We are looking for innovations and groundbreaking technologies that lead to better productivity, lower costs and less emissions.


Critical services

December 13, 2023

Zaheer Juddy, CEO and founder of AIMS Group of Companies, talks to The Energy Year about the critical nature of sulphur removal and processing in the UAE and the company’s emissions measurement work with ADNOC. AIMS specialises in supplying analytical instrumentation products to the oil and gas sector.

What position has AIMS managed to consolidate with NOCs in the UAE and GCC?
AIMS is a service-based company that specialises in providing innovative solutions to solve different problems within oil and gas plants. We started off by supporting companies in their shutdowns and startups, especially gas sweetening and sulphur recovery units, but today we are a fully integrated company catering services to the UAE and the whole Middle East. We have a maintenance team stationed in each of ADNOC’s sites including more than 500 people working for their different subsidiaries. We are ADNOC’s partner of choice when it comes to the maintenance of oil and gas sites.
We currently have several large maintenance contracts with ADNOC for the next three to five years, but we also have exclusive agreements with other OPCOs [operating companies] in the region such as Saudi Aramco, Qatar Energy and OQ. In Egypt, we have a strong presence given the potential of the Eni-led development of the Zohr offshore gasfield. We have been working with Eni for the last four years and they recently awarded us a two-year contract extension. In Saudi Arabia, we are developing analysers as part of a JV and we are also working with Aramco’s team to develop common technologies for emissions reduction.

How are you involved in the business of sulphur removal and processing in the UAE?
The Middle East accounts for 33% of the world’s sulphur production. In the UAE, there are around 50 sulphur trains and Abu Dhabi alone produces between 12,000 and 15,000 tonnes per day.
ADNOC works in a very sulphur-rich environment. The country has two predominant types of gasfields: sweet and sour, both with high H2S and CO2 content. H2S removal has been a critical service as no client will buy LNG or any type of gas with contaminants. These contaminants, namely H2S and mercaptans, must be removed and they can also be utilised. Plants have been built to process gases with high H2S content, which can also produce sulphur as a product to be used in the food industry, for instance.
Sulphur is removed and transformed into granules that are then used for fertiliser plants. As a company, we started our work removing H2S, which is hazardous for our environment, and deploying our services in amine units and sulphur recovery units. Now, we are involved in the entire sulphur value chain, from its recovery all the way to granulation. We do the complete performance test, analysis of each of the stages, product quality analysis and online analysis of the whole process. Our aim is to reduce emissions and pollutants, making the oil and gas sector cleaner.

How important has analyser package manufacturing become within AIMS’ product portfolio?
We manufacture analyser packages in-country and have become specialists in this space. Further, we are the first company in the Middle East to be qualified as an analyser manufacturer, with all the required certifications. Our UAE facility is IECEx certified. Moreover, we have strong alliances with OEMs and technology partners worldwide to bring specific technologies. As for the rest, we do 100% of the manufacturing here.
Now, we are the approved analyser manufacturer for companies such as ADNOC and Aramco. Analyser packages represent around 20-25% of our business today. We produced around 30 analysers this year and each one is worth around USD 50,000, which means that we have a yearly revenue of USD 3 million only from analysers. Our target is to make USD 10 million-15 million annually from analyser manufacturing in the coming two years. We aim to provide around 60% of ADNOC’s analysers.
There are two types of analysis. One is a laboratory or onsite analysis, and the other is permanent analysis. Data is becoming pivotal and the analysis of this data is paramount to improving efficiencies. We have our own analysis laboratories in our facility in Abu Dhabi where we carry out sample analysis that complies with the international method of compliance.


Tell us about the new model of satellite emissions measurement you are piloting with ADNOC.
AIMS was the first company in the Middle East to work with ADNOC to develop air emissions sensors, connecting the data available to a common network in ADNOC headquarters. Over the years we have invested heavily in air quality monitoring systems which include indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring, air pollutant analysers and dust monitors, among others.
In fact, we are the first company in the UAE to do emissions measurement using satellite technology. We have been working together with ADNOC on a pilot project to take a complete scan of all of ADNOC’s plant emissions. The satellite beams infrared radiation from above onto the area where a given plant is. The data is collected and AI helps in this process to facilitate the delivery of results. With it we can determine the levels of CO2 and methane emissions of a given facility or facilities with more precision than traditional gas detectors.
Often, the wind blows away the gas floating in the environment, which makes leaks undetectable for sensors and humans. Such undetectable emissions increase the probability of explosions, leading to energy losses and impacting the environment.
At present, we have finished all ADNOC facilities and we have done the full scan of the UAE to determine where CO2 and methane concentrations come from, and quantify how much these plants are losing. With this technology, ADNOC aims to reduce their emissions in the next 12 months by acting on plants that have a higher emission concentration of CO2 and methane.

What kind of partners are you seeking in order to bring value to your clients?
We currently have 40-45 partners worldwide. These include well-established companies such as Shell. We are a regional partner for Shell Catalysts & Technologies, working on several projects with them. We are also working with them on CO2 capture technology. Likewise, we work with top chemicals companies such as Johnson Matthey and Nalco. Hence, we are not limited to the oil and gas sector per se. We are also bringing alternative vendors to ADNOC.
When it comes to principals and partners, if they don’t match with our drive for innovation, we prefer not to work with them. We are looking for innovations and groundbreaking technologies that lead to better productivity, lower costs and less emissions.
For example, we had a contract to work on the hydrocracker unit of a refinery and we allowed them to save USD 40 million annually thanks to our technologies. We were recently awarded a similar project for a refinery in Saudi Arabia under a contract valued at USD 20 million. We will work with Shell to provide them with a catalyst that we expect could save the refinery millions of dollars.

What avenues have you opened in the areas of chemicals blending and catalyst recycling?
We have built our own chemical plant to blend chemicals. There are a lot of water treatment chemicals being imported now, in addition to hydrocarbons-based chemicals like anti-corrosion products that are used for refinery operations. There is a day-to-day consumption of these chemicals and all of them are imported. We want to be one of the few companies that produce commodity chemicals in-country.
We are also working on our own catalyst recycling plant. There is a huge potential with refinery catalysts that are being wasted, so we intend to focus on waste recycling or waste management of catalysts. We are already taking a lot of waste from the UAE and trying to manage it in a safe area, rather than disposing of it or burning it. Additionally, this waste comes with precious metals like vanadium, cobalt and nickel. Processing these elements is costly, but can also be profitable. For this reason, we are trying to grow in the area of waste management, especially for refinery waste, which is huge.
Kuwait is using 35% of the worldwide production capacity of catalysts. They have a refinery capacity rising to 1.42 million bpd this year, spread across several refineries. This means that they need a lot of catalysts every year to produce refined product. We are currently working in Kuwait, where we are separating the water and the contaminants, bagging the units and sending them back to the US for vanadium recovery.

What are your near-term growth prospects and goals?
We currently have an annual growth rate of 30% and our aim is to grow 100% in the next three to four years. We have around 70-80 projects a year and we aim to increase the number of projects secured. In terms of innovation, we aim to bring 10-15 more technologies to the UAE market and test them. Moreover, last year we made 10 OEM agreements and this year we are also looking for more high-quality OEM agreements. This will enhance our capabilities. We also want to expand our manufacturing capability. One of our objectives is to invest in training to steadily enhance the skill level of our people.

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