Process technology adoption is poised for growth

27 March 2024


Process technologies have played a pivotal role in the oil, gas and petrochemicals industries for decades. Now, the global energy industry, and the oil and gas sector in Middle East and North Africa (Mena) in particular, is at a turning point and needs to rely on the adoption of licensed technologies to be able to transition effectively.

The energy transition is gathering pace in the region. Oil and gas producers are increasingly investing in environmental sustainability projects and exploring new frontiers such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen, while the petrochemicals industry is making sweeping changes to its operations in light of its growing importance in the modern economy.

As a result, the stage is set for swift and comprehensive adoption of process technologies in the Mena region's oil, gas and petrochemicals industries. 

Germany-headquartered Linde Engineering is eager and prepared to meet the evolving and complex needs of its customers, according to John van der Velden, the company's senior vice president of engineering, sales and technology.

“Hydrogen and efficient carbon dioxide (CO2) capture are the future of the energy transition, and our goal is to ensure that the GCC has the technology it needs to shape this opportunity to decarbonise the petrochemicals industry,” he tells MEED.

“We also recognise effective ammonia cracking technology is the missing link in the hydrogen value chain. We are working with Saudi Aramco to develop a new process to convert ammonia back to hydrogen efficiently and at scale.

“The technology will be based on Linde Engineering’s steam reformer technology and will incorporate developments from both companies. As part of this collaboration, we will build a demonstration plant in Germany."

The plant will “support market development in Europe for blue and green ammonia”, Van der Velden says, adding: “We have established ourselves a partner for the entire hydrogen value chain, and we are interested in investing in projects in the Mena region.”

Linde Engineering has opened a research and development centre in Saudi Arabia’s Dhahran Techno Valley in collaboration with US oil field services provider SLB. The facility “focuses on aspects of CO2 capture, transportation and storage”, Van der Velden says.

He is also optimistic about opportunities in the blue hydrogen domain. “We are at the beginning of the growth curve and see many opportunities currently being developed in this area. The availability of natural gas at a competitive price, and pore space to safely store CO2 for the long term, make the region an interesting location to establish blue hydrogen projects on very competitive terms.

"Technologies in this area are available and mature, and the market holds promise, as confirmed by the number of projects now under development.”

Regional project involvement

Linde Engineering has a track record of oil and gas project execution in the region, and has participated in several key projects, such as the world's largest CO2 liquefaction plant for Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic), and the construction and operation of ammonia, hydrogen and CO2 plants for the Sadara petrochemicals complex in Saudi Arabia. The company also provided air separation units to the Pearl gas-to-liquids project in Qatar.

“The first hydrogen refueling station in the region for [Abu Dhabi National Oil Company] Adnoc went into operation a few months ago," adds Van der Velden.

Looking ahead, Linde is one of the partners that Aramco has brought on board for a project to develop a carbon capture and storage (CCS) infrastructure in Saudi Arabia that will tap CO2 discharge from its gas processing plants. The objective of the Accelerated Carbon Capture & Sequestration (ACCS) project is to capture a total of 44 million tonnes a year (t/y) of CO2 from Aramco’s northern gas plants of Wasit, Fadhili and Khursaniyah, as well as from the operations of its subsidiary Sabic and Saudi industrial gases provider Air Products Qudra.

The ACCS project will be developed in phases over several years, with Linde and SLB partnering with Aramco for the first phase, which will have a CCS capacity of 9 million t/y.

“Under the project, the CO2 captured from natural gas processing plants, as well as from hydrogen and ammonia production, will be collected, dried, compressed and sent via pipeline to sequestration sites,” explains Van der Velden. “The project thereby accelerates decarbonisation solutions across the industrial and energy sectors in Saudi Arabia.

“The collaboration [with Aramco] combines decades of experience in CO2 capture and sequestration; innovative technology portfolios; project development and execution expertise; and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) capabilities,” he adds.

Our goal is to ensure that the GCC has the technology it needs to … decarbonise the petrochemicals industry
John van der Velden, Linde Engineering

Future project investments

Ongoing investment in projects by Mena oil, gas and petrochemicals players leaves the door open for Linde Engineering to showcase its licensed technologies and EPC potential.

“We see increasing investment flowing into upstream projects in the region, many of which provide feedstock for new petrochemicals production and blue ammonia plants,” says Van der Velden. “In most of these new upstream developments – as well as in existing plants – CCUS facilities will be installed to reduce their carbon footprint.”

In the petrochemicals sector, operators plan to build large-scale olefin plants or cracking complexes, “particularly in Saudi Arabia, where the conversion of crude to chemicals will play a key role,” he continues.

“The highest efficiency and lowest emissions possible are now of utmost importance to customers, in line with their carbon emission reduction commitments. In fact, these considerations determine which technology is selected. 

“Linde Engineering is well positioned in this market as a technology-to-EPC provider for net-zero crackers,” Van der Velden notes. “Aside from low-emission crackers, we have established design and execution capabilities for further opportunities and continue to work on innovations for carbon capture technologies.”
Indrajit Sen
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