Saudi Aramco Review 2015

Bowie ... providing high quality, fit-for-purpose solutions

Bowie ... providing high quality, fit-for-purpose solutions

STATS Group is building its capabilities in Saudi Arabia

The group’s customers in Saudi Arabia will be able to call upon not only world-class products and services but also the expertise of highly skilled design engineering, project engineering and operations technicians based in the region

It is more than four years since ambitious specialist pipeline engineering company STATS Group made its inaugural move into the GCC to provide its advanced technologies to local customers.

The strategic decision by the Aberdeen, Scotland-headquartered company to set up the Abu Dhabi branch office was the catalyst for a measured regional multi-million dollar network investment programme which today includes storage, assembly, testing and mobilisation hubs in Mafraq (Abu Dhabi), and Qatar.

At all of these sites STATS undertakes maintenance, repair and modification of onshore and offshore oil and gas installations and pipelines to enhance safety and environmental performance, reduce system or plant downtime and extend facility life. The company says its comprehensive range of products and services enable piping and pipeline isolation, intervention, repair, subsea and shutdown services, while a dedicated QHSE department audits all suppliers to ensure the highest product quality standards are available locally.

"This (regional investment programme) has allowed us to perform work for most operators in the GCC as well as secure all the isolation EPRS (Emergency Pipeline Repair System) contracts currently awarded in the GCC," notes Angus Bowie, STATS Group’s regional director Middle East and North Africa.

"Having facilities on the ground has also allowed us to address the process piping services market where day rate tooling is not always economically viable at long range. We are now 20-strong in the region with continuous work, as well as feeding approximately $10 million-worth of business per year to the UK office for high end pipeline isolation scopes," he continues.

Having established its credentials among a growing portfolio of upstream oil and gas customers in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Oman, STATS Group is now building its capabilities in Saudi Arabia. In what is a major show of commitment to the Middle East’s biggest oil and gas pipeline market, it is in the process of establishing a joint venture with Dammam-based Redland Industrial Services (RISAL) – a respected Saudi operator with a proven 40-year track record of industrial services backed up with comprehensive market knowledge – to spearhead the deployment of STATS Group’s leading-edge technologies in the kingdom.

"This will be a genuine Saudi company with local resources, tools and services," says Bowie. "We believe this is the optimum method to address this market."

With the new Saudi Arabian joint venture, STATS Group’s customers in Saudi Arabia will be able to call upon not only world-class products and services, which have become the industry standard for some of the leading upstream oil and gas operators in the Middle East, but also the expertise of highly skilled design engineering, project engineering and operations technicians based in the region and ready to serve customers at short notice. For Bowie and his colleagues, providing peace of mind for customers by rapidly responding to their pipeline integrity and repair issues is critical.

"Apart from EPRS and remote control systems plugs, we can address most supplies and services locally. We now have a significant range of isolation and test equipment in our (Gulf) workshops," Bowie explains.

STATS says it provides high quality, fit-for-purpose solutions to ensure that pipework and pipeline infrastructure meets the highest technical, safety and environmental standards. Furthermore, the company fully embraces the ISO9001:2008 Integrated Management System to meet the expectations of the modern, competitive business environment.

The 32-inch and 38-inch EPRS Tecno Plug

In addition, project management and engineering services are provided on a local basis in Saudi Arabia and the company’s other GCC hubs to support client needs including turnaround scopes, feasibility studies and contingency planning. In-house expertise covers the plant lifecycle from pre-commissioning through to decommissioning and abandonment.

According to Bowie, STATS Group’s tailored technology applications meet both 21st century isolation standards and deliver options not currently available from others in the market. Much of the technology, he points out, is patented – this includes the Bisep, a pipeline intervention and isolation range which offers what he describes as "true Double Block and Bleed Isolation with a full monitor through a single hot tap penetration, and Tecno Plug pigging bypass technology to allow two plugs to be pigged from either end of a pipeline to a blind centre, in the case of a mid-line defect

"These advances save the operators significant time and money by providing safe and proven isolation to facilitate hot work without depressurising the whole pipeline," Bowie explains.

"Technologies like the Bisep and Tecno Plug (a global fleet of piggable pipeline isolation plugs) take a little time and effort to be accepted by each operator as this is a safety critical service and technical authorities are cautious of new technology," he explains.

"However, once they start to use the technology, the increased safety from a fully monitored isolation and the associated reduction in shutdown durations converts them, so each success leads to another. This is why we are much more developed in some countries than others," he adds.

Bowie explains that with the EPRS, operators generally purchase the Tecno Plugs and maintain them on a state of readiness in case of emergency. The tools therefore have to accommodate client specifications as well as STATS safety standards.

"These tools can be deployed from either end of the pipe to isolate a non-piggable dent, and some have to be able to pig past a 10 per cent dent, but still be capable of retaining the full pipeline pressure. These offer a lot of contradictory requirements which sometimes need a little thought," he says.

In addition to the Bisep and Tecno Plug, STATS also rents In-Line Weld Test Tools which are quick, efficient and durable. While the bulk of the tools it offers run up to 24 inches, the company supplied 48-inch tools on the Dolphin project in Qatar last year.

"Our In-Line Test Tools also offer proven ambient isolation for the weld," he explains, adding that the company has a full fleet of rental tools covering every pipe schedule up to 24 inches, based in Abu Dhabi to serve the region. There are plans to establish similar fleets in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

It is this highly localised approach to the provision of services, coupled with its inherent ability to overcome technical hurdles, which Bowie hopes will continue to provide the cutting edge for STATS Group in a fiercely competitive, price-sensitive business environment. "STATS is not usually the cheapest in the market, so we have had to work to raise the bar which has helped the operators improve safety standards as well as allow us to maintain a realistic price structure," Bowie explains.

"Our technology can also be used where alternative solutions would not be viable. This allows operators to benefit with a solution to their problems and we can avoid the lowest cost competition."

He admits that while low oil prices have postponed some planned maintenance projects in the GCC, demand for unplanned maintenance has increased. He also says in any case STATS Group is taking a long-term view and is fully committed to spreading its wings in this pivotal region, which provides an increasingly significant revenue stream for the business.

"Once the market adjusts to a new price (environment), normality will resume, at least in the maintenance sector. We do not see a market restriction to our long-term expansion in the region," he insists.

"This (GCC) region is one of the biggest markets in the world for our services and we are scratching the surface. The competition for pipeline isolation is limited due to the criticality of the service and we are at the top end on the technology.

"Test tool competition is, however, much higher, particularly with the low oil price where we see international players trying to secure a piece of the Middle East market. Being local, efficient and offering a good service with the most efficient technology allows us to maintain market share in such a competitive market," Bowie explains.

"The bulk of the asset investment will be in the BISEP tooling range 3 inches to 24 inches with the associated hot tap equipment. This will allow us to be responsive to the market needs. This will not only help STATS but improve efficiency and safety in local process plants." To date STATS has executed more than 40 safety critical pipeline isolation projects in the Middle East and North Africa. With a legacy of product, technical and service excellence now being created in the Gulf, and an absolute commitment to investing in new strategic capabilities and knowhow, the company can look forward with justified confidence to satisfying its regional customers on many more projects.

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