The digital oilfield concept started a long time ago. However, with changing technology, it is now maturing.

Pierre DE VUYST Senior Executive Vice-President YOKOGAWA SAUDI ARABIA

Eyes on the prize

September 27, 2017

Pierre de Vuyst, senior executive vice-president of Yokogawa Saudi Arabia, talks to TOGY about the rise of the digital oilfield, the industrial internet of things (IIOT) and the current business climate in Saudi Arabia. The instrumentation and control engineering and software firm provides measurement, control and IT to the oil and gas industry and power generation sector in Saudi Arabia. In March 2017, Yokogawa signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Aramco for local manufacturing, research and development in addition to the digitalisation of the oil and gas industry.

• On the market: “With the low price of oil and gas, it has not been easy. Many projects have been postponed or cancelled, and customers have been cutting costs. However, at the same time, there have been many activities.”

• On digitalisation: “The digital oilfield concept started a long time ago. However, with changing technology, it is now maturing. A heavy pressure on prices is perhaps accelerating the implementation of solutions to reduce operational costs.”

• On IIOT: “It will continue to be significant. Everything is connected to the internet today. It has become very easy to see data and analyses. You do not need larger servers for data exchange. This also helps with costs because we can do a lot of work remotely.”

Most TOGY interviews are published exclusively on our business intelligence platform TOGYiN, but you can find an abridged version of the interview with Pierre de Vuyst below.

 

Has there been a rise in the demand for digital or instrumentation services?
Yes, that is the big drive now. Digitalisation and IIoT are very big buzzwords.
Saudi Arabia is trying to digitise its oilfields. Essentially, we need to insert more sensors to collect data. From there we have been talking about big data and cloud computing. The idea is to have all the data available. All the measurements can easily be made from the data on the oilfields, the production and the temperature versus the pressure and more. We must take this data and analyse it in an intelligent manner so the actual process can be improved, the costs can decrease and the production can be done in a more stable manner.
We are very much involved in that plan. We are talking to Saudi Aramco for its I-Field [intelligent field] concept and we are part of the I-Field programme. We have implemented digital oilfields in the central region of Khurais since 2008, and this is increasing gradually.
We are working with other companies to analyse the data so as to offer proper advice to the end users. To that end, we recently acquired a number of companies, one being KBC [Advanced Technologies], that conduct refinery optimisation programmes on oilfields. They look at the whole process and find ways to reduce operational costs. We work very closely with them to integrate Yokogawa solutions.
We have a team called the advanced process solution group, which is a team of 120 people who look for these kinds of optimisation solutions and deliver them. Initially, we said the control system, the instrument, would be the base for control. On top of that, we build advanced solutions to optimise the processes, making it easier for operators to operate the plant, facilitating upsets, such as shutdowns and the like, along with reducing the cost of operation.
The digital oilfield concept started a long time ago. However, with changing technology, it is now maturing. A heavy pressure on prices is perhaps accelerating the implementation of solutions to reduce operational costs.
It is a constant process. Everyone is trying to save money at the moment. They are all looking for ways to reduce the cost of operations. Solutions have been in higher demand recently than in previous years.

Do you see the IIoT and cloud solutions becoming more important in future?
I suppose it will continue to be significant. Everything is connected to the internet today. It has become very easy to see data and analyses. You do not need larger servers for data exchange. This also helps with costs because we can do a lot of work remotely.

How will Saudi Arabia cope with its rising demand for energy?
There are a lot of projects with an increasing population. They want to keep the industry running, and the expenditure for power is higher than the expenditure for the oil and gas industry can handle. Thus, there are many projects on the horizon. Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in renewable energies, such as solar and wind. In terms of water, the country needs to consider more desalination plants. We have a team which is devoted on these sectors.

What are some recent developments for Yokogawa in Saudi Arabia?
It has been a quite hectic. With the low price of oil and gas, it has not been easy. Many projects have been postponed or cancelled, and customers have been cutting costs. However, at the same time, there have been many activities. Yokogawa has near-monopoly in its business domain in Japan. Since the low oil price situation began, Japan and Saudi Arabia governments have increased their engagement and co-operation. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry acknowledged Yokogawa as a ‘Japanese strategic partner’ for the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030. In September 2016, then deputy crown prince and current crown prince of Saudi Arabia visited Japan.
Our president, Mr. [Takashi] Nishijima visited the CEO of Aramco last October, and we also attended the first joint-group meeting for Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 on October 9, 2016. In March 2017, the king of Saudi Arabia visited Japan and our president met him. At the time, we signed an MoU with Saudi Aramco to cover a number of collaborative issues, including local manufacturing, research and development as well as the digitalisation of the oil and gas industry. We are looking to close in on new technology. Yokogawa was privileged to be part of the business forum meetings during these visits as a Japanese strategic partner. We also completed a local transmitter line in Saudi Arabia in November 2016. Now that it has been approved, we are producing and delivering transmitters from our facility.
We have also been awarded a number of projects such as Fadhili’s phase one and two phases of the Master Gas System: MGS Expansion Project Phase I and MGS Expansion Project Phase II Compression. And we were also awarded a maintenance programme so Aramco can keep oil production running uninterrupted. Petro Rabigh [Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical Company] has also awarded a number of upgrades and expansions.
Despite the downturn, Saudi Arabia has been quite active. The typical scope of our operations is control systems, safety systems and instrumentation such as transmitters and analysers. We can provide the scope of levels one, two and three instrumentation based on ISA 95, enterprise-control system integration. ISA-95 is now highlighted as a standard interface specification to secure interoperability for P2B [plant-to-business]. We have developed an integration platform according to this standard to integrate ERP [enterprise resource planning] and MES [manufacturing execution system] in the short term and low cost.

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