Interview with Saifuddin Sheikh from AspenTech

06 - 08 May 2024   |   Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Saifuddin Sheikh

"Digitalization is a key to unlock opportunities in the journey to environmental compliance and response."

Saifuddin Sheikh

Director, Business Consulting, AspenTech

We are delighted to talk to Saifuddin Sheikh, Director - Business Consulting, AspenTech. Saif is a member of the MEPEC 2019 Technical Committee and he shares with us his thoughts on the current trends and what the future holds for the Oil and Gas downstream sector in the Middle East.


  • What industry trends and growth opportunities do you see for those operating in the oil and gas industry?

2018 saw the potential of digital transformation to drive business benefits across the asset     intensive industries become even clearer and the process of digitalisation continue to accelerate.

The future for operators is defined by growing complexity.  Assets are multiplying across industries, the data they generate increases all the time. The ability to leverage this massive collection of data to extend the life of assets and maximise the return on capital employed represents one of the greatest sources of profit still available.

To manage this complexity and use it to their advantage, operators are increasingly digitising their businesses. We see growing demand for tools that drive asset performance management and that will be a key focus area during 2019. Much of this is being driven by the ongoing expansion of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) market, which according to research firm, Markets and Markets, is expected to grow from US$64 billion in 2018 to US$ 91.4 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 7.39% during that forecast period.

  • How do you think the MEPEC conference and exhibition can promote the advancement of the Middle East downstream industry, and what are your hopes from participating?

MEPEC is the premier ME Conference focused on Process Engineers who are the heart of the Industry. MEPEC provides a common platform for Owner Operators and Technology Providers to discuss the current as well as future trends for the region. It is Conference for Regional Challenges addressed with an International Flavour.

  • How important do you think it is for the industry to leverage digital transformation to optimize the use of critical equipment?

Improving asset reliability through predictive and prescriptive maintenance techniques is fast gaining momentum.  These technologies have huge potential across the sector, offering a better alternative to the traditional calendar-based approach to asset maintenance.  

With this approach the focus is analysing issues known to cause a problem such as vibration in a pump or compressor. Sonic monitors can be added to the device and when vibration exceeds a certain level, alerts can be sent to advise operators that remedial action is needed.  

Prescriptive analytics adds a new layer of sophistication to the methodology, moving it from a product-based to a broader process-based approach. Critically too, the approach also tells the operator the root cause of the problem. It can inform them not only that the compressor is going to fail but also that its impending failure is directly linked to the leakage of liquid into the gas lines at a certain concentration or even just a slow change in the pressure recorded, for example. It is still in its infancy today but over the course of 2019 we expect to see the level of interest and excitement around this approach gathering pace all the time. We expect to see significant demand for these kinds of predictive and prescriptive analytics tools across our core markets. 

  • With the advent of digital transformation, what do you think are the immediate and long-term implications for oil and gas companies?

The greatest opportunities in this sector are driven by the pace at which technology is evolving. It is increasingly possible for organisations to attain access to large volumes of data quickly, sensors are more pervasive and less expensive and increased connectivity is driving the move to advanced analytics. 

Yet this high-speed access alone is currently not giving decision-makers either the time or insights they need to break through operational excellence barriers.  The tipping point comes with the practical and reliable application of advanced analytics enabled by real-time data and machine learning. Today, we are seeing new connected offerings made possible by industrial automation innovation. We see rapid growth in machine learning, making insights about plant and equipment available more quickly to senior decision-makers; and in mobility, visualization and analytics, providing simple interfaces and insight to data and models.  

Together, these approaches are helping drive asset optimisation and, in turn, helping maximise performance, uptime and lifespan in a system-wide context. In parallel they are providing the insight companies need to lower costs, improve yields, reduce energy consumption and improve quality, all leading to greater profitability.

  • What is the impact of the environmental regulations/ compliance on the oil and gas sector?

Reshaping the vision roadmap stressing on environmental sustainability. Digitalization is a key to unlock opportunities in the journey to environmental compliance and response.

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