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Cover Story: Propelling Digitisation

by Indrajit Sen on Nov 16, 2016

The global oil and gas industry is seeing conventional methods of operations challenged by uncomfortable crude oil prices. Against this backdrop, ABB is demonstrating how the concepts of automation and digitalisation can be applied to oil, gas, and chemicals operations to make them more efficient and productive.

The Swiss-Swedish multinational corporation is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year and has firmly established itself as a pioneering technology leader, working closely with companies around the world to drive the fourth industrial revolution. In the Middle East, where ABB has been a dominant player for around three decades, the behemoth caters to its clientele throughout the region, as well as in Africa, from its hub in Abu Dhabi.

The technology leader’s managing director of the Oil, Gas, and Chemicals business, in an exclusive interview, explains that ABB’s industrial offerings are structured into four distinct portfolios. “We are a pioneering technology leader in four key areas: robotics and motion, which provides drive systems, rotating equipment, motors, and machines; the power grid segment, which provides utility equipment for the electricity sector; industrial automation, which provides equipment to industries such as mining, oil and gas, and so on; and the electrification segment, which offers products to various industries and businesses,” says Per-Erik Holsten, an ABB veteran with a career spanning 30 years, who started out as an engineer at the organisation in 1986.

“Our portfolio is wide and covers most of the electro-technical and automation sides. We cover all businesses within the sectors of automation, power, infrastructure, transport, and utilities,” he continues.

ABB has an admirable record of serving the region’s oil and gas industry with its innovative products and services. The global company boasts of an impressive client base in the oil and gas sector that includes NOCs like Qatar Petroleum, Kuwait Oil Company, and Kuwait National Petroleum Company, and major EPC contractors like Petrofac, Technip, and Saipem. “Our customer base is formed of players that are dominant in the industry, from significant global companies to the national oil companies,” Holsten says.

ABB is currently involved in two high-profile oil and gas projects in the region – an upstream and a downstream venture. The company is working on an offshore oilfield project operated by the Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Co (ADMA-OPCO), a subsidiary of ADNOC, and bagged a significant deal in Q4 2015 from the main contractor, National Petroleum Construction Company (NPCC), for the delivery of electrical and telecommunication systems to the Al Nasr full field development, located about 130km northwest of Abu Dhabi.

As part of the contract, reported to be worth $18mn, ABB is providing electrical distribution systems and equipment, power management and telecommunication systems for the entire Al Nasr project, which will help both ADMA-OPCO and NPCC maintain the highest levels of efficiency, reliability and safety for the development, which Holsten describes as “a large electrical project for us”.

“[The Al Nasr offshore oilfield] is a large project and our scope of work is the electrical delivery, which is part of the process power management and forms the umbrella structure of all the electrical offerings of ABB – such as low voltage transformers,” Holsten describes. “Process power management involves collecting the electronic signals of the operation and making sure it functions in a reliable way. The technical feature of such a system is that every time you have either a general shutdown or lack of power, or your equipment is sucking [more] power from the system than the normal rate, you’re offloading some of the power. Now that is a critical element.”

With regards to the downstream project, ABB, as the MAC (main automation contractor), is providing integrated power and automation solutions to the Sadara complex in Saudi Arabia – a $20bn project, estimated to be the world’s largest petrochemical project ever built in a single phase. The project won the Downstream Project of the Year award at the Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East Awards 2016 (for more, see page 52). Also, as a measure of ABB’s commitment to nurturing and employing local talent in the region, Holsten reveals that the ABB team working on the Sadara project comprises 30 Saudi engineers.


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