INTERVIEW: Transitioning to cleaner energy

Doaa A.Moneim , Thursday 3 Feb 2022

President and CEO of Aspen Technology Antonio Pietri explains how energy transition plans are affecting Egypt to Al-Ahram Weekly.

Transitioning to cleaner energy

With climate change becoming more of a threat to every country in the world, the transition to cleaner energy has also become a global trend.

The energy transition is a pathway towards the transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based to zero-carbon energy by the second half of this century. More dependence on renewable energy and energy efficiency measures can potentially achieve 90 per cent of the required carbon reductions, and one of the tools in the transition is using digital technologies and digitisation to help reduce carbon emissions by improving the efficiency of energy sources and coordinating supply and demand in an increasingly decentralised electricity distribution network.

Aspen Technology (AspenTech), a leading international player in industrial optimisation software with activities in 30 countries worldwide, helps companies maximise their business performance while achieving sustainability goals.

The company has been working in Egypt with the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation.

Egypt has adopted an ambitious strategy to become a regional energy hub. How do you see its achievements?

Egypt has made significant strides towards becoming a regional energy hub, especially considering its ongoing development of the Zohr Gas Field and the new gas discoveries that have been recently announced, as well as Egypt’s commitment to increasing its dependence on renewable sources of energy. This, together with the fact that liquified natural gas (LNG) liquefication facilities are up and working, will play a greater role in the transition and also position Egypt towards a more sustainable future.

Egypt’s hosting of the UN climate change conference COP27, which is to be held in November 2022, demonstrates this. With its goal of generating 42 per cent of power from renewables by 2030, it is certainly aiming to significantly reduce its carbon footprint and impact on the environment through the use of clean fuels such as green hydrogen.

How do you perceive the strides the government has taken in terms of the digital transformation of the energy sector?

With many asset-intensive companies now recognising the realities of global warming and the carbon footprint of various processes, there is a sustained drive to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies that improve energy efficiency.

The Egyptian government has an impressive focus on digital transformation within the energy sector. The ministry of electricity has a vision aiming to digitise the power sector, thus positioning Egypt as an international energy hub and a regional leader. We are also engaged with the refining industry in the country and are very excited about the conversations we are having to further deploy digital capabilities to optimise and make these assets more sustainable. As the country takes significant steps toward digitising the energy industry, it does so to improve the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of the sector.

How is the global trend for the energy transition affecting Egypt?

Due to ongoing global climate challenges that also affect Egypt, the government openly admits to still needing the support of other countries in the energy transition effort, as their assistance determines the success of the country’s sustainability efforts within the oil and gas sector.

Natural gas in particular is emerging as a significant component as a transition fuel. Within the context of the broader European supply squeeze and the price rise of natural gas in Europe, and with its recently developed gas fields, Egypt is well-positioned to capitalise on this opportunity.

What role is AspenTech playing in this regard in the light of its cooperation with Egypt’s government?

AspenTech has been supplying mission-critical engineering solutions to Egypt for decades and is well engaged with the “three phases” digitisation initiative across the manufacturing and supply chain functions that the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) is embarking upon.

AspenTech aims to help enable the Middle East’s energy transition through its solutions by leading asset-intensive firms into a new era of digitisation and sustainability. Our software helps organisations reduce energy consumption, deliver energy efficiencies, and support the circular economy, essentially enabling innovation while reducing waste and its impact on the environment. Our digital solutions provide the visibility, analysis, and insight needed to address the challenges inherent in sustainability goals. They maximise the value gained from digital transformation initiatives with a holistic approach to the asset lifecycle and supply chain.

AspenTech’s vision for the region was recently discussed in depth during its participation at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) held in November 2021 for leading international oil and gas players. This was considered the energy industry’s first opportunity to discuss key outcomes from the COP26 climate change conference, providing an opportunity to map out the course the industry needs to take to thrive in a world of sustainable, low-carbon integrated energy value chains.

During the event, I met Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek Al-Molla and discussed AspenTech technologies as well as the software we provide to help the petroleum sector achieve its digital transformation goals.

Can you shed light on AspenTech investments in the Egyptian market?

AspenTech has confirmed its commitment to partner with the EGPC to rapidly develop and expand its organisational capabilities and grow the skills of its engineers to deploy and maintain advanced technologies. Our solutions not only reduce the risk of human error, but also allow engineers to focus on more strategic and value-added activities, thereby accelerating success.

AspenTech is also committed to working in collaboration with the EGPC to develop a strategic plan that helps drive incremental benefits measured in hundreds of millions of dollars across the eight refineries involved over time.

We are currently working with a wide network of partners in the region to support the needs of the EGPC and the broader Egyptian energy industry. We are currently involved in several downstream petrochemical and chemical projects, and as those discussions proceed we look to formalise our collaboration.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 February, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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