Ali Vezvaei, Siemens Middle East

Question and Answer Interview with Ali Vezvaei

What was Siemens’ involvement in the Habshan-Fujairah oil pipeline project?

Siemens was involved in this strategically important project from the very beginning, working in harmony with a series of other contractors on a tight timescale to deliver an alternative option to shipping crude oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

Siemens’ contribution to the project was to supply the entire control and automation system of the pipeline—its “brain,” if you like. For this, we had to develop a relatively complex system, enlisting the assistance of a team from Europe to work with our local experts in order to design, finalize, and implement a suitably comprehensive solution.

Essentially, the Siemens control and automation system at the Habshan-Fujairah facility is designed to ensure that the pipeline, under normal operation, can be accurately managed from a central location, including measuring and controlling the flow of oil, shifting the lines, monitoring and controlling different stations and streams, and supervising other variables fundamental to the reliable day-to-day operation of the pipeline.

Within the system there is also a series of different modules and platforms that allow for operation under alternative conditions, for instance, in the case of an emergency. Any solution for the automation and control of critical infrastructure like this needs to be robust, and in a four-station pipeline that’s almost 400-km long, you cannot compromise on safety and reliability, especially when there’s a workforce involved.

What are the main benefits of an automated control system like this?

Firstly, it enables the pipeline to run safely and reliably. Safety is paramount, and our automation and control system is designed to protect the pipeline and its operation in a comprehensive range of scenarios. It also reduces the requirement to have a workforce stationed in the field—with obvious safety implications—in addition to lowering the potential for unreliable and sometimes time-intensive communications.

Secondly, a system like this introduces enhanced efficiency. With accurate, real-time monitoring comes the ability to swiftly react to requirement changes for various aspects of the pipeline, allowing operators to maintain the facility at optimum efficiency under any conditions.

The pipeline is intended to be customer operated. What level of training is involved?

The automation system for the Habshan-Fujairah oil pipeline has been designed to allow the end-user to take over the operation and control of the pipeline. It’s important that the team is familiar with both the day-to-day running of the system and also its operation in a wide range of other scenarios. Naturally this requires extensive training of the customer’s workforce.

A comprehensive Siemens-designed training program has already been implemented, bringing to the end-user the knowledge and expertise required to understand and run the system without our assistance. With several modules of the program already delivered, our teams will continue to work together onsite to ensure that the customer is in possession of all the resources required for the safe, reliable, and efficient operation of the pipeline.

Was it an off-the-shelf product, or tailored to the customer?

Our solution for the automation system for the Habshan-Fujairah oil pipeline was very much tailored to the specific requirements of the customer. Siemens has broad experience in providing these types of solutions, having successfully designed and implemented similar projects in Europe, and as such some platforms can be called in to form a foundation for certain aspects of the system. But every control system needs to embrace the specific requirements of that particular operation, which necessitates an extensive amount of customization, drawing on the knowledge and expertise of our global teams.

Systems of this nature also undergo a significant amount of development and testing, during which adjustments and enhancements can be made. It’s also important that they are developed in such a way that they are able to be easily integrated with other Siemens solutions.

How does Siemens “future-proof” a solution like this?

Once you install an automation and control system of this nature, and go to commercial operation, there will always be requirements for amendments, adjustments, and enhancements. Flexibility is therefore crucial, and the platforms are designed to allow the implementation of modernization programs and technical upgrades as and when the customer requires, with our service and maintenance teams capable of providing these for the life cycle of the pipeline.

Siemens recently signed a 3-year contract for the service and maintenance of the pipeline’s automation and control system, and it’s of obvious benefit that the authority responsible for the original design and implementation is also responsible for its continued safe operation.

A strict consideration for the original equipment manufacturer also means that, as the builder of the system, we are able to supply the customer with hardware and software solutions that meet the same exacting standards as the original design, allowing us to adjust and improve the system reliably to future requirements—whatever they may be.

Ali Vezvaei is executive vice president and general manager–Division Oil and Gas, Siemens Energy. Previously, he was vice president of strategy, mergers, and acquisitions with Siemens and also country division manager. He earned a BSc degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tehran.

Siemens has been involved in Middle East operations  since the company first established a presence there more than 150 years ago. The company currently has offices and operational units across the entire region, including Libya, Pakistan, Jordan, Iraq, and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Siemens‘ oil and gas division focuses on technologies and products for production, transport, and processing of primary fossil fuels. Its offerings include solutions for boosting pressure in oil and gas fields (depletion compression); systems for refineries, pipelines, and floating production, storage, and offloading; automation and control technologies; water management; and information technology.