State-of-the-art technology in Saudi Arabia

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Jay Patel, managing director of EVOSTEL, PipeTech and GulfNet Solutions, talks to The Energy Year about the importance of early engagement in electrification projects. EVOSTEL supplies industrial electrical components. GulfNet Solutions provides industrial automation and IoT solutions. PipeTech provides internal and external pipeline leak detection system technologies.

How important are international relationships for EVOSTEL’s development?
EVOSTEL is a major distributor of industrial electrical components and products in Saudi Arabia. We provide low and medium-voltage electrical solutions, illumination systems and automation services for projects dealing with infrastructure, oil and gas, water and power, manufacturing, aviation and more.
We have multiple partners from the US and around the world. Some of our partnerships are more than 40 years old. We supply their products to the national utility companies, for example. We are a major supplier of explosion-proof products to most of the oil and gas operators. EVOSTEL’s offices are spread across Saudi Arabia in Yanbu, Jeddah, Tabuk, Riyadh, Jubail, Dammam and Bahrain.
Recently, the company has taken a step forward with the announcement of EVOSTEL as its new name. It was previously known as AQESA. “Evostel” is inspired by two powerful ideas: “evo,” short for evolution, which demonstrates the evolving nature of the company, and “stel” referencing the middle part of “constellation,” as the centre point connecting partners with customers. “Stel” is also inspired by “Stella,” which means star in Latin, and Stella is one of the brightest stars in the sky, providing direction and being a constant. The new name represents partnership, evolution, transformation, connectivity and delivering from beginning to end.

Why is early engagement important when designing electrification projects?
We have a strong team of electrical automation engineers working in sales and collaborating with our clients’ maintenance teams to identify requirements and upgrades. We also work with consultants to prequalify on major flagship projects by presenting the power design requirements for airports, urbanisations and more. Once the project is approved, we get those products manufactured by our partners, import them, and then do installation, testing and commissioning.
As an example, we have a dedicated team for airport ground lighting. As part of Vision 2030, there are a number of airports that are planned for upgrade and new airports being constructed across Saudi Arabia. We have completed the first phase of the NEOM airport’s ground lighting, and a number of other projects are under execution.

What are your plans for diversifying the company’s service portfolio?
We work with GE to bring electrification parts and we are developing a collaboration in high-voltage power generation. They want us to have a team of engineers here who can cater to some of the maintenance requirements which they can’t fulfil.
We are now looking into bringing in an EV charging partner. We want to prepare ourselves and prequalify our team to install EV infrastructure once it arrives here.

How are you planning to horizontally grow the company’s footprint in the pipeline segment?
Within leak detection, we are looking into developing partnerships to supply pipeline instrumentation such as valves, pressure gauges and measurement tools. We will have a team to do the calibration of these tools in the same way we currently do calibration on our electrical projects. This will also enable us to work on projects related to industrial automation and within the water industry.

What is PipeTech’s competitive advantage in terms of leak detection services?
We are market leaders in leak detection technology. We are the first high-technology Saudi company of its kind in the region and we are the only company in Saudi Arabia specialised in providing innovative fit-to-purpose pipeline monitoring and pipeline leak detection solutions for various pipeline applications. These include single/multi-phase, liquid/gas, terrestrial, underground, subsea pipeline deployments and indoor applications.
This is thanks to the state-of-the-art, closed-loop pipeline leak detection manufacturing and testing facility, the largest in the world of its kind, and a team offering complete end-to-end solutions covering site assessment, theoretical and actual performance metrics, design, manufacturing, assembly, factory acceptance testing (FAT), installation supervision, site acceptance testing (SAT), commissioning, training and after-sales services.
Our target customers are pipeline owners, consulting companies, and contractors working on pipeline projects. Saudi Arabia is going through a huge expansion, so the market is large for us. PipeTech has a large number of LDS [leak detection system] projects in-country, but the biggest project is for Saudi Aramco: a leak-detection system for its gas pipeline network, which is a multi-pipeline network going from the east to the west of Saudi Arabia. We successfully commissioned part of it, and we are currently commissioning the rest of the project.

Why are fibre-optic technologies becoming more popular to detect leaks?
Pipelines offer a safe method for transporting both hazardous and non-hazardous products, but like any engineering structure they can fail, and these failures may have serious consequences on the surrounding population and environment. Consequently, it is essential that we manage pipeline risks, do our best to prevent failures and mitigate the consequences of any failure.
Leaks can vary from small pinholes to large holes, which represent major defects. In determining the requirements for pipeline leak detection hole sizes, the effective release area (impact) of sub-critical defects in a specific pipeline should be considered. A minor leak from a pipeline carrying both hazardous and non-hazardous products can quickly become an environmental disaster.
As a result, pipeline operators are turning to new technologies to give them better, quicker insights into the status of their assets. The idea is that by having more actionable information, operators can enhance the maintenance of their pipelines and prevent possible disasters from happening.
Considering the above factors, the fibre-optic-based (FO) technology is most prominent PLDS [pipeline leak detection system] Technology since this can support both leak detection as well as third-party intrusion activities such as manual digging, mechanical excavation, vehicle movement and walking occurring around the pipeline. In addition to the pipeline monitoring, this FO-based technology supports smart city monitoring and security fence monitoring.
In addition to this, the other prominent PLDS technology is internal-based real time transient modelling (RTTM) which works based on the internal pipeline process parameters such as flow, temperature and pressure.

What are the prospects for supplying more automation solutions to industrial clients?
Industrial automation is key to making manufacturing processes more efficient. As the government is supporting this segment by funding some of the small pilot digitalisation projects, it is becoming easier for our teams to show industrial clients how automation enhances energy efficiency, productivity and quality; it provides better information about their equipment operation while also reducing waste.
GulfNet Solutions deals with technology, IT, IoT and software related to security, as well as infrastructure acting as a service provider and system integrator. It came about as a result of EVOSTEL’s partnership with Rockwell Automation, then extended to other partners for industrial automation, smart cities and digital solutions. Its specialisation is industrial automation and IoT in the industrial space. We have executed a few small projects for the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON) and now we have a major project for industrial automation in Riyadh for two factories which should be finished in Q2 2023.

What are the company’s growth expectations for the coming five years?
We expect to double in size in the next five years. The automation part of the business will probably grow significantly compared to the size of EVOSTEL. We are sticking to what we know. We have the experts, we have the qualified engineers and we have very robust partners. This is our niche in the market, and that’s where we see big opportunities coming from government initiatives. I think we have a bright future ahead.

How important is the In-Kingdom Total Value Add programme (IKTVA) for local companies?
IKTVA kicked off by asking manufacturing industries to increase local content. For EVOSTEL, we decided to voluntarily register and get ourselves certified. It is important for us to show the value that we bring in Saudi Arabia to Saudi Aramco. It is key to sustaining our business and our relationship with them. Although it’s an initiative from the government, we were positive that we wanted to proactively take part in it. I think the changes that have happened in the last few years are big. The environment is very open and there are a lot of new developments going on here.