Bringing plant performance into focus

Apr 03, 2018
8 min read
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Ali Vezvaei President & CEO, Bilfinger Middle East spoke exclusively with Pipeline Magazine’s Julian Walker about bringing engineering plant performance more into focus and highlighted the impressive portfolio of services the company has provided in the Middle East over the last 50 years

Bilfinger is a major international engineering and service provider to a broad range of industries. Headquartered in Germany, the firm’s history goes back to 1880.

The group is primarily active in Europe, Middle East and North America. The company boasts 36,000 employees and generated revenue of just over €4 billion in the financial year 2017.

Bilfinger group is made up of a range of companies around the world including Tebodin, Babcock, Salamis, Rotring and GreyLogix to name a few.

“With these companies Bilfinger can address our focused geographies around the world. The Bilfinger brand has been on the rise in the Middle East thanks to our broad engineering and technology competence, as well as extensive local presence in the region,” said Vezvaei.

Vezvaei explained: Bilfinger was structured and re-focused on key industries when Tom Blades took over as chairman of the executive board in July 2016. We reframed our activities on two service lines, four regions and six industries, or what we call our “2-4-6 strategy”. It is designed to capitalize on Bilfinger’s value propositions towards the primary industries.”

Bilfinger delivers its services in two business segments: Engineering & Technologies (E&T) as well as Maintenance, Modifications & Operations (MMO).

“The portfolio connects the CAPEX and OPEX hemispheres and covers the entire value chain from consulting, engineering, manufacturing, fabrication, assembly to asset integrity, maintenance, plant expansion as well as turnarounds. It also provides environmental technologies and digital solutions,” added Vezvaei.


Middle East focus

Bilfinger has been present in the Middle East for nearly half a century and has built a strong footprint in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt.

“We inaugurated our new Saudi headquarters in Damman in mid-March with our chairman of the board present. It is an additional investment by Bilfinger in the Kingdom and a sign of our commitment to the country’s Vision 2030,” said Vezvaei.

Bilfinger Middle East primarily serves the chemical, petrochemical, oil and gas as well as energy utility sectors. It has more than 4,000 employees across the region and does almost a quarter of a billion dollars of business.

“In the hydrocarbon sector, our offerings range from FEED, full field development and other engineering services to integrated projects, asset integrity all the way to furnace repair and revamp in world-class petrochemical assets,” Vezvaei noted.

In the UAE, Bilfinger works on a range of projects in the upstream and the downstream sector.

“In terms of in-country presence in the UAE we have nearly 2,000 people, including our investments in facilities in ICAD in Abu Dhabi’s industrial zone. We work very closely with industry players in Abu Dhabi where we provide not only engineering services but lifecycle services as well. On the refining side we have done business with ADNOC companies for years.”

He added: “On the energy side, we serve power generation assets with more than 22 GW of total capacity. We also provide innovative water solutions that are aimed to considerably contribute from efficiency and sustainability point of view. Bilfinger has also been involved in major capital projects such as EGA projects in UAE.”

Recently, Bilfinger was awarded a multimillion dollar contract by the Ministry of Electricity and Water in Kuwait for work in their power and desalination plants. The company also secured another multi-million dollar deal in Saudi Arabia’s hydrocarbon industry.


Growing digital offering

Vezvaei said: “The Middle East characteristics make it a strategic market for us at Bilfinger. They are 1) the focus on enhanced productivity across the hydrocarbon value chain 2) increasing energy demand and the need for enhanced efficiency, 3) aging assets and the focus on enhanced safety and reliability and 4) diversification of the industrial space; they are reshaping the regional markets and creating new opportunities for collaboration and growth.”

Vezvaei explained that the firm’s strategy is built upon helping its customers in addressing these industrial paradigm shifts and creating more value from their assets or reducing the cost of delivering what they currently do. It could be summarised in “engineering and delivering plant performance”.

“Our presence inside many of these plants and our understanding of how they function are key. What we do through our digitisation team is to build plants’ digital twin. This is where equipment, piping and other components of an assets get smartly interconnected in the cloud. All lifecycle data of these plant components - engineering, operations and maintenance are brought together and analysed. This is the journey from descriptive (reactive) to predictive and ultimately to prescriptive.” he added.

Recently, Bilfinger has also doubled down on its efforts to bring its digital services to Middle East’s process industry that is searching for more productivity, reliability and efficiency. This is to help make more with the same.

“In addition to our standard offering as explained earlier, there is a range of specialised offering that include engineering services for asset integrity, life extension, capacity debottlenecking or our proprietary O&M optimisation solutions such BMA® and BMC® or the digitisation solutions like our BCAP® that are geared to enhance productivity, reduce cost and lean up customers’ OPEX spectrum,” he said.

According to Vezvaei, the BMC®, BCAP® and Bilfinger Reliability Advisor will be the main focus for the company in 2018.


Key regional opportunities

One of the most exciting opportunities in the region, according to Vezvaei, is in increasing the “productivity per barrel or barrel equivalent.”

“As the shale producers continue to reduce cost per well, the conventional producers in the Middle East in particular, need not just to rely on their naturally lower E&P cost but to squeeze the dollar from every step of the value chain. It requires an unconventional view towards the CAPEX and OPEX hemispheres, one that recognises interlinks and capitalises on the synergies.

Examples here could include optimisation of the O&M regimes and considerable spend there, rationalising the cost of availability, heat and energy balance per barrel and the waste to value streams.” Vezvaei said that oil and gas companies might be surprised how much value is trapped in these areas. The other area to look at is around modifications.

They are intended either to address capacity debottlenecking or to increase yield and up the process plants’ performance by way of small upgrades.

“A very strategic opportunity is around water treatment, whether in energy - utilities or the produced water in the hydrocarbon sector. The amount of water used in the process, the energy consumed to produce that water and the waste are all weighing heavily on asset owners and operators. Use of more innovative solutions to better address the water stream should be a top priority,” he said. Another pressing area that Vezvaei sees an opportunity is what he called “natural gas liberation”. “There is quite an amount of natural gas used to generate power in the region or injected to help recover oil.

Considering the thermal efficiency as well as the industry’s financial returns comparison to the cash cost that those gas molecules could yield when converted into valuable down-stream products, deploying measures to free up the gas seem to be justified.

The oil price and its volatility on the other hand also indicate a need for alternative molecules for injection, so that this strategic gas molecule could be put into a more accretive value chain.

This diversification towards the downstream will also act as a natural hedge in countering oil cycles, like the one the industry is just recovering from,” he said.

Vezvaei believes that the potential lies in enhanced process efficiency, conversion, addressing non-main stream gas, moving towards hybrid thermal-solar power generation and in the oil front looking at innovative solutions with CO2 and sour gas. Vezvaei talked about some interesting pipeline solutions the company has developed.

“Our services for this sector range from sophisticated SCADA systems to hot-tapping and composite repair. Last year, we launched a strategic cooperation with Henkel on an innovative repair solution called Loctite where piping and pipelines could be repaired live without operational interruptions.”


Moving forward

Vezvaei summarised what Bilfinger’s long history in the region means for its future.

“Over the past nearly 50 years, we have established a strong regional footprint from both engineering and technology point of view as well as the human capital for our plant services. With thousands of qualified personnel, modern fabrication facilities, pilot plants and most importantly technology and solutions that have been developed by the region for the region, we have not only successfully transferred the German know-how and expertise, but also we have begun the journey of true localisation and sustainability.”


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