"The change we see in the industry presents us with a great opportunity to add value to customers and take care of the energy needs of the future in an innovative way."

Johan de Villiers

GLOBAL VICE PRESIDENT – OIL & GAS, ABB

September 02, 2021

It has been 50 years since ABB opened its office in Singapore. Could you briefly introduce the company’s presence in Southeast Asia?

Singapore is the hub for the region and we lead many of our businesses from here. In the eight years I have been here, I’ve found Singapore to be a great match for ABB’s priorities because Singapore is fast to adopt technology and drive productivity, efficiency and social progress.  Everywhere I look in Singapore, I am proud to spot iconic projects that ABB was involved in.

ABB was chosen to automate the world’s largest membrane bioreactor at Tuas Water Reclamation Plant (WRP). Could you share some highlights of ABB’s most recent work in Singapore?

Water is a very important topic for Singapore and we have been a key partner of the national water agency PUB. In the most recent contract, we are running a flagship automation and digitalization project at Tuas WRP. We also just completed the automation and electrification of the Keppel Marina East Desalination project, one of the world’s first large-scale, dual-mode desalination plants; this will produce 30 million gallons of fresh water per day. Prior to this, our project at Singapore’s Ulu Pandan WRP, where we introduced augmented reality to assist and maintain the asset, won the Wastewater Project of the Year award at the 2018 Global Water Awards. In other examples, we also provided power and automation solutions to the Marina Bay District Cooling System in Singapore. ABB is also the main supplier of grid connections and electrification to data centers in Singapore, and we are supplying charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and buses.

What trends do you notice in terms of adoption in Southeast Asia?

An important trend for the industry is the energy transition. Underlying this broad theme, there is a continuous drive towards energy efficiency, reducing waste and curbing emissions. Within this, ABB has a range of both hardware and software solutions to improve new and existing facilities, and integrate new solutions such as carbon capture. Secondly, the energy transition is also underwritten by efforts to integrate renewable energy sources, many of our customers working to bring green energy into their operations. Here again, ABB’s expertise and products are used to help them integrate and operate clean energy sources like off-shore wind.

How prevalent do you think industrial automation will be in the next decade?

We notice a clear development towards autonomous, low manned or unmanned operations. In Singapore we have an interesting project with Keppel to operate South Asia’s first autonomous tugboat to enable autonomous vessel operations in the Port of Singapore.

How do you believe the O&G industry- both upstream and downstream-is keeping up with new digital technologies?

Industry application of digital technology lags behind the consumer sector’s simply because the stakes are much higher, involving both expensive assets and even people’s safety. Nevertheless, digital technology has matured, and we are at the inflection point on the S curve from where we will begin to see faster adoption and a bigger impact on operations. Before the pandemic, a specialist would travel to a plant to do the work on-site, but the current situation drove a whole range of digital technologies to connect remotely to the plants. I expect this change to be permanent.

What is your message to Jurong Island players?

What makes ABB a valuable partner to our customers on Jurong Island is that we understand what is important for each company. Our strongest asset is our people, who are closely familiarized with manufacturing processes. The change we see in the industry presents us with a great opportunity to add value to customers and take care of the energy needs of the future in an innovative way.

ABB announced its 2030 sustainability strategy. Could you comment on this milestone?

Our sustainability report speaks not only of the progress we have achieved to date but also of our future ambitions to become carbon neutral by 2030. Between 2013 and 2020, we reduced our carbon emissions by 58% and I am excited to see the new goals realized by the end of this decade. In Singapore, we have already taken practical steps, adding solar panels to produce 1 GWh of renewable energy per year. We must address every opportunity in the value chain to achieve these targets. Globally, the world will require 50% more energy by 2050 and, despite our best efforts and most optimistic forecasts, this cannot be feasibly sourced from renewable sources only.

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