MAXIMIZING PRODUCTIVITY

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Bilfinger is incorporating digitization, detailed value engineering, and other strategies to boost efficiency and sustainability toward extracting maximum value out of every barrel.

Ali Vezvaei Executive
BIOGRAPHY
Ali Vezvaei is the Executive President for the Middle East Operations at Bilfinger, where he oversees the group's engineering and operating companies in the region, focusing on the oil and gas and petrochemical sectors, energy utilities, and water, as well as biopharma industries. Previously, Vezvaei served as the President, Middle East & North Africa of Linde Engineering and as a 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.

How does Bilfinger Tebodin's priorities reflect the trends the region is witnessing from an industrial and energy management point of view?

The dynamics around us define and refine our priorities. The Middle East is transforming away from a traditional pure-hydrocarbons-based industry and using that natural wealth to diversify and build a future of efficiency and sustainability. Bilfinger is well positioned within these plans; our century-long focus and expertise in both the worlds of CAPEX and OPEX give us the privilege to serve our clients along the entire value chain and support their efforts not only to build things better, but also to run and manage them more efficiently and sustainably. On the CAPEX side, we begin with an idea to start with detailed value engineering and then move onto the project to ensure that the money being spent results in the highest return of capital. On the other hand, the amount of money spent to maintain and sustain the industry is significant, and that is the OPEX cycle, where Bilfinger enhances efficiency and increases productivity whether per molecule, per ton of production, or even per MW produced. To extract value from every barrel, one needs to have the holistic view starting with what you build (capital allocation), how you build (CAPEX optimization), and how efficiently and sustainably you operate those assets (OPEX).

How do you project the recent asset allocation toward natural gas impacting the hydrocarbon industry, and where do you see the greatest potential on the digital front?

The natural gas industry and the petrochemical and power sectors in the Middle East have come a long way relatively fast, thanks to competitive production cost. However, as the region grew in population, consumption and export needs also grew, putting the available capacity under pressure to the extent that allocations for petrochemical production growth became a stretch. New exploration, marginal fields, sour and ultra-sour, and even unconventional assets all came into focus, albeit at a higher production cost, thanks in part to energy security considerations and the economic viability of petrochemical industry from a cash cost point of view. However, there is an internal source of productivity and additional capacity that is not fully explored. That is what we call “gas liberation." It starts with basic efficiency measures in power sector to produce more, enhanced desalination solutions to reduce power consumption, integration of refining and Pet-Chem assets to better utilize side streams, and leverage hydrogen, CO, and CO2 as strategic molecules. Also substituting gas with other molecules conducive to recovery such as nitrogen mix, CO2 allows additional capacity to be directed to where the return is higher. On the digital front, the energy and hydrocarbon industry have not really tapped into enormous possibilities. The role of digital transformation starts in better designs, more efficient processes but stretches on far beyond into the world of data; not just to acquire data but to structure and capitalize on it. That is where the equation “big beats small" is no longer valid: it is more like “fast beats slow," as data is all about speed, agility, and productivity. This is why digitization will have a much bigger impact on enhancing operations. In this sense, sensors and data points (digitization) play a crucial role in collecting data; next is getting the industrial IT and OT to connect and exchange (digitalization); but the journey does not end here, as structuring data leads to identifying patterns and smart algorithms that help optimize the underlying process (digital transformation), where the value is created. We take this and apply it to the OPEX hemisphere, for example in hydrocarbon industry, where billions of dollars are spent to maintain the production. And that is where Bilfinger comes in with BCAP to help customer move from reactive maintenance and transition from a predictive to a prescriptive outlook. This is where we can squeeze the dollar from every barrel, molecule, or mega-watt.