Keppel Shipyard’s executive director commercial Jaya Kumar talks about his early career and the challenges of working on the world’s first FLNG conversion vessel
As a young naval architect fresh out of university, Jaya Kumar was hired for the fabrication of two jack-up rigs at the Indian state-run Mazagon Dock Limited. Based on a then state-of-the-art Baker Marine BMC 300 IC independent leg, Class M cantilever rig design, the two jack-ups were being built for India oil & gas firm ONGC. It was the first time the construction of such complex mobile drilling rigs was to be undertaken in India.
Talking about the newbuild programme brought back fond memories for Mr Kumar. “We realised after we began the project that we needed to build offices. My first office was a keel block,” he says laughing. More importantly, the project, which lasted seven years, had a profound influence on his career path. “While I still performed naval architecture and engineering, I realised my skill set was well suited for project management,” he says.
Following the delivery of the jack-ups, Mr Kumar joined Singapore’s Keppel in 1991, where he has enjoyed a 28-year career in various management roles. Since 2014, he has been with Keppel Shipyard Ltd (Singapore), where he now serves as executive director (commercial).
One of the first projects he oversaw was the conversion of the LNG carrier Hilli into a floating LNG (FLNG) vessel for Golar LNG. “An FLNG was an unknown quantity at the time,” says Mr Kumar. It would be the first FLNG employing a converted vessel.
Keppel Shipyard had previously partnered with Golar LNG in its pioneering work converting three LNG carriers to floating storage regasification units (FSRUs).
That relationship established a trust and confidence between the two companies, which led to Golar selecting Keppel Shipyard on the Hilli Episeyo project, says Mr Kumar.
Hilli Episeyo started out life as the 125,000 m3 LNG carrier Hilli. Golar sent the Moss spherical tank vessel to the Keppel Shipyard in 2014 for conversion to its new role.
It was prepared for its new lease of life through the installation of Black & Veatch’s Prico liquefaction technology which has a small enough footprint to enable mounting on a spherical tank vessel, albeit a modified one with side sponsons added. Following commissioning last year, Hilli Episeyo is now producing LNG off the coast of Cameroon near Kribi in West Africa.
Costing US$1.2Bn to construct, Hilli Episeyo is contracted to produce 2.4M tonnes per annum (mta) of LNG, or about US$500 tonne of LNG produced. “It’s very competitive in the market,” says Mr Kumar. Keppel saw commercial benefit enough in the project to take a 10% stake.
He says the Hilli Episeyo project provided the opportunity for Keppel to build its core competencies in the engineering procurement and construction business and position itself as a leading solution provider in the gas market.
Following the success of Hilli Episeyo, Golar contracted Keppel Shipyard for a similar conversion of the 125,000-m3 Moss-type LNG carrier Gimi into an FLNG. Delivery of the vessel is expected in H1 2022.
When commissioned, Gimi FLNG will be located on the Mauritania and Senegal maritime border and is expected to begin producing 2.5 mta in 2022 as part of the first phase of BP’s Greater Tortue Ahmeyim project.
FLNG owner Gimi MS Corporation is 70% owned by Golar LNG and 30% by First FLNG Holdings Pte, an indirect subsidiary of Singapore’s Keppel Corporation Limited, held through Keppel Capital Holdings Pte.
Once again Keppel Shipyard is working with US-based Black & Veatch for the conversion of Gimi FLNG.
Mr Kumar fully expects the lessons learned during the conversion of the Hilli will pay off in the Gimi project in terms of efficiency and productivity. “Hilli Episeyo took us 20M man hours to build. We expect to build Gimi in significantly less man hours.”
Snapshot CV: Jaya Kumar
2018 – present: Executive Director (Commercial), Keppel Shipyard Ltd
2017-2018: Executive Director (Gas Projects), Keppel Shipyard Ltd
2014-2017: General Manager (Projects), Keppel Shipyard Ltd
2011-2014: Director (Projects), seconded to Keppel Integrated Engineering
2009-2011: Senior General Manager, seconded to Keppel Integrated Engineering
2006-2009: General Manager (Marketing), Keppel FELS Ltd
2002-2005: Senior Project Manager, Keppel FELS Ltd
1998-2002: Project Manager, Keppel FELS Ltd
1996-1998: Exec Engineer (Engineering), Keppel FELS Ltd
1995-1996: Senior Engineer (Engineering), Keppel FELS Ltd
1993-1995: Engineer (Engineering), Keppel FELS Ltd
1991-1992: Assistant Engineer (Engineering), Keppel FELS Ltd
1984-1990: Naval Architect, Mazagon Dock Ltd
MBA, Nanyang Technology University
BTech, Naval Architecture & Shipbuilding, Cochin University of Science and Technology