We see Saudi Arabia as a critical market for the long term.


Inspired growth

July 28, 2017

Liam Hurley, general manager of Emerson Automation Solutions for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, talks to TOGY about the company’s recently completed facility at the Dhahran Techno Valley (DTV), the importance of Saudi Arabia in Emerson’s business portfolio and the application of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Entering Saudi Arabia’s market in the early eighties, Emerson operates as a multinational manufacturing and engineering firm. The company established its first office in the county in 2004.

On Efficiency: “We see our customers focusing primarily on increasing efficiency and reducing costs. There is a strong drive towards eliminating interruptions and lost time. Quite often, those are caused by preventable failures, but ultimately they affect production.”

On DTV in Saudi: “The idea is to engage with Saudi Aramco in a collaborative environment where people can connect and consult with one another remotely, regardless of where they are. So whether they’re in the field or in the office or in our building, we will be able to ensure that different departments and functions work together to make faster and more informed decisions.”

Hurley also discussed data sharing in Saudi Arabia and how wireless technologies enable operators to very quickly and effectively instrument their wells, for example. Most TOGY interviews are published exclusively on our business intelligence platform TOGYiN, but you can find the full interview with Liam Hurley below.

Can you provide an overview of Emerson’s recent highlights?
It is an exciting time to be here in Saudi Arabia. While the industry is facing challenges, we are continuing to try to develop our business, supporting our customers and preparing for a sustainable future.
One of our major achievements in the past year has been the completion of our new facility at Dhahran Techno Valley. Construction was completed in October 2017, the culmination of a USD 25-million investment. This has been a major undertaking for us. We announced the start of our construction project when oil was around the mid-30s in terms of dollars per barrel. This should give you a good idea of the focus and the vision that we have in the kingdom, especially when most people are currently being so judicious about spending money.
The Abqaiq control system migration and cutover project was another massive milestone both for us and for Saudi Aramco in the past year. The project saw the necessity to upgrade 325 controllers, 105 workstations and 42 network devices across 20 different locations. Given the criticality of production at this site – the world’s largest oil processing plant – interruption to production was unthinkable. The project had to be undertaken using a hot-cutover approach.
The success of the project was driven by the seamless collaboration by the Emerson and Saudi Aramco project teams all driving for a common goal. Not alone did we have no unplanned outages, but the project teams completed the project two months ahead of schedule. This was a fantastic achievement, and something we are very proud of.

How important is Saudi Arabia to Emerson in the overall scheme of the company’s future business plans?
We see Saudi Arabia as a critical market for the long term. We see that opportunities for development in the kingdom are going to be significant as we move forward.
Dhahran Techno Valley is a significant undertaking in terms of investment, but also in terms of the opportunity it provides us for the future. We will have an R&D concentration there, focused on addressing the complex challenges of our customers, such as Saudi Aramco, SABIC [Saudi Basic Industries Corporation], Ma’aden, SEC [Saudi Electricity Company] and SWCC [Saline Water Conversion Corporation]. We will also collaborate closely with learning institutions like KFUPM [King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals], KAUST [King Abdullah University of Science and Technology], Jubail Industrial College and many other academic institutions.

What details can you provide regarding the MoU Emerson signed with Saudi Aramco?
The MoU is related to areas such as emerging technologies and digitisation of oilfields. The agreement also covers new emerging technologies, such as our Plantweb Digital Ecosystem, which is designed to deliver Industrial Internet of Things applications that offer measurable business performance improvement.
The PlantWeb Digital Ecosystem, using IIoT, allows us to gather data from existing plant devices and newly installed innovative measurement technologies, transmit that securely to an analytical layer, where we use some of our tools to deliver this information to facilitate smart business decisions.
We have an existing suite of analytics that can be used by our customers and we anticipate that we will train our customers to run some of those analytics. We use open technologies and part of what we hope to achieve in the Dhahran Techno Valley will be the collaboration with our customer base here and with universities to develop new applications on the Industrial Internet of Things.

Is investment in analytics gaining importance because of the low price of oil?
I am not sure if it is driven by the economic situation. I know that our entire customer base is being driven to improve the utilisation of resources, be that their finances, their people or their infrastructure. There is also a drive to adopt new technologies. We are seeing that, especially in the kingdom. There are groups of customers who are being challenged to look at new and more efficient ways of delivering projects, be they capital investments or operational expenditure.


Can you apply your technologies to upstream operations as well?
Our technology strategies can be applied across upstream, midstream, downstream and also multiple industrial sectors.
On the operational side, we are really looking at brownfield plants that are up and running and have been for a number of years. We look to the utilisation of the Plantweb digital ecosystem and use the Industrial Internet of Things to drive real improvements in reliability, optimisation of production, reduction of emissions and ensuring safety.

How can efficiency programmes save operators money?
In terms of capital investments, research from Solomon Associates, a performance improvement company, and our independent analysis show stark differences between top quartile performers and those operating in the lower quartiles in areas like project performance, reliability and energy efficiency. The top quartile is defined as achieving operations and capital performance in the top 25% of peer companies.
For example, the cost of a USD 1-billion project would escalate to over USD 1.6 billion for companies in the fourth quartile of project performance, yet it could decrease to USD 750 million for top quartile performers. Similarly, maintenance costs are more than tripled for fourth-quartile performers compared with top-quartile performers, and fuel costs and emissions double.
Emerson estimates that process industries could save over USD 50 billion in wasted maintenance costs and USD 10 billion in energy costs, even at today’s prices. Furthermore, the industry is wasting large volumes of money – approximately USD 430 billion – in poorly executed capital projects.
Emerson seeks to tackle this problem to support our customers to achieve top quartile performance in project execution through the utilisation of transformational technologies, combined with defined enabling project execution methodologies.

