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 Duncan Gaskin, Marketing Development Manager at UK-based Parker Bestobell Valves, who explains why the LNG18 event will be a major lifejacket for a sector that’s been under downward pressure for the last 12 months.
Why did Parker Bestobell Valves choose to exhibit at this event? Have you attended before?
Our main reason to attend was to launch our new range of high pressure Class 2500 globe and check valves. This range is a major step forward for Bestobell Marine as we have never designed or manufactured these types of valves before. The range is designed specifically for use in the fuel gas system needed for MAN ME-GI two stroke engines. These engines require natural gas to be injected at 320 bar pressure and the valves have had to be designed accordingly to cope with these pressures. The range has been in the making for the past two years and we felt that LNG18 would provide a great showcase to launch the range officially to the industry.
We’ve actually been manufacturing the range for over 18 months now and have built up an impressive reference list of projects that we have supplied or are in the process of supplying. No other valve manufacturer has built up that level of experience for these type of valves. LNG18 will allow us to get a higher level of exposure to potential clients who need these valves.
We haven’t exhibited before at the LNG series, but we have been to Gastech as an attendee, which is another major LNG exhibition. We thought that seeing LNG18 is the other biggest LNG event in the calendar, we should be there as a leading manufacturer of cryogenic valves in the world. We’ll also be showing our new ‘baby’ FLIV valve used for isolating the tanks on LNG carriers from the secondary float measuring system, as well as highlighting our industrial valve range.
What is Bestobell’s involvement in the LNG business?
We are one of the leading manufacturers of globe and check valves for cryogenic applications. We have two main areas to our product lines; the first is in the LNG marine business, basically anything relating to LNG on ships, including LNG fuel gas systems. And secondly we have our land-based industrial business, for general, small-scale LNG projects, storage units, regasification units, LNG filling stations, and so on. Bestobell is involved anywhere that LNG is used, transported or transferred.
One area that is growing dramatically is the use of ISO containers, for road, rail and sea transport. It looks like it’s going to take off, particularly in the US
In the marine sector, our main area of business is with the shipyards in Asia. We also deal with cryogenic equipment makers, mainly in Europe, for equipment such as regasification trains and liquefaction units for LNG carriers, as well as fuel gas systems for all types of ships. In the industrial sector, a lot of our business is done through tank builders, building cryogenic storage tanks, and evaporators. We also have gained business with trailer manufacturers for road or rail transport. One area that is growing dramatically is the use of ISO containers, for road, rail and sea transport. It looks like it’s going to take off, particularly in the US. LNG is starting to be shipped around in those containers more and more, as it is a very flexible way of getting LNG transported. ISO containers can be delivered, used, then picked up and replaced easily. There is mileage in that and it is still early days, but there is major growth in it for sure.
What challenges have you seen within the sector in recent years?
The marine side of the industry has seen a massive growth over that last three years and it continues to excel, but there has been a downward trend in the amount of LNG carriers being ordered in the last 18 months, a significant drop-off in fact. Also in the industrial land-based division, not a lot is happening - equipment makers are very quiet. It is a bit of a struggle at the moment as the whole LNG sector is very flat. Luckily on the marine side, there is a big lag period between when contracts are awarded and then actually delivering the goods – we still have plenty of projects to work on for the next two years in this respect.
Whenever you are in a downturn, you’ve got to try and win your share of the smaller pie. You have to be aggressive, focus on costs, be in the right place at the right time and talk to people. This all leads to being better than your competitors. It is an aggressive environment and you have to be fairly ruthless in how you operate. Our attendance at LNG18 will allow us to meet people and let people know that we are out there and doing business. It’s the right place to do that.
What sets Bestobell apart from its competitors?
We are one of the oldest cryogenic valve manufacturers in the world, so we have a lot of experience and know how, a proven design for our valves and we have the necessary approvals, for both land-based and marine applications. The approval side of things on the marine side is quite a big barrier for other companies as you need to have the knowhow of the strict rules for ships.
The approval side of things on the marine side is quite a big barrier…A lot of companies don’t have the know-how needed to navigate these rules and so they struggle to cope with them
The Bestobell products have to be designed to meet those rules, with the process starting at the foundry for the castings and going right through to the installation. Bestobell is very experienced as a marine-based company in this respect. A lot of companies don’t have the know-how needed to navigate these rules and so they struggle to cope with them.
We work on the product and design of our marine valves which are well proven to have very low maintenance costs – very few spares are required meaning a low cost of ownership. Its not quite a ‘fit and forget’ situation, but we are not far off. We have very few very spare requests, and this actually makes up the smallest section of our marine business. In land-based applications it’s the opposite. Gas companies run annual maintenance, repair and operations programmes (MRO) and with more than 100,000 cryogenic tanks installed, this business is quite significant for Bestobell and it has actually protected us a lot from the down turn.
Bestobell has a large range of valves, varying from ½ inch – 14 inches wide. It is important to us that we can cover all out client’s requirements. We have been operating in industrial markets for nearly 60 years. Regarding the marine sector, we have been operating for about 16 years, as it is a younger market. But to put it into perspective, we have supplied valves to around 240 ship sets for our valves, with the LNG fleet being less than 400 in total, so it’s a considerable slice of the pie, and we can guarantee a well-proven product for our end-users.
Our valve design is innovative and geared to addressing the opening and closing and leakage issues over long-term usage. These may seem like obvious performance characteristics, but for LNG cryogenic valves it is not so easy to achieve. Valves have to cope with the contraction and expansion of components ranging from -163°C to ambient continuously during their lifetime.
What does the future hold for Bestobell?
The Parker Hannifin group took over Bestobell Valves last July, so we are now utilising their resources which will make a big difference in the future. They have got a big growth plan set in place for Bestobell, which will be challenging in the current market conditions but will drive success for the business in the long-term. We will be looking at developing existing industrial markets that we work in so we can become more prominent, as well as utilising Parkers’ sales companies, so we can be in front of clients more often and gain a market share from our competitors. We also want to broaden the number of companies we deal with and develop new areas of business where we have not previously been operating.
The market is decreasing at the moment so there are less projects to go after but we have to be aggressive and go after our share, to maintain our position
On our marine side it is a bit different as the work is project based – it completely depends on how many ships are ordered. It is a very simple business model, in the fact that if a ship is ordered it’s an opportunity, but if it’s not ordered, it’s not a market. So we go with the flow. The market is decreasing at the moment so there are less projects to go after but we have to be aggressive and go after our share, to maintain our position. For the time being we just have to live with the market as it is and wait for it to pick back up again.