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Sun 25 Jul 2010 04:00 AM

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Piping hot

Oil & Gas Middle East met Sohrab Zuberi, board member at Empower-Logstor Insulated Pipes Systems, shortly after the firm's first contract win in Qatar.

Piping hot
Sohrab Zuberi, board member at Empower-Logstor Insulated Pipes Systems.

Oil & Gas Middle East met Sohrab Zuberi, board member at Empower-Logstor Insulated Pipes Systems, shortly after the firm's first contract win in Qatar.

Management at the region's largest insulated pipe manufacturing facility are brimming with enthusiasm on the back of orders from Qatar and the huge promise the region's oil and gas business represents. Elips is the brainchild of a 51:49 joint venture between Emirates Central Cooling Systems (Empower), and Logstor, a global manufacturer of pre-insulated pipes.

The company opened the UAE's largest pre-insulated pipe manufacturing facility in Jebel Ali back in January of this year. The $25 million facility is gearing up to supply the region's oil and gas producers with sharper turnarounds and quicker to market products than its international rivals.

"Elips will reduce regional reliance on imports and help ensure ready local availability of an essential construction material," explains Sohrab Zuberi, Director of Corporate Strategy, Empower and Board Member, Empower Logstor Insulated Pipe Systems (ELIPS).

ELIPS, the joint venture between Empower and Logstor, was awarded its first contract for insulated pipes by the Energy City development in Qatar, just two months after opening its Jebel Ali factory.

"The order for 13km for district cooling piping was won by Logstor, the Danish piping company that owns 49 percent of ELIPS. A good proportion of the piping will be manufactured in the Jebel Ali plant," says Zuberi.

Zuberi believes that placing the first order with Energy City will generate more business. "The moment customers see the quality of what we are supplying, that's the best selling point for us to do it again. Getting 10 km the first time round is harder than getting 50km next time."

Zuberi also confirmed that ELIPS is bidding for orders in the oil and gas markets. "Our partner, Logstor has been supplying to the oil and gas industry for over 20 years, so we have a great heritage in terms of brand awareness and reputation in the energy business."

Though upstream or midstream oil and gas orders have not been signed off yet, Zuberi is confident that the project landscape in the Middle East will deliver business. "It is important to remember that due to the criticality and risk profile of oil and gas pipeline projects, the process can is very time and resource consuming, typically taking several months, if not years to finalise."

Right now ELIPS is leveraging the expertise from Logstor's oil and gas technical teams and has already started laying the ground work to bid for a number of oil and gas contracts.

Zuberi says that there are some crucial differences in the products ELIPS can bring to market over its competitors.

"What we manufacture here is without doubt the best quality of pre-insulated pipes anywhere in the world - and we are doing it right here in the UAE," he enthuses.

The ELIPS facility has installed an enhanced version of Logstors technology, which Zuberi says really highlights the quality differentiation throughout the company's  product lines. "For energy clients this is most relevant in the product's insulation values, insulation quality and seal quality both in the Polyurethane foam and the High Density Polyethylene jacket," he explains.

Zuberi says the Jebel Ali location was a strategic decision, largely because of the benefits associated with being neighbours with the region's premier shipping terminal. "By locating our factory near the Jebel Ali port we are well positioned to service the entire GCC. We've also introduced a great deal of flexibility in our lines by separately handling large and small diameter pipes. This means we can service multiple diameters and orders at one time and flex our operations to meet peak demands peaks and troughs."

Zuiberi adds that the emphasis placed on quality does not necessarily mean greater expense. "You would think that better quality automatically means higher prices. But that's not the case. By better technology we can produce less waste and an overall more efficiently produced product. So what you will get are pre-insulated pipes which are competitively priced. Where ever possible we have relied on local labour and local sourcing," he concludes.