Pushing Innovation Inegral ServicesWed, 02/21/2018 - 17:03
Q: How does GNU excel in natural gas supply services for the industrial sector?
A: Our integral supply service offers two modalities. The traditional is via natural gas pipelines, which serve 65 percent of our clients. The second is through what we call mobile pipelines. The use of mobile pipelines is mainly for companies that cannot access the pipeline network. A mobile pipeline consists of compressed natural gas (CNG), transported by wheels. To dispatch it we have two compression stations that allow us to cover a wide territorial extension. We can very easily help any client that is getting its energy from coal or diesel to change to natural gas. As an integral service company that delivers turnkey projects, we are competitive because we have in-house research and engineering development. We also manufacture equipment with our own technology.
For clients that require a gas pipeline, our engineering and construction area offers services such as feasibility studies, conceptual design for basic and detailed natural gas engineering, preliminary, definitive and executive design for private entities, budgeting services and specialized consulting. We do not outsource the installation of our transportation and distribution of natural gas supply, which allows us to decrease costs and offer better prices to our clients. We can also provide operational and maintenance services, which are offered through our Gas SCADA and eControl systems developed in-house by our technology brand, Tectuus. These systems offer a higher added value as clients can monitor the infrastructure in real-time, allowing any needed action to be taken more quickly. We provide pipeline services to big clients such as Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget, Aarhuskarlshamn and Sukarne Agroindustrial, which are not only major consumers of natural gas but also icons in the Mexican industry. On the other hand, with our mobile pipelines we can access remote areas and deliver natural gas in a safe and efficient manner to any industry that may not be located close to a gas pipeline.
Q: What project highlights the importance of the usage of natural gas and GNU’s capabilities in the market?
A: The natural gas pipeline project we developed with Aarhuskarlshamm for its facility in Morelia offered the company a complete social, environmental and economic solution, which highlights the improvement possibilities natural gas provides. As the facility got connected to the distribution natural gas pipeline, the client stopped using fuel oil, meaning that not only its costs but also its CO2 emissions diminished. Because the facility is in a densely populated area, the public saw this conversion as an important step forward for the company. The fact that the previous fuel was stored at the company’s installations also means that safety at the plant has significantly increased.
The facility’s location in a populated area also made the project especially challenging because the pipeline had to cross heavily-used avenues. GNU’s capabilities in these matters were a major driver of the project’s success.
Q: How important is innovation at GNU?
A: GNU is always innovating, which makes a big difference against our competitors. At GNU, we have an RD&I section that develops technology solutions for both hardware and software. We have developed products and projects such as natural gas decompression equipment, storage skids for CNG, natural gas-dispatching units for vehicles, cathodic protection systems for pipelines, electronic systems for natural gas measurement and automotive computers for vehicles using natural gas, among many others. All these technologies are 100 percent Mexican and developed specifically for the Mexican natural gas market, allowing us to be profitable in our operations and to transfer the benefit to our clients.
Regarding partnerships with educational institutions, we have a collaboration agreement with the Uruapan Superior Technology Institute (ITSU). With this agreement both GNU and ITSU can work on projects together with engineering students, and we both can work in the laboratories of each party according to a project’s needs. CONACYT has also been a strong supporter of our development, taking part in several high-impact technology development projects with us. In 2010, we received the State Award for Science and Technology under the scheme for technology innovation thanks to our work in opening the Natural Gas Research, Engineering and Technology Manufacturing Center. At this center we design and fabricate technologies to release CNG onto the national market via our Tectuus brand.
One outstanding product we are commercializing is our SCADA Gas Monitor Tectuus. This product offers a special added value for equipment and infrastructure because it allows assets to be monitored in real time. This translates directly to improved security, reliability and cost reductions.
Q: What spurred GNU to work on innovation?
A: GNU detected a strong dependency on technology development coming from abroad. Being a technologybased company, and aware of the talent in the region, we wanted to work on and promote technology innovation. To do so, we decided to work closely with ITSU to attract young and outstanding talent. The talent is not only working with us on our research, development and innovation activities, but they are also trained abroad to become innovation specialists.
Q: What expectations does GNU have for the use of natural gas for vehicles?
A: Although GNU’s market share breakdown is 95 percent based on natural gas supply for industrial clients, and only 5 percent for natural gas supply for vehicles, we see strong potential for the latter. At current gas prices, we offer 50 percent cost savings to our clients who decide to shift from gasoline to natural gas, as well as a more ecological footprint. Although our biggest share of the business portfolio is for industrial clients, we see a bright future for the dispatch of CNG for vehicles due to the required transition to clean energy.
GNU has worked on technology innovations since 2009, having worked with ITSU and CONACYT on a project to engineer and develop a technology platform for the conversion to natural gas of vehicles that use gasoline, making us one of the first companies to work in this area. This led us to a second project in 2010 called Research and Technology Innovation Laboratory for the Usage of Vehicular Natural Gas for the Development of National Engineering. This project was particularly successful as it led to the creation of the first gasoline to natural gas conversion center for vehicles in Michoacan.
As of August 2017, there were 22 natural gas stations for vehicle dispatch in nine states. There are still significant opportunities for the development of projects to generate the generalized use of natural gas in the auto sector. At GNU, we plan to open at least 10 more stations in the Bajio region before 2020. The real challenge to achieve this is to control bureaucratic over-regulation at the federal, state and municipal levels.