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“Fortin de Piedra is just 1% of Vaca Muerta: what can be achieved here is crazy to imagine, it’s hard to quantify!”

Published 29.9.2022

Esteban García is the Construction Manager at Fortin de Piedra, running a team of 400 people where women are in some of the key roles. "I believe that everybody has specific capabilities, it has nothing to do with gender."

Esteban García graduated from the Argentine National University of La Plata as a Construction Engineer and Civil Engineer, whose working life began when he took the job of construction inspector for the state-owned water company Aguas Argentinas. After a spell, he moved with his wife and son to the Patagonian city of Puerto Madryn, to join what was at the time the biggest project in the country: the expansion of the smelting plant belonging to Aluar, the largest aluminum smelter in South America.

In 2011, he joined Techint Engineering & Construction to work at the Potasio Río Colorado project in the western province of Mendoza as a works superintendent. “That was a very big change for me as I’d never been so far from my family before,” he recalls. That was the start of a period of postings to projects all over the region, as he worked on the KP127 Gas Compressor Plant in Peru, and later at the Auca field in Ecuador. He was involved at the start of the Fortin de Piedra project (FdP) in 2017 and in the TenarisSiderca plant shutdown at its mill in Campana in 2019, before returning to company headquarters in Buenos Aires to work on the budget for the Ensenada Barragan Thermal Power Plant. Later, he was posted back to Vaca Muerta to join the team at the Los Toldos project for Exxon Mobil, before moving again to FdP, where he is today.

Today, after 11 years in the company, he continues to marvel at all the things that go into making up a project. "What I like the most is that you see everything being built from scratch, and then when the facilities are finally up and running, you understand how the work done by the team really made a difference to people’s lives, and you feel useful."

When Esteban arrived at Fortin de Piedra, gas output was around 700,000 m3 per day. Today, that figure has reached 20 million m3, representing 15% of the gas consumed by Argentina. “The Techint Group and Tecpetrol have made significant investments in Fortin de Piedra and, when you think that this is just 1% of Vaca Muerta, what can be achieved here is crazy to imagine, it’s hard to quantify!” At the moment, there are some 400 people on site, including engineers, superintendents, supervisors, the Quality, Safety and General Services teams, as well as the group of foremen and other personnel in the field.

One of the key features of Esteban’s work as Construction Manager is that it’s very varied. “Sometimes I think I’m going to be in the office all day and I find myself doing tasks in the field. Or I have three meetings planned and I end up having seven with different people. I try to leave everything set up the day before, because you have to inform supervision in advance so that they can start their workday early.”

New talents, more diversity

Developing young talent is a priority for Techint E&C, particularly at its projects, and Fortin de Piedra is no exception. Esteban has been working with Luciano Blanco Regojo and Martina Scomovich, and enthuses that, "they’re both very brightand show lots of development potential.” In fact, Luciano is already working on the preoperation phrase for Puesto Parada, in Los Bastos, a large project for Tecpetrol, while Martina has been covering Esteban as Superintendent as regards operations. “She’s got a strong personality going for her, which means she’s good at dealing with supervision and, at the same time, managing customer relations. She has a lot of capacity to take on work, and plenty of technical knowledge, so I’m sure she’ll be able to contribute a lot. I and Sebastian Novillo (current PM at Fortin de Piedra), believe that she’ll probably be one of the first women project managers at Techint E&C”, he affirms.

Esteban considers that diversity is a vital ingredient for company growth. “I think it’s great that women are being incorporated into our work at all levels, it should be totally normal and equal for everyone. I believe that everybody has capabilities, and it’s not about gender. At home, my wife and I split up the chores as par for the course, I don’t see it as my helping her, for instance.”

In Fortin de Piedra, diversity is the order of the day, and it can also be seen at leadership level: for example, General Services is run by Marianela Faccioni, who manages a mixed team. And, “there are women working in Safety and Quality, there are even van drivers and truck drivers. The idea is to continue adding women to the team, in different roles,” she explains.

In the short and medium term, the company can look forward to a period of great activity at and around the Vaca Muerta development, such as Puerto Parada for Tecpetrol, La Calera for Pluspetrol, the Néstor Kirchner Gas Pipeline, recently awarded to the Techint E&C-S consortium, and new works for Oldelval. For Esteban, "the biggest challenge we face now is to find the right people for all these projects as the other operators and construction companies will also be seeking to hire more employees."

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