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Wed 24 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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Swedish hospitality

Atlas Copco steps up its presence in the GCC’s oil and gas industry.

Swedish hospitality
Open for business Magnus Scholdtz, Sweden’s ambassador to the UAE officially opens the newly expanded Atlas Copco \nfacilities in Dubai.

Seizing the opportunity to be closer to its customers in the
oil and gas industry, Swedish compressor provider Atlas Copco expanded its existing
customer service centre in Dubai.
The centre will gather the company’s products and services under one roof and provide
a new competence centre for sales and service across
the UAE.

Atlas Copco has US$200-300 million worth of projects in the region
currently in the pipeline this year giving it significant standing in the oil field
compressor equipment market. During the red carpet inauguration of the facility
which had a rather regal overtone to it, Atlas Copco’s visiting Specialty Rental
Division president Horst Wasel and Emile Bado, its Regional general manager based
out of Belgium and Bahrain respectively explained their objectives for the company.

“With our new customer centre, we show our commitment to be closer
to our customers, and to support them in a more professional manner. We aim to be
a good corporate citizen in the UAE by positively contributing to economic, environmental
and social aspects of our market,” said Bado.

Wasel said that the UAE, Saudi
Arabia and Qatar with an increase in its gas-related
business activity were very strong markets for its products despite the economic
downturn with projects being on hold for the best part of two years.  Wasel also stressed on improving safety, both for
oil field personnel and for the environment.

“We are always looking into more product development but we are
also looking at more and more competence around the world for oil and gas,” he said.

Opportunities and trends

“Over the last two years, projects were on hold or were slowed
down, the numbers [of projects] will increase and we have the right capacity ready
for that.”

Wasel believes that the number of projects is already back on
the rise in the Gulf and now in Iraq.

The company has chosen Amman,
Jordan based WTE as its distributor
as it positions itself in anticipation of a future surge in projects in Iraq.

“We want to be prepared to be ready when Iraq is really moving,
today as we know there are a lot of projects in the pipeline but they are not executed
yet. We see this as the biggest opportunity in the market here.

Wasel said that the company recently supplied four centrifugal
compressors in Iraq for South Gas Company but pointed out that Iraq for Atlas Copco
is not a new market, it has been in Iraq for about 20-30 years: “We have started
with our partner to retrofit machines to make customers again aware that we are
there for them, that we will not disappear, we will open more service stations and
centres and we will hire more service people to get things done in Iraq.”

He added that a major trend in the compressor market in the region
is for the retrofitting of older piston compressors with rotary screw compressors.

Bado said the company is captialising on the large talent pool
and resources that Dubai provides adding that it
is now more affordable to do so and is shifting a lot of its employees from its
Bahrain office to Dubai.

“We are going to make this the competence centre for the region
when it comes to oil and gas, we have a team that is able to do service on turbomachinery
in the gas processing industries and upstream,” he said.

“On the upstream side we are involved with all the oil and gas
customers where we are able to go and promote the new technology which is the rotary
screw technology especially the oil-free ones that are providing customers with
longer interval times for maintenance,” he added.

Echoing Wasel’s predictions, Bado believes that 2009 was a
quiet period for projects but 2010 has seen an increase so far with the upward trend
set to continue
through 2011.

“Our customers have rewarded us with service contracts,” said
Bado, declining to specify particular customers, however stating that a major Abu Dhabi oil and gas customer
put in a service contract for over forty of the company’s compressor units for its
oil field activities.

He highlighted that the centre has the unique capability in the
Middle East, to overhaul highspeed rotating equipment
help local companies drastically cut down on shipping and delivery costs and time
for their products.

“You don’t need to send your product anymore to Germany or the US, you can just send it here,” he said.

Local challenges

“The customer demand here is very high, that means that the customers
only really talk to partners who really understand the business on the application
side,” explains Wasel. “That means that you really need to have
the right people in front of the customers, you have to understand the specification
of the machines.”

“All these projects are under strict time schedules, with every
missed opportunity in delivery, you’re talking about production problems.”

Bado finds that a particular challenge for the company is in
convincing customers to invest in newer, efficient and streamlined technologies
and to likewise train their personnel.

“I think it’s important for our end-users to really talk to suppliers
and try and understand new technologies and indeed have their people train or discuss
new technologies or new specifications and not to be stuck with the old spec that
somebody wrote 50 years ago,” he said.

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