Saudi Aramco Review 2015

Ibrahim ... prodigious talent

Ibrahim ... prodigious talent

GE Oil & Gas finding solutions to tough energy challenges

The multinational will reach another milestone in Saudi with the inauguration later this year of the first of three expansion phases of GE Oil & Gas’ Pressure Control equipment fabrication facility in Dammam Second Industrial City, writes MARK LAZELL

In March this year, General Electric (GE), the diversified multinational conglomerate, announced a series of new initiatives in Saudi Arabia designed to create 'economic and social value for the country and its people.'

GE says the $100-million programme will help take its work 'into the next industrial internet era,' focusing on boosting research and technology innovation, creating jobs in advanced manufacturing and software analytics, and enhancing its manufacturing credentials in the kingdom, where the company’s distinguished legacy of excellence and partnerships in the oil and gas, power generation and healthcare sectors spans more than 80 years.

GE Oil & Gas, one of the world’s leading equipment and services providers across the oil and gas value chain, continues to solve some of the toughest energy challenges for its customers. Significantly, it is positioning Saudi Arabia as a regional hub for its oil and gas businesses, services, research and innovation functions, says Zaher Ibrahim, CEO, GE Oil & Gas Saudi Arabia.

'My career has always been about pushing boundaries and driving change outside my comfort zone, and GE’s vision for Saudi Arabia is a great opportunity to continue doing that on a corporate level,' he tells OGN during an interview at the Saudi GE Innovation Centre in Dhahran Techno Valley (DTV), one of the jewels in the company’s crown in Saudi Arabia, which since 2012 has been a real statement of intent in terms of nurturing localised research and development (R&D) and innovation capabilities.

'Ultimately, everything we do is about supporting our customers, and that’s what our latest investment strategy is aimed at,' says Ibrahim, a mechanical engineer who epitomises GE’s verve and relentless ambition to work with important customers in Saudi Arabia to achieve maximum performance from their assets.

'Partnerships are no longer about a transaction where you sell and supply a product,' he continues. 'Today, it’s about forging long-term relationships, collaborating with customers daily on a technical or technological level, understanding their concerns and identifying solutions. Customers want their plants running; after all, even one per cent downtime can cost millions.'

GE’s latest strategic plan for Saudi Arabia, which will cover not only its oil and gas business but also power generation, where it also enjoys market leadership status, was unveiled by chairman & CEO Jeffrey Immelt during his visit to Dammam in March 2015.

'We believe that future skill-sets demand strong capability in both software and hardware; and we are committed to delivering that to our Saudi workforce and our ecosystem of partners,' Immelt stated.

The plan will build on GE’s strong track record in the kingdom for developing the talent resource base in Saudi Arabia in line with the company’s ‘localisation’ programmes aimed at creating skilled jobs and sharing knowhow.

On the local manufacturing front, this will be further elevated by the first of three expansion phases of GE Oil & Gas’ Pressure Control equipment fabrication facility in Dammam Second Industrial City, which will be inaugurated before the end of 2015. Built to ISO9001:2008 and API 6A/Q1 standards, the facility when complete will be manned by a total of 320 operations, support and services staff. The 20,000 square metre facilities will manufacture a product slate that includes conventional wellhead systems, mudlines, chokes and safety valves, as well as other pressure control technologies.
 'The intention will be to supply Saudi Arabia and regional markets with products manufactured to GE’s global quality standards in the kingdom, in keeping with the government’s ambitions to drive local content and manufacturing,' says Ibrahim.

'We machine the raw materials in Dammam, we shape them here, we blast them and coat them here, and they are then shipped out with the ‘Made in Saudi Arabia’ stamp, which is a source of great pride for us,' he enthuses.

Links with local academic and vocational institutions will also be stepped up, as GE continues to spearhead oil and gas research.

Thus, GE and King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (KFUPM) will reinforce their close ties by collaborating on advanced prototyping and additive manufacturing, working with the planned state-of-the-art Technology Advanced Prototyping Centre (TAPC).

The impressive Saudi GE Innovation Centre in DTV, where some of the company’s best and brightest minds have since 2012 been developing next generation, globally-relevant energy solutions, will naturally take centre stage in GE’s long-term strategy for the kingdom.

This will include conducting engineering research with the aim of developing new and enhanced upstream and downstream oil and gas technologies to increase efficiency and production in addition to software solutions, the next-generation of down-hole technology, and electric submersible pump (ESP), a potential game-changer for the industry both in Saudi Arabia and globally. Research activities will also aim to advance corrosion monitoring and resistance technologies to better withstand high sour-gas environments prevalent in Saudi oil and gas fields.

GE’s human potential

A product of GE’s prodigious talent conveyor belt, Ibrahim is also a strong advocate for developing Saudi talent and integrating job-ready nationals seamlessly into the company’s operations. It is an approach that has lent GE a reputation among ambitious young Saudis as a highly supportive, professional environment for career development, with clear and achievable pathways to the top.

'Throughout my career at GE, our ultimate objective in Saudi Arabia has been about (talent) localisation. It’s about working with vocational institutes like the Technical and Vocational Training Centre (TVTC) and other academic and training organisations, such as KFUPM, working with them on developing the right curricula so we get the talent we need.'

Ibrahim insists that current oil market volatility and low crude prices provide a platform for GE Oil & Gas to showcase its true value proposition.

'It is at exactly during times like this that we can drive operational excellence and efficiencies with our customers, and really make a difference for them.'

However, he acknowledges the need for solutions to be delivered to customers more quickly.

'In a way we can never be fast enough,' he says, pointing out that two years ago GE Oil & Gas adopted FastWorks, a frequent and thorough evaluation process that runs through all areas of the business to constantly identify ways in which key tasks can be completed more quickly or efficiently, without compromising on quality.

With Saudi Arabia assuming an ever more pivotal role in GE’s world, and backed by hundreds of millions of dollars of legacy investments over the decades, Ibrahim can reflect on the company’s successful acquisition of renowned international brands over the last 20 years, such that today the portfolio guarantees comprehensive product and service coverage through the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors for customers in the kingdom. 'We are always striving for ways to better serve our customers in a never-ending quest for progress,' says Ibrahim.

He is excited by the possibilities the Saudi oil and gas industry offers a committed innovator such as GE, and Ibrahim stresses that the company will continue to push technological boundaries in the country, for the benefit of its customers.

The Industrial Internet, a multibillion opportunity, is one example of this where hardware and software networks collect, analyse and interpret huge amounts of data generated by units on industrial plants. This data helps improve operations, drive excellence, minimise downtime and reduce running costs. Ibrahim says GE, already a pioneer in the Industrial Internet revolution with its Predix software is now enabling rapid data collection and analysis at oil and gas facilities and can be capitalised in Saudi Arabia too.

'The value (of Predix) is to understand the operation of each GOSP (gas-oil separation plant) or LNG train, for example, see where the challenges lie, understand where the downtime is coming from – even before such incidents happen – and then link our findings to our productivity tools and productivity asset performance management systems.

'It covers the entire value chain and is something we take very seriously, and in Saudi Arabia our Industrial Software Solutions team we will be conducting research and product development, as well as life cycle support functions right here at Dhahran Techno Valley.'

With new investments and initiatives adding to GE’s robust infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, the company’s vision is to establish the kingdom as a regional resource and operations hub underpinned by intellectual capacity and several simultaneous and complementary steps forward.

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