Executive Interview: BHGE enhances LNG, process plant services with digital portfolio

Maria Sferruzza, Baker Hughes, a GE Company
 GP1018 Executive Interview Maria Sferruzza

Maria Sferruzza is President, LNG and Global Services for BHGE’s Turbomachinery and Process Solutions (TPS) business, based in Florence, Italy. She took on this role in July 2017, after the merger between GE Oil & Gas and Baker Hughes formed the first digital fullstream oil and gas company. With more than 20 yr of oil and gas experience covering multiple roles, from sales to operations, Ms. Sferruzza is responsible for driving growth and profitability in the LNG segment, along with the global TPS service strategy and operations, including digital services.

Directly prior to this position, she served as General Manager for the Turbomachinery Solutions Contractual and Maintenance Services business. During this time, she was instrumental in laying the foundation for developing a digital offering designed to help oil and gas customers optimize and enhance their operations. She joined GE as an Application Engineer in the GE Nuovo Pignone Centrifugal Compressors Division in 1995. Since then, she has held other positions within GE including Project Engineer; Account Manager (Houston, Texas);
CEO Analyst; Marketing and Strategic Alliances Manager, GE Oil & Gas Upstream; GE Oil & Gas Strategic Alliances Manager; Southern Europe Region Manager, Global Services Sales; Processing Services P&L Leader; and General Manager, Sales.

Ms. Sferruzza has also been a GE Corporate Leadership Staff coach and is a Member of the Board of Nuovo Pignone SpA and the Al Shaheen Qatar Joint Venture. She was born in Palermo, Italy, where she graduated with a degree in industrial engineering. She and her husband have two children and live in Italy. Gas Processing & LNG spoke with Maria Sferruzza, President of LNG & Global Service Turbomachinery and Process Solutions for Baker Hughes, a GE Company (BHGE), about the company’s innovations in the LNG and turbomachinery spaces, as well as the direction of the global LNG market.

What innovations is BHGE studying in the LNG/gas processing and turbomachinery spaces?

Innovation is the heart of what we do at BHGE, to provide our customers with solutions that can drive cost-effective production in the LNG segment. Today, high efficiency, low emissions, flexibility and reduced footprint are key requirements in our industry. This is why we recently launched the LM9000 aeroderivative gas turbine, a 43% efficiency engine that offers the highest availability and best-in-class total cost of ownership, as well as the high pressure ratio compressor (HPRC), which allows our LNG customers to reduce the number of compression units in their process.

We do not limit our developments to gas turbines and compressors, but we do focus on enhancing the plant configuration to maximize the reliability of the systems while minimizing the installation time (i.e., with pre-assembled modules). BHGE’s 30-plus years of experience in the LNG industry, coupled with the data collected through our monitoring and diagnostic centers, allow us to develop new technologies.

Since you started working in the LNG space at BHGE, what technology innovations have you overseen in this area? Specifically, how has virtual reality been implemented as a training platform across BHGE business units?

At BHGE, virtual reality has been exploited in the last few years. It is used to design, and to incubate into the design, the serviceability and the ergonomics of maintenance operations, as well as to train more than 1,000 field service engineers and customer operators (Fig. 1).

Focusing on the learning aspect, virtual reality allows us to replicate plant environments, giving engineers the opportunity to simulate onsite work from disassembly to assembly of equipment, including the preparation and execution of maintenance activities.

What upcoming trends do you see in the LNG/gas processing industry that will be addressed or assisted by digitalization technologies and/or automation?

Digital is the new mean for us to help our customers to enhance plant availability and reliability while maximizing efficiency. We are strongly investing in sensors and software to drive preventive maintenance, as well as condition-based maintenance online.

What is BHGE’s medium- to long-term view on the development of LNG supply/demand and trade? On which regions does the company plan to focus in the next 5 yr–10 yr?

We expect LNG demand to more than double to 500 MMtpy by 2030, growing at a pace of 4%/yr–5%/yr. We saw demand growth well above that projected pace in 2017 as global imports grew 11%, or nearly 30 MMt vs. 2016.

The increasing demand for LNG, coupled with only one project receiving a final investment decision—the third liquefaction train at Cheniere’s Corpus Christi liquefaction project—points to the LNG supply-demand balance tightening. Market data suggests that new LNG capacity will be required in early to mid-next decade to meet demand, which should translate to intense project FID activity in 2019/2020.

From a geographical perspective, we are focused on all regions. We forecast new plants in North America, Asia, Africa and Russia. Regarding small-scale LNG, Europe, China and Latin America will play key roles in the future, since new infrastructure will be needed to make up for weak pipeline networks and support growing demand for transportation.

BHGE has made a significant transition from a traditional service provider to a fully digitally equipped service provider. What key elements made this transition possible, and how will the company continue to innovate and develop its digital portfolio?

The implementations of the iCenter and the R&MD technology have been the key enablers to shift our service model from a traditional to a digital model, combining analytics with personnel expertise.

Our BHGE iCenters in Florence, Italy; Houston, Texas; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia provide remote engineering work around the clock to support our customers, to prevent assets failure and to optimize performance and operations. Thanks to the hundreds of parameters from the field, and to leveraging the extensive use of analytics, we manage operational issues proactively, we perform troubleshooting and we solve problems virtually, by connecting engineering with onsite teams.

The extensive experience developed on our own machinery is helping us move beyond approaching the entire plant in similar form, to ensure that our customers can achieve the same level of availability of our trains (98%-plus) at plant level. GP


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