ONE MILESTONE AFTER ANOTHER

Abu Dhabi 2017 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ali Vezvaei, President, Middle East & North Africa of Linde Engineering, on tying one's belt in trying times, the smart combination of technology and operational elements, and building a blueprint for the CO2 eco-system.

Ali Vezvaei
BIOGRAPHY
Ali Vezvaei is President, Middle East & North Africa of Linde Engineering. He is also a member of the board. With many years of experience as a senior executive in the energy and hydrocarbon industries, prior to joining the Linde Group AG Vezvaei served as the global senior vice president of Siemens Oil & Gas, among other senior management positions at the German conglomerate. He has published several papers for the industry with Cambridge University Press. He earned his executive education at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and holds a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering.

The energy sector experienced many changes in 2016, which has had an effect on EPC suppliers. What challenges has this posed for Linde?

The most blatant consequence of the recent downturn was the spending cuts across the industry. A lot of our customers tightened their financial belts and revisited their spending patterns, which inevitably has had an impact on the EPC market in particular. First, there was a pause in awards followed by an overall delay in major decisions; so several projects were shifted or shelved. Now, we gradually see an uptick in activity as our clients have adjusted their strategies and are getting more comfortable with the current price dynamics and the prospect of a more moderate but sustainable oil price. Budgets have been rearranged, and the industry is more comfortable in sanctioning some of the key projects.

How has Linde's position as a one-stop-shop EPC company played to your advantage during this period?

While being a comprehensive solution provider remains to be an important attribute in our sector, the smart combination of technology and operational elements is critically important. However, all of this can only yield results if it translates into optimized total cost of ownership or, in simple terms, an optimized CAPEX and OPEX. This means that in the EPC world of today being just a one-stop-shop is not necessarily enough to guarantee your success. It is for this precise reason that we offer a number of business solutions.

Linde has placed significant effort on developing new technologies to address emissions in the hydrocarbon industry and help turn it into a more valuable molecule. Can you tell us about these initiatives?

Linde is one of the leading organizations in terms of efforts in developing a comprehensive blueprint for the CO2 ecosystem. We have designed and built the world's largest CO2 purification and liquefaction plant in Saudi Arabia for SABIC's United Plant, where SABIC-United is capturing CO2 from the operations and, after purification, putting the CO2 to better use. This is the role of innovation as a means of turning around the CO2 emission challenges to potential opportunities. The commercially captured and purified CO2 can be utilized in upstream for energized fracking as well as in enhanced oil recovery (EOR), whereas in the downstream CO2 can be used as a feedstock to produce chemicals. This is a journey in its early stages but suggests a great future ahead.

Linde was awarded the EPC contract for Borouge's Boil Off Gas (BOG) compressor project. What does this entail and what are your expectations?

We have had the pleasure of being a part of Borouge's ethane cracker projects in the past and greatly value its vision for operational excellence, as well as optimization across their system wherever there is an opportunity. The BOG compression project, a midsize EPC opportunity, is of the same nature. It is to take advantage of every single molecule and convert them into the bottom line for Borouge's shareholders. This project was tendered and awarded in 2016 and has already been set in motion. Engineering and procurement are well underway and will be followed by site work soon.

Your Abu Dhabi office manages operations in other MENA markets. What are some of the most important projects outside the UAE?

Having addressed the UAE's opportunities earlier in our talks, we have also made some good progress in one of our major EPC projects in Egypt, which is intended to be a world scale naphtha cracker with associated units. This project, when successfully on-stream, will be pivotal for the economic future of Egypt. The project enjoys very good support within Egypt, so we look forward to the final milestones ahead. We also see good opportunities in Saudi Arabia, both in connection with Vision 2030 and as part of the continued strategic focus of the likes of Aramco and SABIC in their integrated value chain, such as gas networks and chemical clusters.