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Innovating technology, leading the way

Jan 07, 2018
7 min read
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Rebecca Liebert, CEO of Honeywell UOP, spoke exclusively to Pipeline Magazine’s Julian Walker about the importance of building innovative technology and why they had such a strong 2017 in the Middle East with a series of project wins.

As the dust settles on 2017, Rebecca Liebert, who was on her fourth visit to the Middle East, can feel a sense of real achievement at Honeywell UOP, a licensor of refining and petrochemical process technology, could boast a string of wins right across the region from Saudi Arabia to Jordan and Kuwait throughout the year.

Rebecca took over as president and CEO of Honeywell UOP in April 2016 right in the middle of the oil industry’s downturn which only just started showing green shoots of recovery at the tail end of 2017.

Liebert said: “We really spent the time during the downturn thinking and building for the future. We built upon the Honeywell Connected Plant concept during the downturn with the launch of our Connect Plant Services (CPS) which is part of Honeywell UOP’s cloud-based services that anticipate operational complications and offer real-time solutions.”

She added: “It was a challenge sailing through the choppy low oil price environment. We tried to be really smart in how we were investing during the downturn so that we could come out of things stronger. We have been focused and believed that integrated refinery and petrochemical complex was going to be the way of the future.”

Honeywell UOP’s focus on innovative technologies that could enable greater integration is certainly paying off in the Middle East.

“This year we launched our energy efficient LD Parex™ aromatics complex, which dramatically lowers energy, CAPEX and OPEX versus other alternatives. This has been a big hit. We have just won the Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Company (KIPIC) refinery deal that will have our LD Parex technology incorporated in it,” explained Liebert.

Honeywell UOP announced the KIPIC deal in November of 2017 which will see the Kuwait firm use a range of process technologies from Honeywell UOP for the expansion of its refining and petrochemical complex at Al-Zour, south of Kuwait City.

“The KIPIC deal really heated up in the 6 months before it was signed. They had a tight schedule and we made sure that we delivered on time to meet all the schedules.

We know it was tough competition and we are honoured to be partners with KIPIC and work on this big project. We were thrilled towin all three blocks. We think by delivering all three packages, we will be able to givethem all the efficiencies and economies they are looking for,” said Liebert.

She added: “We also spent a lot of time focusing on propane dehydrogenation (PDH) units and our own Oleflex™ technology. We, in fact, launched our next generation Oleflex technology, which will be incorporated in the KIPIC refinery.”

Strong year in the Middle East Honeywell UOP’s series of wins last year in the region are proof that its focus on innovative technology has paid off.

“I think we have had a strong track record this year in the Middle East. At the start of the year we signed up AL WAHA Petrochemicals Company with PDH Unit at its plant in Jubail that will use our IIoT- based CPS. We also signed a deal with Kuwait Paraxylene Production Co. (KPPC) to use our Connected Plant Services to improve the performance of its aromatics complex,” Liebert noted.

According to Liebert both projects are moving forward nicely.

“On top of that in May we signed an MoU with Saudi Aramco for the Honeywell Connected Plant in conjunction with the In-Kingdom Total Value Add (IKTVA) program. This is a Honeywell wide initiative. We are looking at the Honeywell Connected offering In-Kingdom to be targeted and fit for purpose,” she added.

In May, Honeywell UOP also won the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company (JPRC) contract. Then in July, Farabi Petrochemicals Co. in Saudi Arabia announced that is going to go forward with a LAB complex in Yanbu to expand its production of biodegradable detergents.

In the UAE, Takreer (now ADNOC Refining) have a PDH unit that Honeywell UOP sold a couple of years ago that is now getting ready to start up and Honeywell UOP is doing a lot of service and training, including supplying the catalyst etc.

Liebert was impressed how quickly the Middle East region has come back as the market was fairly quiet.

Technology heartbeat

“2017 has been focused on getting new technologies out and ensuring our customers understood the value of these technologies in the marketplace today. We will never stop that next-generation technology development,” Liebert insisted.

She added: “As I look to next year the Honeywell Connected Plant is going to continue to be a big part of what we are doing. We have built it out as we started with the core UOP process technology and  building out solutions for those platforming units. Now it is time to go to the full complex with things like crude distillation units and sulphur units. These aren’t technologies we normally supply ourselves. So we are partnering to bring in those non-UOP licensed technologies into our solution.”

Looking to next year and beyond, Liebert said that a big part of what Honeywell UOP will be doing is continuing to build up people training and service as customers are asking more and more for that.

“With the growth we are seeing in the region, there isn’t the human capital trained to run these plants yet. In Dubai, we have a dedicated training group that runs a series of training programmes.”

An area that Honeywell UOP wants to continue to innovate in 2018 is how they help project execution in the region.

“Actually a part of the KIPIC win was to integrate FEED into our license and schedule development so we are going to deliver a FEED package plus a process technology package. We expect to see more and more of this modular package route. We can typically cut significant time off the schedule as we have designed the units before. Wehave a lot of economies of scale and we can drive the modular solution at a much more rapid time frame. We think this can be a real innovator for the region to help speed up projects build time,” she said.

Bullish outlook for petrochemicals

Liebert is very positive on the outlook for the petrochemical industry.

“I don’t see any slowdown in petrochemicals in the foreseeable future. We are planning for peak oil demand to go into refined products in 2030’s. We think a lot of it will be taken up by petrochemicals and see huge potential for more integration of refineries.”

One area that will see a lot of activity in the interim that is going to drive refineries are clean fuels.

“We launched our ISOALKY, a new alkylation technology last year. It uses Ionic liquids alkylation as an alternative to traditional technologies that use hydrofluoric or sulfuric acids as a liquid alkylation catalyst. This technique will grow as more companies look to become greener. Honeywell UOP launched this technology in conjunction with Chevron, who is building a plant in the U.S. that should be up and running in a couple of years.