Ali Vezvaei, President and CEO of Bilfinger Middle East speaks to Pipeline Magazine’s Nadia Saleem about the company’s technology that is furthering the digital oilfield
What advancements is Bilfinger involved in for digitalisation in the oilfield application?
Bilfinger, an integrated engineering and industrial services provider, has been at the forefront of digitisation efforts in the industry. From AVR enhanced integrated design and engineering during the CAPEX phase all the way to creating digital twins for existing brown field assets utilising our innovative AI-powered PIDGRAPH, or connecting, structuring and making sense of the data lakes associated with an operating facility, using our state-of-the-art BCAP solution, Bilfinger is in a position to increase the effectiveness of an asset and overall equipment efficiency (OEE), decrease maintenance costs and reduce unplanned downtimes.
As we build the bridge between IT and OT, there are also interesting and intelligent solutions that we introduce to the industry, aiming at fostering collaboration, enhancing safety and increasing productivity.
This is where our Bilfinger’s “Industrial Tube” comes to play. This is where we say: ‘it is no longer the big beats the small; but it is fast beating the slow.’ BCAP collects all key operating data in a cloud-based platform. Information from engineering, operations and maintenance flow into the platform in a structured form, making it possible to carry out a targeted evaluation.
Data sources include, for example, the process control system, the production planning and sensors used to monitor the plant. With the help of BCAP, these previously separate data silos are linked and subjected to an intelligent analysis. The longer the data is collected, the more precise are the conclusions that can be drawn in terms of cause and effect. This means that defects are easier to anticipate and unplanned downtime can be reduced.
What tools or technologies play a role in this drive?
Advances in innovation in the past often took decades. Nowadays, however, creating the next product, the next process or a new business model takes only a few years and sometimes only a few months. Innovation cycles are accelerating rapidly. Driving all this is digitisation.
Digitalisation is tearing existing value chains apart and creating new ones, having an impact on all aspects of our industry. AVR and AI are the two growing pillars of the digitisation, enabling it to go higher, faster and further.
What opportunities do you see in developing services in this area?
In the past, plants were repaired when something had gone wrong or broken (reactive). That was not a particularly effective way of operating. Later on, internet-based platforms recorded large quantities of process-related and commercial information, making current technical plant data available centrally.
Remote diagnostics using integrated analysis software and expert technical expertise made it easier for the customer to predict when repairs and maintenance might be required (predictive). In today’s day and age, even that is not good enough.
We have to focus on devising more intelligent production processes and creating greater value added for the customer. This is past prediction by putting appropriate plans in place, where unplanned production downtime can be avoided, while carefully-planned maintenance work reduces production and maintenance costs (prescriptive).
How significant is technology when it comes to these new opportunities?
Technology, know-how and skilled resources are the main ingredients to make digitisation work. We at Bilfinger have addressed them in 3 dimensions: We created a new digitalisation company (Bilfinger Digital Next).
This has been done in order to bundle extensive in-house know- how and competences and establish an independent and focused set up. It puts us in a position to react faster and more flexibly to the needs of our customers. Our culture at Bilfinger fosters continuous advancements and innovation, now more than ever.
Thus from our distilled collective know-how, we have Bilfinger Connected Asset Performance (BCAP), Bilfinger Maintenance Concept (BMC) and intelligent PID (PIDGRAPH).
These are just some of the digitisation technologies we are poised to rollout throughout the region’s process industries. Strategic alliances with Software AG and Microsoft to offer our customers a more comprehensive offering precisely tailored to their needs build upon best-in-class and robust products and services.
With the strategic partnership between Bilfinger and Software AG, Bilfinger’s digital technology BCAP will be linked with the IT platform Cumulocity from Software AG.
The combination of BCAP and Cumulocity offers customers a fast and extensive analysis of OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) forming the basis for reduction of OPEX and improvements in plant availability.
The technical integration of Cumulocity in BCAP means that networked devices and sensors can be integrated more quickly and easily. With the data that is collected and the findings that are derived from that data, an efficient pre-emptive plan of action can be developed.
What is your business outlook in digital oilfields worldwide and specifically in GCC?
The need for digitalisation in the industry is globally on the rise. This is mainly driven by increasing pressure on what we call “total cost of ownership per molecule.”
As the competitive landscape tightens and the market volatility continue to erode producers’ flexibility, bottom-line stability and growth become more and more intertwined with optimising efficiency (OEE), productivity, reliability and cost of availability. All of these are heavily influenced by data and time. Combining the two (data structure), making sense of them (data analytics) and doing something with that (prescriptive solutions) are where additional value could be generated and competitiveness could further be enhanced.
This is where one might do more with the same or same with less. Middle East is no exception to this global trend. In some cases, given the scale and prevailing frameworks, the need is actually more pronounced and pressing. Against this backdrop, we are bullish about the future of digitisation in the region’s hydrocarbon industry and that it will unlock a major potential both for the asset owners as well as the digital eco-system. It also resonates well with the forward-looking vision of the country leadership such as in the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
How quick/slow is the adoption rate in upstream digitalisation within and for Bilfinger’s clients?
Digitalisation is bringing significant changes to both CAPEX and OPEX hemispheres of the oil and gas industry. The awareness and drive is already there and NOCs are looking to find the right solution. This is a fast-paced development and to my view, it will dictate its speed to the industry and not the other way around.
What sort of ROI can producers expect from digitalising their oilfields?
ROI is not necessarily an accurate metric to evaluate effectiveness and success of digitisation solutions. Given the potential returns – especially in view of the hydrocarbon industry scale - are quite considerable, the parameters that need to be looked at are more the following:
- 7-15 per cent: Enhanced effectiveness of the overall plant
- 10-20 per cent reduced maintenance costs
- 7-15 per cent increased work productivity
- Up to 20 per cent reduction of unplanned downtimes
- Generally amortisation of employed capital within 2 years