it was very difficult to spread the gospel as Nigerians have little or no knowledge about gas usage. Except for the cooking gas that is very common at the time, Nigerians did not see gas as energy resource for power. The challenge then was how to convince industries on the need to utilize gas as a cheap, clean and alternative energy source. We are proud to say that despite the daunting challenges, Clarke Energy has evolved to be a leading firm in the area of gas utilization as energy resource for power in the country.
What has been the level of acceptance of this energy resource in Nigeria?
When we started, the level of acceptance was less than 15 per cent because people were afraid because of the highly combustible nature of gas. We embarked on massive education and enlightenment on the benefits derivable from utilizing gas as energy resource for power in terms of cost. Our efforts paid off as everyone seem to have gradually woken to the realization that this is a great opportunity to tap into. I can confidently tell you that currently there is over 80 per cent acceptability of gas utilization in Nigeria. The first company that keyed into this gas to power project in a large scale was Flourmills of Nigeria Plc as they bought 27MW of electricity and they made so much profit from it before people even realized it.
Outstanding accomplishment as an organization
The number one achievement is being recognized as a power generation solution provider in the country; we can go into the details of it. Since our Nigerian operations started 12 years ago, Clarke Energy’s installation base of engines has steadily increased to become the fastest growing gas power generation supplier in the region. Our locally based team has delivered –about 400MW of electrical generation capacity to many large industrial facilities across Nigeria, seeking economical, reliable captive power plants as well as delivered multi-engine power plants for independent power producers.
If you ask companies that have been converted, they will tell you in all sincerity that they’ve saved about 50 per cent of operational cost. Having succeeded in Lagos, we have extended the success journey outside Lagos as we have companies in Port Harcourt, Aba, and Ajaokuta, using our gas engines to run their factories.
Local content in your operation
Interestingly, we have succeeded in Nigerianising the operations of Clarke Energy. Our company’s focus on localisation is an important component of our success in Nigeria. The company employs over 100 Nigerians, trained to the highest international standards with product-specific training in Europe. We operate a policy of localization by recruiting local sales and service Engineers to support the company’s operations and they are trained at Jenbach in Austria and at Clarke Energy’s dedicated GE Jenbacher training facility in the UK.
What is the strength of your after sales service?
The core of our strength lies in our robust after sales service and it is second to none in the country. A large number of our staff are in the service department equipped with the right kills to offer maintenance services to our customers twenty four hours in a day. We will continue to train and equip Nigerians for the global challenge ahead. When we started, even our staff doesn’t understand fully the essence of gas utilization, but systematically, we have taken our people to UK and Austria for training from time to time on the use of gas and maintenance of this equipment. We have become successful in this area that we now have Nigerians commissioning and overhauling and repairing our engines efficiently. These things come with experience and knowledge as it is not something you can pick up easily. Right now, we have young capable Nigerians that are eager to offer solutions to problems and they are doing it very well.
What was the rationale behind the customer forum you organized recently?
We truly understand that the strength and success of our operations lies in the patronage of our customers, so, we decided to organize a customer forum to first and foremost thank our customers for their patronage. The forum was also an avenue for us to showcase what we’ve been doing in the last twelve years including the commissioning of an ultra modern workshop in our facility to enable us overhaul our equipment here in Lagos.
Over the years, we do this service in customers’ site and some are taken overseas for overhaul, but, with the commissioning of this workshop as well as the equipment and well-trained staff, we have all it takes to overhaul our equipment here in our facility. With the commissioning of this turbo charger overhauling and turbo charger balancing machines in our facility, the number of down times on the machines during repair will be reduced substantially.
Projections for Clarke Energy in the next five years:
We want to continue to maintain the leadership position in the power sector. Despite the challenges, we intend to lead the pack with our knowledge, technical expertise as well as durability of our engines. The beauty of our engines is that they are efficient as they are originally made for gas utilization from the home of gas in Jenbach, Austria whereas our competitors are running on converted engines. To remain at the top, we intend to improve on our efficiencies and business processes so as to remain the world leader in gas utilization in the sub region.
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