Have there been any developments in hydrogen-based solutions or CO2 in oil recovery enhancement technology in the last few years?
We are currently working on developing ideas and concepts to optimize the management of industrial gases in the context of integrating refining and petrochemical production units. The implication is that one can develop and implement new models of efficient management of utilities and streams between the different units to optimize OPEX for complex production systems. That includes, among many other options, a better integration of industrial gas sources and operations, including hydrogen and other synthetic gases. This is in line with our medium-term strategy, which consists of being a key technology and operation partner for our regional partners in industrial gases and related services.
How would you characterize working as part of a joint venture in different markets?
On the downstream side, ADNOC has announced plans for approximately USD45 billion in investments until 2025 in new refining and chemical production facilities, primarily in Ruwais, to develop the largest integrated petrochemical complex. This is part of ADNOC's strategy to secure long-term growing markets for its crude oil by processing up to 20% of the product into high-value chemical and plastic products, while creating new jobs and revenues in the UAE. That is why there is a gradual shift to petrochemicals and the downstream value chain, which will require the best technologies, existing and new, as well as operational excellence in all domains including plant design, execution, operation, and maintenance.
What are some of the main risks and challenges in the regional market?
On the geopolitical side, we are all concerned by the role of Iran in destabilizing the region. In terms of the economy, we see a critical push to develop the value chain downstream; form partnerships with key players; and engage in technological R&D, high-value services, and operational excellence. In addition, there is a will to develop more local capabilities and push even further into the education system. This is all a greenlight for investors, including Linde Group. There may be a long-term risk with crude oil markets, as one can see the development of the energy portfolio, including the electrical and hydrogen mobility in Northeast Asia and Europe, which are key markets for the region. This is why players such as ADNOC are hedging their risks and growing into petrochemicals to reduce their dependency on crude oil.
How do you expect big data analysis to enhance your operations from a risk management point of view?
We operate more than 1,000 industrial gas production assets worldwide. A large majority of them are operated centrally by a remote operating control (ROC) system in connection to our best experts and advanced operation and maintenance tools, so that all sites' operations are optimized 24/7 to minimize OPEX, optimize onstream time, and prevent major incidents. We have an extremely CAPEX-intensive business that requires an investment of about USD3 to generate USD1 of revenue. To avoid failures, there is a need to use powerful software that analyzes thousands of data from a single plant, generating an analysis of what to do next in real time, and to witness any deviations in the process—even deviations which an operator cannot notice using standard tools. If the equipment were to fail, the cost would be extremely high. We see big data tools and technology evolving to better prepare our commissioning, operations, and accident prevention. Therefore, we are developing systems that integrate in one platform the full life cycle of an asset from the very early design to the ultimate decommissioning of the plant 30-40 years later.