DNV shifts focus to transitional energyMarch 3, 2023
Jan Zschommler, market area manager for Middle East and Africa Energy Systems at DNV, talks to The Energy Year about the company’s shift in focus to transitional energy sources and its transfer of carbon capture know-how into the UAE. Energy Systems is a business area of DNV that provides advisory, monitoring, verification and certification services to the entire energy value chain.
How has DNV’s focus shifted over the years from conventional to transitional energy sources?
As a company, we have been present in the UAE for almost 40 years, in the beginning predominantly focusing on the oil and gas sector. Over time, we have broadened our reach by offering our services to a growing power sector, including conventional generation, power grids and renewables, which are gaining ground in the country’s energy mix.
In the UAE, we mainly provide third-party technical assessment, certification and risk management: we deliver independent verification, certifications, technical advisory related to asset integrity, corrosion and safety studies and regulatory framework studies and technical due diligence (related to new energy projects, investments and financial transactions). Another strong area for us is the downstream and petrochemical sector, given its growing importance in the region. For example, we currently have multiple ongoing projects in the Ruwais complex in Abu Dhabi.
We are very engaged with solar projects in the technical advisory space, mostly here in the UAE but more broadly in the Middle East and Africa – where we also deal with wind projects. In this region we also provide tendering support, from the authorities to the developers, for power procurement. We additionally work on power systems, specifically on power system modelling, failure analysis and intelligent network control systems.
As the deepening climate emergency drives a global and society-wide transition to low-carbon energy sources, we are making the most of our extensive historical experience in maritime and offshore oil and gas sectors to support the steady shift towards the power and renewables sector.
We are strongly committed to supporting our customers in navigating the energy transition, bringing our extensive and global know-how to this region.
What role do you play in renewable energy projects?
We act as technical advisers, providing technical assessments for risk management and financial analysis in the early phases of large solar projects in the UAE. We can also provide engineering services to support the owners of the project, technically specifying and executing the work or overseeing contractors. Moreover, we provide a lot of in-depth technical work in certifying components and qualifying certain technologies.
We can also act as key players in this due diligence process: mega-projects tend to have a moving framework with multiple stakeholders and varying ownership structures over the lifetime. This gives way to the need for technical due diligence to validate the technical conditions and specifications to then support the financial deal.
What presence does DNV have in the UAE’s natural gas landscape?
Oil and gas activities have been the starting point for us as a company in the country, and it is still a very relevant part of our business. The UAE is betting on natural gas, particularly developing its sour gas resource, as a means to transition and aim to achieve gas self-sufficiency by 2030. We have supported ADNOC in many of the upstream developments, both onshore and offshore and have been part, in some shape or form, of most of their operating fields for independent verification, marine assurance advisory and other services such as integrity or safety studies. We will next take part in one of the most prominent global upstream projects, the Ghasha sour gas mega-project, which is expecting its first gas by 2025.
Moreover, one of our strongholds is in the midstream, specifically in-country gas pipelines. Interestingly, more than half of the world’s offshore pipelines are certified to the DNV offshore pipeline standard. We are strongly involved in any sort of offshore pipeline work in the Middle East, including those related to gas imports into the UAE, for instance. In addition to gas pipelines, we are also deeply involved in LNG. We are one of the largest classification societies of vessels at large and also have a strong position in classing LNG carriers. In this respect, an important project to keep an eye on is the new Fujairah LNG terminal, currently at the planning stage, which will eventually have a total capacity of 9.6 million tonnes per year.
Moving forwards, besides LNG, exporting hydrogen gas and its derivatives such as ammonia will be a key way for the UAE to maintain its position as an energy supplier to the world. We aim to play a pivotal role in this area and are already involved with several services in the FEED stage of a major export project planned at the TA’ZIZ complex in Ruwais.
How are you transferring your know-how on carbon capture technology into the UAE?
The main impact on our customers’ decarbonisation and emissions reduction efforts is through the services we provide. For example, we are supporting carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects on a global basis. There is a growing interest in the UAE in harnessing CCS and CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] solutions to reduce carbon footprints.
For such local projects in the UAE, DNV will provide expertise from one of its global expertise hubs on CCS and combine it with our on-the-ground presence in the UAE. This combined approach will ensure international best practices are transferred and applied in a way that meets the local specific requirements in order to deliver best value to the project.
There is an interesting project in the UAE where CO2 is captured from a steel mill. This approach is seen globally in different industrial facilities such as fertiliser, cement and aluminium plants. We are very active in this space, offering risk management to these projects including certifying them to our own or international standards, and we have been working on carbon capture technology for many years. We are now trying to support ADNOC and the local industry to transfer and successfully apply carbon capture learnings.
What type of services do you offer in technology qualification and digital twins?
We are key players in the area of technology qualification. We assess the maturity level of innovations through a standardised approach and develop new standards where none are available; in other words, we make sure a new technology meets certain technical requirements and standards. This enables customers like ADNOC to select and pilot new technologies.
In the digital field, we have fostered important developments for the energy industry, and digital twins are a growing segment for us, one that is gaining traction in the Middle East. Operators in the UAE are investing heavily to create digital twins of their operating assets to have real-time monitoring and operational decision support. Our role here is to actually verify those digital twins to build the required trust with all relevant stakeholders.
We have developed a structured approach to follow up on the development of digital twins and ensure that the algorithmic output produces accurate and reliable results. We will follow a standardised verification process to validate how that digital twin has been developed, how it uses input data, what the algorithms are doing, how it is maintained and how it is updated.
How important is cyber security to the energy industry and how is DNV supporting it?
We are strong believers in the need for proper cyber-security risk management. Cyber security is gaining more and more attention in the Middle East due to the recurrent cyber attacks the region has witnessed, especially on its energy infrastructure. There are different levels of awareness in the industry on cyber threats, but this matter seems to start sinking in. However, there is still a lack of clear guidance and action to mitigate the problem. There is also a dire need for service providers like DNV to support in transferring international best practices and lead the way in the area of cyber security, its tools and methods.
Due to this, in November 2021 we acquired cyber-security company Applied Risk. This acquisition expands DNV’s resources, competence and offer to include a broad range of consultancy services ranging from cyber security strategy development to penetration testing, risk assessments and emergency response preparedness. We also cover a range of standards/regulations globally and when it comes to industrial control systems, the IEC 62443 family of standards is the one most widely referred to. We are organically and inorganically growing in the cyber-security space, and we see much interest in the region.
Cyber threats tend to be more complex when they are aimed at operational technology, which is what a complex energy asset applies in the field – for example, control systems, SCADA systems and digital controllers. These are vulnerable to cyber threats and an intrusion can create huge damage in operational, reputational and economic terms. Hence our technical energy domain knowledge – with expertise in vessels, offshore platforms, electrolysers, and solar panels – supports a specialised cyber-security knowledge focusing on the energy industry.
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