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Investing in innovation and integrating technologies

Nov 13, 2019
7 min read
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Nello Uccelletti, President and Advisor to the CEO, TechnipFMC, on looking to the future of energy and planning a global strategy

What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges across the energy sector in the coming years?

We are seeing more and more investments in natural gas as the world shifts away from coal.

Gas will soon represent more than 50 per cent of the majors’ total production. In this context, we see future mismatch between LNG supply and demand, therefore investment should increase further in the next two years. Renewable energies shall continue to attract huge amounts of new investments as the global demand for energy is expected to rise by more than 50 per cent by 2040.

Energy providers and contractors will have to develop new solutions for example with increased electrification, to better respond to increasing market demands and sustainable requirements around the world. Shaping new thinking towards energy will be key.

Which areas of Onshore Offshore activities are you looking to expand into, either regarding technology or projects?

Regarding the different markets we are involved in, we must emphasise the importance of LNG and gas which offer very interesting opportunities.  We engineer and construct process facilities for our clients that include the largest gas and LNG producers in the world. Recent examples include the Yamal LNG and the Prelude FLNG as the main contractor. We have been in the LNG business for more than 50 years and pride ourselves on our expert knowledge of LNG technology, coupled with reliable engineering and procurement and construction management. These are the areas on which our reputation as a leader in project management is built. But let’s not forget other growing markets such as ethylene, oil refining, petrochemicals, fertilizers, biofuels and green chemistry.

In terms of geographies, our activity in the short term should be concentrated in the Middle East, Russia, North America and Africa. We will continue to invest in innovation and technology. We develop, design, commercialise and integrate a wide range of technologies. We aim at leveraging our expertise and know-how to integrate the best technologies available from third party licensors, as well as continuing to invest in our proprietary technologies, especially from our research centers in Weymouth, Massachusetts in the United States and Frankfurt, Germany. Additionally, with environmental concerns of the utmost importance for our industry, we want to invest in more energy efficient solutions to drastically lower greenhouse and toxic gases emissions such as CO2, NOx and SOx.

Innovation is not only related to technology but also to people, operating processes and project management. To keep execution costs under control in remote areas with inadequate existing infrastructures, we have introduced a step change through modularisation by combining onshore skills with structural design capabilities from our offshore teams. We must continue our efforts to be efficient and effective in delivering a world class service to our clients and support their needs from the earliest project stage. Early engagement brings a strong opportunity to influence cost and schedules through early technological and design choices based on our experience in execution. We are facing new challenges with bigger and more complex projects that require a unique combination of resources, technical and technological skills, sophisticated equipment, logistics and the involvement of multiple engineering centers and construction sites.

What about Digitalization to your business?

Digitalization is an opportunity and  our clients have quite rightly new expectations. It is also a way for us to deliver improved performance faster and at a lower cost. Our work processes have to adapt to a digital environment that is more collaborative, connected, data centric, consistent and secure. The main purpose is to get to a complete digital replica of the asset usable during the project and in operations. To reach this objective, we have to improve our core business processes. That means more coordination and re-use internally, as well accelerating our alliances with external partners to enhance our digital capabilities and data platform sharing strategies while remaining as open as possible.

We try to better organize our tools and initiatives all along the project life and value chain. Some current initiatives already are bearing fruit when it comes to deploying data centric approaches and 4D management systems as well as developing data analytics and common platforms. But let’s remember that people engagement is key for digital. Digital is not only about technical solutions but also about mindsets and working habits. For example, we are deploying an internal  program to develop Microsoft Office 365 adoption and enhance collaboration and overall efficiency.

This digital transformation changes the way we work together and removes gaps that can hinder us. Already we are implementing real-time reporting for construction activities and benefit from the advantages of the it.

How important is the Middle East for Onshore Offshore business?

We have been involved in the Middle East for more than 50 years and this region is a very important investment area and at the heart of our Onshore and Offshore business development strategy. As the leading oil and gas company in the region, we provide technological solutions, engineering and consultancy services, turnkey contracting and construction expertise in onshore and offshore operations, including upstream offshore, oil refining, LNG, petrochemicals and ethylene. With more than 1,500 employees in the region across multiple offices, we offer our clients a depth of experience and expertise with 500-plus projects delivered, including  several large ethylene projects and landmark oil refining projects.

We have demonstrated a strong local commitment to our clients in the Middle East with offices in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In Abu Dhabi, we have a long-standing presence of more than 40 years providing technological solutions, engineering and consultancy services, turnkey contracting and construction expertise in onshore and offshore projects. Our operating and engineering teams play a central role in our regional growth strategy. Today, we are fully committed to enhance local content and maintain and possibly increase long-term relationships with our Middle East clients. Our company also has an extensive history in Saudi Arabia, a key country and market where we are a leading player in onshore and offshore activities.

Which specific markets are you focused in the region?

Our recent project awards in the region show our diversified capabilities, technological innovation and ability to respond to our clients’ needs in onshore and offshore markets. Our last references include the FEED for the Borouge B4 Ethylene Steam Cracker unit, the Bapco Refinery modernization program, the Jebel Ali refinery for ENOC, the Al Jubail refinery for SATORP, the Sulphate Reduction Plant for ADNOC or furthermore the Umm lulu platform for ADNOC. In Onshore, we mainly focus on the process plant market. We also are a key player in the offshore market for platforms design and delivery.

What do you expect from ADIPEC this year?

Events such as ADIPEC clearly accelerate efficient communications, giving us the opportunity to meet with clients and partners. International trade shows serve as excellent gathering places that promote mutual business relationships through meetings and other top-level activities. They are very worthwhile. ADIPEC also plays a big role in attracting young engineers and technicians needed in our industry.

This interview first appeared in the November issue of Pipeline Magazine