How do these philosophies translate into real-world applications?
Emerson recently introduced a game changing technology called Electronic Marshalling with CHARMs, which helps project teams eliminate miles of wiring and thousands of hours of associated engineering work that is required for connecting tens of thousands of instruments and valves. This gives companies the flexibility to adapt to late design changes quickly and with little or no impact on their technologies. Most importantly for our clients, it contributes to an on-time startup, which in turn leads to a faster return on investment.
When Emerson is engaged in the design phase with end users or engineering companies, we provide advice and recommendations on how to deploy the technology in the optimum way, even facilitating a reduction on the number of control cabinets.
Naturally, when you reduce the number of control cabinets, you reduce the size of the building required to house them. Of course, the construction of the building that houses the control system is not our responsibility. However, the savings after reducing the size are significant. Subsequently for operations, the savings on the energy required to cool that control house is again something that will be realised across the life cycle of the plant.
It is interesting that while the investment in the control system is relatively small in the overall capex investment, the impact of the control system design on savings can be significant.

Is the Industrial Internet of Things the future?
I believe that this development and the emergence of new technologies [will complement] the infrastructure that we now have across the globe. The demand for information – not just data – has changed, not only in oil and gas, but across all industries. Users now seek to use information derived from plant operations to make impactful business decisions.
With Emerson’s Plantweb Digital Ecosystem, this impact can be achieved by analysing information and determining a trend or deterioration in performance, for example. This is actionable information that can prevent an occurrence, safety incident or outage. That is a significant change that applies across multiple industry sectors and across even our daily lives.

In what areas of Saudi Arabia do you see the most growth?
Our largest footprint is in the eastern provinces, but the spread of our people is moving west. We have recently put new people into Jeddah and Yanbu and I see that growing. We have a large customer base on the western coast, and we have some different energy focuses as well. In Riyadh and across the west, there is naturally a focus on the power sector as well as the oil and gas sector.

Is Saudi Arabia moving towards gas and unconventionals as a source for power generation?
Saudi Arabia is very clear in its determination to source non-associated gas to power the country and to relieve its dependence on oil. The Wasit gas plant is a good example of the emergence of this goal. We are ideally suited for the challenges that this brings about, [both] conventional or unconventional.
The investments in the Master Gas System present opportunities for us to support operational improvements around the wellhead. Wellhead monitoring is one of our major strengths, as well as pipeline management and control. We see Saudi Aramco investing heavily in gas compression.
Unconventionals bring different challenges and different opportunities. We are very fortunate to have a lot of experience through our global organisation, mostly in the USA, where we have expertise and technologies that have been developed to support unconventional resources. We look forward to trying to utilise the benefit of that experience in the future.

What do you want to see for the future of Emerson in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, National Transformation Plan and Saudi Aramco’s In-Kingdom Total Value Add (IKTVA) programme are central to our future plans in the kingdom. We work with Saudi Aramco and all our stakeholders on IKTVA. We also work with different stakeholders in the country – including some of the government bodies – to understand the long-term visions and goals for the country and our customers. We invest in understanding what they are, and we try to adapt our strategy to make sure we meet those goals.
Our Dhahran Techno Valley facility is probably the best embodiment of our vision for the future of Emerson here in the kingdom and how we fit within the goals of IKTVA, the National Transformation Plan and Vision 2030.
My ultimate vision for Emerson in Dhahran Techno Valley is to increase our capability to collaborate locally and to work with our stakeholders, like Saudi Aramco, to understand their most complex challenges that they do not have answers for. We will engage with institutions like KFUPM, KAUST and Jubail Industrial College to try and develop new technologies and new analytics to deal with those problems. My vision is that we will take research from concept through to deployment and ultimately, hopefully, export.
All along that supply chain, we will engage with entrepreneurial organisations and with small to medium-sized enterprises here in the kingdom. We will analyse the supply chain and find gaps where we can plug [in] Saudi companies. We are already doing that as part of our IKTVA strategy.

What changes does the company plan to implement in order to reach these goals?
As an organisation, we are going through a transformation ourselves. In the past 12 months we have divested some of our businesses and we have adapted the structure of our company into the two following core platforms: automation solutions, and commercial and residential. As part of that transformation, we are also acquiring new businesses.
For example, we recently announced the acquisition of Pentair Valves and Controls. As we go forward, we see tremendous opportunities, especially with this acquisition for our valves and controls business, for new services and manufacturing capabilities in the kingdom.
I envisage that, as part of our development over the next one to three years, we will have new manufacturing capabilities. We have already started to look at the new services capabilities that we will have with valves and controls, and we will continue to acquire new complementary technologies. As we do, these technologies will open new opportunities for us as well as for the localisation and development of our business here.

For more information on Emerson Automation Solutions in Saudi Arabia, including the company’s recently completed facility at the Dhahran Techno Valley, see our business intelligence platform, TOGYiN.
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