Pipeline Magazine’s Julian Walker spoke exclusively to Rami Qasem, president and CEO of GE Oil & Gas for MENAT region about the firm’s key projects in the region and how the US firm is expanding the boundaries of the energy sector.
Can you outline GE’s key projects in the UAE?
For more than 80 years, GE Oil & Gas has been supporting the UAE and the Middle East region’s oil and gas industry with cutting edge technology that helped set firm foundations for the energy sector. We are now pushing the boundaries of an energy sector transformation by leveraging the power of the Industrial Internet – the integration of Big Data and advanced analytics with heavy machinery – to help our partners achieve improved levels of productivity and operational efficiency. We are a ‘full-stream’ company, working through the value-chain from exploration and production, in the midstream and the downstream sector, which makes us a preferred partner for the oil and gas industry of the UAE. Underlining our commitment to be closer to our customers and to offer prompt technology and service support, we have a number of facilities in the region, in addition to providing advanced technology solutions for our partners. For example, our GE Oil & Gas MultiModal Manufacturing & Technology Center in Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) has a number of businesses operating under one rooftop. This is the realisation of a long-held vision and a significant milestone for GE’s Oil & Gas business, not only in the UAE but across the MENAT region. It is also a clear signal to customers and stakeholders that we are serious about our commitments to localisation through investing for the longterm, despite current market challenges. The 20,000 square meter state-of-the art center has four new workshops and offices; a Technology Solutions Center – an innovation and collaboration space for customers; a Monitoring & Diagnostic as well as a customer experience center using GE’s Predix software that will demonstrate how Big Data is used to improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs on installed equipment. In key partnerships announced recently to drive the digital industrial transformation, Nuovo Pignone, a legal entity of GE Oil & Gas, has signed a long-term service agreement with ADGAS to further strengthen plant productivity and maximise reliability and efficiency of its plant in Abu Dhabi.
What opportunities in the energy sector do you see in the Middle East region going forward?
The big opportunity today is in the digital industrial transformation of the oil and gas industry. A more digital oil field means better asset management and more productivity at every well. Even a one percent improvement in capital utilisation upstream oil and gas exploration and development could total $90 billion in avoided or deferred capital expenditures. At GE, we have transformed as a digital industrial company, and that is the direction we are taking in our partnerships in the UAE and the region. Working with our partners, we push the boundaries of technology to bring energy to the world. From extraction to transportation to end use, we address today’s toughest challenges in order to Fuel the Future. Today, according to industry estimates, only 3-5 per cent of oil and gas equipment is connected. Retrofitting equipment with sensors can have a quick payoff for our customers. Predix, our operating system for the Industrial Internet, offers the platform to develop, deploy and operate digital industrial solutions. Predix can capture and analyze the volume, velocity and variety of machine data generated across the industrial world within a secure, industrial-strength edge to cloud environment. The real-time data that is generated and evaluated for maximising operational efficiency to help the predictive analytics facilitated by the Industrial Internet enables our partners to identify issues, not when it happens, but even before it manifests, leading to reduced downtime for operational assets.
How have you dealt with the low oil price environment?
With the region focusing on oil and gas asset optimisation, especially in the current challenging environment, supporting our partners in achieving their growth goals is at the heart of everything we do at GE Oil & Gas. This means, being closer to our customers, strengthening knowledge sharing, promoting a culture of co-creation and tapping into the huge opportunities that the Industrial Internet opens up. Further, we are organised around a global exchange of knowledge, the “GE Store,” through which each business shares and accesses the same technology, markets, structure and intellect. Each invention further fuels innovation and application across our industrial sectors. With people, services, technology and scale, we deliver better outcomes for customers by speaking the language of industry. The important point is not to be distracted by short-term volatility. It is important to invest more in R&D and technology, and we believe that constant innovation is key to sustaining our industry. In today’s environment, our strategy is to leverage our diverse offering and digital expertise to help customers drive efficiency and productivity (when they most need it) through data, analytics, and software.
What are the wider energy challenges that the Middle East is facing? How is GE helping meet these challenges?
The challenges that the region faces, especially in a low-price environment, are related to strengthening the operational efficiency of the assets and maximising productivity. It is also important to drive a culture of localised innovation – as each region/country – will have its own specific set of on-site challenges that need to be addressed. Alongside, it is important to nurture the next generation of talented professionals for the industry. We are addressing all these through our local investments and partnerships. On the production side, through our digital industrial technologies, we can give operators a full view of their wells, improving their operations by giving visibility on well performance and the analytical insights to optimise production and lower cost. For pipelines, we can help operators improve risk management and make quicker, faster decisions that maintain safety by integrating various sets of data that affect pipeline integrity and by providing analytical insights to predict potential issues and prioritise resources efficiently. For plants, such as LNG, we can package a solution that maintains high availability reliability throughout the plant through advanced monitoring and diagnostics for both rotating and static equipment, whether made by GE or another OEM, plus the insights needed to make them run better. For enterprise, we can knock down information silos and offer knowledge management solutions that drive better performance across different divisions and enable every operator to be the best operator. All our facilities across the region promote localised innovation and focus on knowledge sharing with local technical professionals. We are committed to build their skills as part of our long-term commitment to the region, further highlighted by the opening of a new technical and learning academy in Algeria shortly.
How much emphasis does GE put on knowledge transfer in the UAE?
As explained above, knowledge sharing and talent development are a strategic priority for us. And in the UAE, we are continuously investing in the same. Our GE Oil & Gas University Programme was launched internationally in 2005 and offers localised courses in leadership, finance, oil and gas equipment, energy and processes. Several localised courses have already been completed for ADNOC group of companies. We offer participants the opportunity to learn more about the strategies of oil and gas companies as well as to build their professional skills in team building and leadership. In the UAE, we also work with Petroleum Institute University & Research Center (PI) to provide specialised training programs, summer internship opportunities and educational tools.