Half a century laying pipelines
Leonardo Ionfrida has recently celebrated 50 years at Techint Engineering & Construction, and has laid over 35 pipelines for projects all around the world.
Leonardo Ionfrida was born in the southern Italian community of Morano Cábaro, 450 kilometers outside Rome, in June 1940, just after World War II broke out. At the age of eight, he emigrated to Argentina with his family. He graduated with a degree in Electromechanical Engineering from the University of Buenos Aires in 1972, and in early 1973 joined Techint to work on the project to repair the Puerto Rosales Pipeline. Today, he’s celebrating over 50 years of experience as a pipeline operator for the company.
Leonardo has been involved in all the stages from design and budget to construction of 35 pipelines in countries as varied as Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Nigeria and Peru.
One of the projects he was involved in was the Camisea project, in Peru. The initial plans indicated that the 200,000 tons of pipes they needed to lay could be transported by river—but they failed to take a crucial aspect into account: the dry season! “We had to change the entire plan, and map out an incredibly detailed ground transportation system involving all these narrow, winding roads, as well as a fleet of helicopters at one point. However, once we’d managed to overcome this obstacle, there was a 'chain reaction' that enabled us to move forward at a good pace," Ionfrida explains.
"Thanks to all the work and effort people put into the task, we were able to complete the task involving laying and welding the natural gas pipeline for a total of 731 kilometers, through jungles and mountains of altitudes of up to 4,800 meters above sea level—and we did this one month ahead of schedule!" he recalls with pride.
Another demanding milestone he remembers in his career was the Shedgum-Yanbu Gas Pipeline, in Saudi Arabia, where he worked as Construction Manager. “We had 32 different nationalities working on site, an extensive project measuring some 1,200 kilometers, and with significant temperature variations between summer and winter,” he recalls. The project entailed setting up 23 camps for a total crew of 4,500 people.
Why did you stay in the company, particularly in the pipeline sector, for so many years? What motivated you to focus on this area?
I had applied to quality control and materials testing at the Plaza Huincul Distillery project in Neuquén. This was on a Friday, and on the Monday, I was due to present myself at the Plaza de Mayo offices. I’d just finished doing all the paperwork at Techint, and when I got home, my Mom told me that the company had called and asked me to go back to the office that very same day. The operational director at the time asked me for a favor: would I go and spend three months working on the Puerto Rosales Pipeline project, at the facilities in Azul, some 300 km from the City of Buenos Aires, which was where the company had its main pipeline camp. So I traveled 300 kilometers every day, going from Azul to another camp in the city of Marcos Paz.
That's how I started, and I've been in the pipeline sector for 50 years. Things and projects kept happening, I really enjoyed the work and especially the workplace environment and working with my colleagues, professionals with vast experience.
What do you feel you have contributed the most to the company in all these years, and what has the company given you in terms of personal and professional growth?
I have contributed a lot of knowledge and dedication, for sure. Techint has first and foremost been valued by its customers for getting the job done: starting and completing works, whatever the adversity. I think the most important thing I’ve learned in these 50 years has been the value of being orderly and tidy at work, and also, that learning comes from doing. So, my invitation to our newest and youngest members is to be open to learning from those who have more experience, as we have already been treading the path for many years, and can guide them to help make our legacy their own.