The 18th international conference and exhibition on LNG is running throughout this week from 11th-15th April in Perth, Australia. Current and significant impacts on the world’s LNG industry are looming large, with the global event providing a stage for companies within the sector to shine.

gasworld is bringing you an exclusive interview with a major player in the LNG industry for each day of the conference. Today’s interview is with Samuel Zouaghi, President of Cryostar, who explains why his company is optimistic for the future of the LNG sector.

Samuel zouaghi cropped

Have you exhibited at an LNG event before?

We have been exhibiting at the LNG and Gastech events for the past 15-20 years. I think LNG still holds a great future and I don’t think the short-term view is what should drive our decision to exhibit or not exhibit. I think the mid to long-term is there to stay and we need to stay close to our customers even in hard times. We need to bring new products to the market and keep in touch with the market, and understand what the mechanism of the market will be. So I still see a great advantage of being at the exhibition. We will probably attend some events and we will have a booth so we are doing it all.

Where are you seeing the most success at the moment within Cryostar?

We generally aim for a dominant market share in many of the segments that we operate. Strategically, we’re not going to go on the market as a Tier Two or Tier Three player without technological leadership – that ambitious goal ensures that we continually challenge ourselves to be the best at what we do.

Historically, we have been rather successful within the industrial gas air separation equipment segment, where we have a large market share overall, but we also offer the largest product portfolio for cryogenic rotating machinery. We are also vastly successful regarding LNG shipboard equipment, where we have held a very high market share for the past 25 years. In addition to these two historical areas, we are building a renowned brand in the distribution market as well, for core fuelling station equipment, transfer pumps and so on. One of our strategic pillars is to push harder and harder on innovation and technology and remain a pioneer in our field. A clear illustration of this shows in our patent portfolio that has doubled since 2010. Also, in spite of the current economic context, we are spending more and more in R&D activities.

Strategically, we’re not going to go on the market as a Tier Two or Tier Three player without technological leadership – that ambitious goal ensures that we continually challenge ourselves to be the best at what we do

We were the first European company in the field of cryogenic distribution pumps. It has changed a lot from the pioneers that we were in that field back in 1966 to the company we are now. At the time we were strictly focused on distribution equipment with the first models of trailers pumps, truck loading pumps and piston pumps. We kept those market segments, and really evolved and developed these pumps to models that are completely different from back then. About 30-35 years ago, we were also the first company in the world to venture into process pump applications – the pumps for continual duty in ASUs. The exposure or the criticality within the plant is much higher for these pumps than for truck loaded pumps for instance – as this equipment is at the heart of the ASU process. So we are a lot more under the spotlight with this equipment, so to speak.

By venturing in to this market we had to question the technology that we had used since then and reinvent ourselves. Then the cross-fertilisation equally works the other way, after several decades of experience in the high duty, long-life process pumps, including the world’s first multi-stage vertical pumps, we cross-fertilised back into the distribution equipment. Which is the beauty of our business model – to be present, across so many segments at the same time along the value chain, really helps bring innovation from one to another.

How has the recent dip in the LNG sector affected Cryostar?

Right up to the Fukushima disaster (2011) in Japan, we have seen a surge in the LNG business like we have rarely seen before, particularly on the LNG carrier side. Cryostar was well positioned to respond to this sudden demand with our renowned single, two, four and six stage boil off gas compressors and heat exchangers, so LNG has become a major part of Cryostar’s portfolio.

At some point LNG was over half of our revenue, including new products like high pressure engine injection piston pumps for LNG carriers. Like I said, we always tell people that we are not new to the LNG field – we have been a part of it for a long time. But what is new, is that the LNG value chain has expanded so much that we have found lots of opportunities to transfer our technology and knowledge from the industrial gas industry. People didn’t know us necessarily in the LNG sector for our pumps, so that was an interesting fit.

It was a very natural move to transfer all this industrial gas technology into the LNG field, and sometimes even to the same customers.

Cryostar LNG

As mentioned before, our product breadth and depth is unique globally and extends throughout the entire LNG value chain, from the point of extraction with our oil and gas turbo expander portfolio, to natural gas filling stations, including sea and road transportation equipment. The LNG fuelling station equipment is a prime example of a technology transfer from our well known industrial gas filling plant high-tech product line. With over 100 units operating across the world – from Australia to Europe, and the US, this is another area where our customers could benefit from our technological leadership.

What challenges lie ahead as Cryostar continues to carve out growth in the LNG sector?

The number one challenge to me is to avoid basing tomorrow’s success on yesterday’s recipe. It is to be able to keep an eye on how the world is transforming itself because it is changing. Digitalisation and customer service are major drivers that we want to increasingly focus on.

Yes, the environment is challenging these days, but you have to be counterintuitive sometimes and believe in the mid to long-term opportunities and keep investing even though everyone else is holding back

The big challenge is to be able to reinvent ourselves, be agile, be flexible and to not be scared of venturing into the unknown just because it is not the way we have done things up until now. To bring all my staff with me in that mindset and be confident in venturing into new opportunities is the big challenge. If we get a hold of this, we will be able to master anything and adjust to any situation.

I think the future belongs to the people who don’t just take the short-term as a driver; you have to look beyond it. Yes, the environment is challenging these days, but you have to be counterintuitive sometimes and believe in the mid to long-term opportunities and keep investing even though everyone else is holding back. The future belongs to the optimist.