Emerson digital drive

Jeff Householder (President of Emerson Automation Solutions, Middle East and Africa) conversed with Pipeline Magazine’s Julian Walker about Emerson’s big push in the field of IIoT and how they are moving to digitise oil and gas enterprises from the well through to final product distribution.

Jeff Householder (President of Emerson Automation Solutions, Middle East and Africa) conversed with Pipeline Magazine’s Julian Walker about Emerson’s big push in the field of IIoT and how they are moving to digitise oil and gas enterprises from the well through to final product distribution. Emerson is investing heavily in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) with their Plantweb Digital Ecosystem, a comprehensive IIoT automation platform, as the U.S. firm sees a greater demand for wireless technology.

Householder believes that he took the position as Emerson Middle East and Africa’s President at a time when the oil and gas business landscape was beginning to improve.

“The business outlook has improved and we have seen a welcome change in the mood of the market. We really feel that the oil and gas industry has turned a corner. The stressed oil prices have caused a lot of strain for the economies in the region but now we are seeing activity return,” he said. Householder said that the first quarter of the financial year for Emerson, which starts in October, has been very positive.

“We have consistently improved our year on year performance on a monthly basis and we expect this to continue through 2018. We are also optimistic over the next two to three years that we are going to see increased investment in the region. We are seeing the right signs for a rebound in the Middle East market,” pointed out Householder.

Strong investment

Emerson has made a valuable investment commitment to Saudi Arabia, as evidenced by the inauguration of a new technology and collaboration centre at Dhahran Techno Valley in January of this year. The investment Emerson made in the facility amounts to US$25 million.

“We have made a big investment in Saudi Arabia, which is a major market for us. We have a long-term investment programme in the Kingdom. Our DTV facility in Dhahran Techno Valley is now our new headquarters for the Western Region. Besides being an engineering and service centre, it is also a research and development centre specifically around our IIoT efforts. We have initiated collaboration workshops with King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM); Saudi Aramco Process & Control Systems Department; Saudi Aramco Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center - Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC); Dhahran Techno Valley Company; and the Ministry of Education and Small & Medium Enterprise Support Group for Eastern Province,” said Householder.

He stated that the new facility in the Kingdom will help Emerson deliver innovative new technologies. In addition to the investment in the new facility, Emerson has also increased its manufacturing capability in the Kingdom.

“We were recently awarded by Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) the license to directly trade with our customers inside the Kingdom and that is an important milestone for us. Saudi Arabia has a very exciting future ahead and there is an opportunity to work collaboratively with the government to expand industrial investment within the Kingdom and we want to be part of it,” noted Householder.

Push for Industrial Internet of Things

In the digital space, Emerson is seeing a lot of changes to how customers can make the best out of their products and technology.

“For us, IIoT starts in the field. We start with the sensor and we build a broad portfolio of devices around the sensor. These devices are intelligent and provide a broad array of information related to their application and their environment. Diagnostic data is served together with process data to applications and systems that perform high value analytics. When we look at what customers really want to accomplish inside of IIoT, it starts in the field or the plant floor and then ultimately to the enterprise level. We need to ensure that the data you get is of highest quality and is secure,” said Householder.

He discussed the growing importance of safety in the industry. “Our sensing has gone well beyond the state of process control and a lot of it now enters the safety and environmental realms. For example, corrosion sensing. We have multiple solutions for non-intrusive corrosion monitoring that can be installed without penetrations to the pipe.

These solutions can even be provided wirelessly. Our customers typically know the locations in their piping systems that are at risk for corrosion, especially facilities that have been in operation for some time. The trick is adding these measurement points without disruption to the plant or increasing the risk to their people.”

Householder explained that Emerson is aware that there can be some scepticism surrounding cloud technology.

“We know our customers are at very different levels of acceptance when it comes to the use of cloud-based technologies and services. We emphasise to our customers that we have multiple architectural options for IIoT that can be provided within the plant walls, behind their IT firewalls. We also have enterprise level solutions that can be isolated or connected to the cloud”, he said. Householder added: “The reaction in the market for what we do has been very positive. The key is our flexibility in adapting our OT strategies within their IT structure and policies.”

Greater demand for wireless

Emerson is seeing a greater demand for wireless technology. “The adoption curve for wireless products is growing quite rapidly.

We have a number of customers, especially around wellheads, who have taken up wireless in a big way over the last couple of years.

Customers are driving the need for more data and they need expanded analytics for that data,” said Householder. “This is driving our development of IIoT based products and has contributed to our acquisition strategy.”

Emerson has made a number of acquisitions in 2016 and 2017 that will aid in evolving the digital drive such as Geofields and Paradigm. These acquisitions strengthen Emerson’s push into the digital oil field and expands Emerson’s SCADA offerings. The Pentair Valves & Controls acquisitions in 2017 dramatically expanded our ability to provide valve solutions for our customers.

“We now have a broad array of Isolation and Pressure Management products and solutions within our portfolio of supply. In 2016, we bought Permasense that added non-intrusive wireless corrosion monitoring to our corrosion solutions and complements our current offerings within our Roxar organisation. These are exciting times for us. We are working in an expanding market and at the same time increasing our ability to add value and solutions for our customers,” Householder concluded.

Source: Pipeline ME