Perfecting the Process at MEPEC 2015

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Oil prices have plummeted in recent times and there’s no reason to believe they’re about to return to former glories any time soon.

So it was with some interest that I headed out to the Middle East this week, a land characterised by the riches that oil has born, for so long the dominant force in the market. The region is still a powerhouse of course, but its dominance is under threat from the dip in prices, from new technologies like shale gas exploitation and emerging players looking to steal a march. In short, the Middle East cannot afford to be complacent about its position at the top.

At MEPEC 2015, the third Middle East Process Engineering Conference in Bahrain, the big players were still out in force – the likes of Saudi Aramco and Sabic dominating the conference hall – but there was an air of change too. Belts not noticeably tightened to the casual observer, but the buzzword was clear – efficiency.

As prices fall, driving maximum efficiency from the plant operation has become essential. Minimising cost, optimising assets, plant maintenance and process control are now as crucial as the oil itself.

So for technology vendors in the space, the future is looking bright. Alongside our client AspenTech at the show, the interest in their software solutions, which enable operators to conquer complexity and drive efficiency in process manufacturing, was clear to see.

As in so many industries then, the true power of innovative and complex technology in this space is not in the revenue it generates a business, but the opposite – the costs it helps reduce. Dealing in such high numbers, removing even 1{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} of cost from the process can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line that runs into millions of dollars. At MEPEC 2015, those championed and held up a leaders on stage that others should follow were those that demonstrated investment in innovation had led to colossal savings as much as breakthrough processes.

AspenTech’s CEO Antonio Pietri hammered home the message when he was on stage, pulling no punches as he told the audience that if they want to maintain leadership, driving efficiency and excellence across the organisation is crucial and conventional approaches that helped establish the Middle East as a leader in the past are no longer enough.

As ever, harnessing new technologies such as big data analytics has come to the fore and the process industries are the next to join the party in that respect.

They have always monitored their data to understand their operations, but at MEPEC 2015 the mantra for success was obvious – technology has advanced at pace and operators who don’t get on board will simply be left floundering.