Angola Energy Invest - Investment Report 2022 - Interview with CEO of SOAPRO, Eng. Hugo Guimaraes

April 11, 2023
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SOAPRO Group is an Angolan company with over 30 years of expertise in architecture, engineering, urban planning and environmental consultancy, providing world-class services to Angola’s oil and gas sector, while expanding into new renewable energy segments.

> How has SOAPRO Group evolved and expanded its activities into multiple sectors since its establishment over 30 years ago?
SOAPRO, which means Sociedade Angolana de Projectos, was founded in 1989 by three former professors from Agostinho Neto University of Angola. We started as an engineering and architecture services provider for the public sector and some smaller private clients. With the end of the civil war in 2002, came the real phase of the national reconstruction and a major growth period for the company. In 2006, we had our first project in the Angolan downstream oil and gas industry, developing the petrol station network for SONANGOL and providing the main services for the design and construction supervision. It was a big project that first connected us to the oil and gas sector, but we’ve always had the goal of providing engineering services for upstream activities.

> What is the extent of SOAPRO Group’s involvement in conducting technical studies, as well as engineering and architectural projects, throughout Luanda, Benguela and Cabinda provinces?
We are established in the main provinces of Angola, allowing us to cover any service nationally. As an example, we have developed housing projects in Quilemba and Huambo. We did the construction supervision there for 11,000 houses. We are also providing services on dams with hydroelectric power at Dundo (Luachimo). We have developed several main roads in Cabinda and did the first project of the highway to the new airport in Luanda. 
Those are the main assets of SOAPRO, whose strategy is to be able to respond to any demanding project with high quality services. We invest a great deal in the organization of the structure of the company and that makes us very solid. When necessary, we can add specialists to address issues and thus add greater value to our portfolio. We have worked with a wide range of sectors, from telecommunications and finance to oil and gas, and we are currently working on three hospitals. Our stable growth has come from three main directions: construction supervision, environmental services, and architecture and engineering projects. We have a mixed client base (public and private) and survived the COVID-19 crisis largely because of our diversification in terms of services.

> Environmental consultancy is one of your core areas of expertise. What are your activities in this space?
We are one of the main consultants registered with the Ministry of Environment. SOAPRO has capitalized upon recent developments in the legal framework in Angola since late 2016- 2017 and sought new approaches. When an investor is trying to develop a new oil and gas project, mining or related to any other major industries, we try to get involved and offer solutions. We provide every part of the process, from consultancy to analysis. SOAPRO has a solid background in Environmental Impact Assessments and Environmental Audits, providing the needed expert approach and technical reports demanded for licensing the activity. This implies promoting environmental monitoring studies at all levels needed to comply with environmental authorities and legislation – both national and international – and in cooperation with other worldwidelevel consultants. This is how SOAPRO is strategically trying to support the pursuit of COP26 goals, not only producing the studies, but also seriously committing to participate in any activity that promotes better solutions and adds value to our clients’ projects.

> The oil and gas sector is a cornerstone of the Angolan economy. What are SOAPRO Group’s activities when it comes to on- and offshore projects?
There are different areas in which we are working. As a services provider, we tend to be part of the full spectrum of investments, from feasibility studies to operations and maintenance. Last year, the government started to launch deeds for concessions in port sectors, starting now to provide big concessions for foreign international companies like DP World, which won in Luanda the concession for management and operation of the Multipurpose Terminal. I believe this is the way forward to attract investment and involve the private sector in public infrastructure projects. SOAPRO is providing technical assistance to the government and public companies for the procurement and contract negotiations. In the oil and gas industry, SOAPRO is providing environmental consultancy services, such as the EISHA for the Cabinda Refinery, the pre-feasibility environmental studies (EPDA) for Kassange and Okavango/ Etosha initial geophysical prospecting for oil exploration, the EIA for Eni geophysical complementary studies in Cabinda region, the EIHA for the Caraculo PV Plant, and just starting Block 15/06 Decommissioning phase EIA with an international partner. We are also responsible for the contract management and construction supervision for a pipeline linking the Angola LNG Plant to the combined cycle central power station in Soyo. As a recognition of our services in 2021, we were proudly distinguished at the Luanda Oil & Gas and Renewable Energy Conference with the award of “Service Provider of the Year.”

> What is your role in supporting Angola’s energy transition and what key opportunities do you see in the renewable energy sector?
This became part of the Angolan vocabulary recently over the last three to four years, in terms of the actual need for mixing the energy production and not being highly dependent on thermal. Hydro already represents about 62% of the production of energy in Angola. Looking at the international profile of the country, it is quite strong because many countries are having greater problems with carbon emissions and ensuring sufficient energy production. However, if hydropower is not considered, then the reality is that the rest of the power production is based on thermal. Therefore, we need to diversify Angola’s energy mix with other sources like photovoltaic (PV) or wind energy. We have been working with the main players for two years on a project framework, where one can now see some solar PV plants being installed.
On a smaller scale, we’re also involved in several projects and see big opportunities for Angola to not just follow other countries, but to actually set an example, in terms of being a big oil producer that also incorporates renewable energy sources. We are looking, for example, at the future possibilities of hydrogen, with blue hydrogen using the natural gas industry as feedstock, or green hydrogen using PV production associated with hydroelectric projects, as we are a very rich country in terms of our potential for both PV and water. This is an area with great possibilities for future investment in Angola. There are already some hydrogen projects being proposed in the Kwanza Basin.
The south-southwest coast of Angola has good prospects for wind energy projects, so that it’s possible to get a better overall energy mix that is not solely associated with the oil and gas industry. From our point of view, the potential for investment is primarily in new technologies and the support of photovoltaic; along with the oil and gas industry, that needs to be updated for the hydrogen cycle. This is quite high-tech for the moment, but we think that over the next 20 years, the Angolan market can serve as an example. By combining our productivity in terms of oil and gas with our renewable energy potential, and implementing a serious and well-planned energy transition, we can get to the next level and provide serious possibilities for new investment and growth in the country.

> SOAPRO is active in many different sectors of the Angolan economy beyond oil and gas, such as telecommunications and infrastructure. How do you foresee economic recovery in Angola over the next few years?
With the actual context of the oil price, the focus now must be on increasing production. The projects that are coming up will certainly benefit from increased oil prices. It will be possible to make investments that were previously on hold. The civil construction sector in Angola is struggling a great deal, and the oil and gas sector is also very demanding. However, a good opportunity is if you are able to match the quality of services required. That was our strategy and we are putting all our efforts into that goal. Regarding a specific sector, I think environmental services will be the future for us as a consultancy company. We can aggregate the engineering part, but leveraging it with the associated technology. As an example, we are engaged with TotalEnergies to conduct a study on how to supply energy to an FPSO from onshore, considering the low carbon footprint of our public energy grid. I see a match here of environmental issues helping to push us forward to adopt new strategies contributing to the “decarbonization” of our future. This is where we want to be – involved in big projects that have an impact on the world. We aim to be more competitive without losing quality in order to be a worldwide service provider.