NorthEdge buys Correla to target gas and hydrogen potential
The acquisition follows the divestment of the subsidiary by the Gas Industry’s Central Data Service provider Xoserve, which announced in January it would create an independently owned sister company and restructure its operations (click here). Xoserve now becomes a specialised contract management and assurance company.
Correla will continue to deliver services back to Xoserve through a commercial contract (Data Services Contract Plus - DSC+), embracing existing commitments and remaining focussed on delivering customer service and operational effectiveness.
The divestment and subsequent investment partnership with NorthEdge allows Correla to deliver new products and services, through investment in its data platforms and expansion into alternative energy markets through organic growth, alongside the potential for strategic acquisitions to accelerate services expansion.
NorthEdge will work alongside Correla CEO Sian Jones, and her team, to deliver the business’ long-term vision of reducing industry complexity for the benefit of end consumers, which is an essential step on the industry-wide path to net zero.
Correla claims it is the only technology service provider with "end-to-end visibility of the UK’s gas network", and enables access to this data through a real-time, visual and interactive analytics dashboard on its Data Discovery Platform (DDP) - enabling customers to monitor the impact of Carbon reduction programmes and drive efficient energy usage.
With NorthEdge’s support, Correla is well-placed to support the UK’s emerging Hydrogen economy through working with stakeholders across the UK gas network, helping them to decarbonise the UK’s gas infrastructure.
The investment is the first out of NorthEdge’s newly raised £250m Fund III, which closed in December 2020. This, in conjunction with SME Fund I, gives the firm £370m of funds to invest in high growth businesses alongside entrepreneurial and ambitious management teams.
Jon Pickering and Andrew Skinner led the investment, supported by James Marshall, Kevin O’Loughlin and George Potts. Pickering and Skinner will join the Correla board, alongside Ian Kelly as Non-Executive Chair - who as Chair of NorthEdge portfolio company Cloud Technology Solutions, brings with him a wealth of private equity experience, as well as significant experience in the energy sector, most recently alongside NorthEdge at Utiligroup.
Jones said the UK has an incredible task ahead to meet its decarbonisation targets and it is committed to supporting customers every step of the way. "NorthEdge’s acquisition has come at a critical time for us as we look to develop new products, services and technologies that will remove complexity from the market and unlock operating models that better support the UK’s energy transition," she said.
“NorthEdge’s values and objectives align with the sustainability needs and requirements of the team at Correla and the wider UK energy market. This, alongside their commitment to ESG, as well as their experience of backing businesses in the energy and utilities software and services industry, proved to us that they were the right partner to support us on this exciting journey.”
Skinner, Director and Head of Midlands at NorthEdge, said Correla is already an integral service partner to stakeholders in the UK gas network.
"We have been investing in the energy and utilities sector for more than 10 years, and understand first-hand how data has transformed the market and the role it will play in the transition to net zero. We believe that our experience of the sector, alongside our regional approach and investment style means that we are uniquely placed to meet the requirements of both Correla and Xoserve."
NorthEdge was advised by Sarah Taylor and Ian Birch, PwC (corporate finance & commercial due diligence), Tom Durrant, Gateley (legal), BDO (financial due diligence) and Crosslake (tech due diligence). Xoserve and Correla were advised by Khush Purewal, Taj Lalli and Callum Shields, KPMG (corporate finance). Xoserve was advised by Richard Brown and Jonathan Walters, Travers Smith (legal).
NorthEdge recently launched its Nexus tool to improve communication among network partners. Leaders can connect in real-time with their peers, access information about operating partners and keep up to date with the latest news and insights from NorthEdge’s network.
Taking the lid off digital transformation
Amish Sabharwal is Executive Vice President for AVEVA’s Industrial Engineering Business Unit which is responsible for delivering simulation, engineering, design, project execution, operator training and project management software to the Global Industrial Market. With 25 years' experience globally within the Energy, Chemicals and Power industries, he is focused on delivering Digital Transformation outcomes for Owner Operators, EPC and Suppliers by leveraging technology to create value added opportunities to business processes. Amish is a professional engineer who holds a Masters and Bachelors in Chemical Engineering from the University of Calgary. Here he reflects on the impact the pandemic has had on the industry and why it must be at the cutting edge of digital transformation.
Oil and gas companies faced formidable challenges to their efficiency, sustainability and profitability in 2020. As a result of the pandemic, prices collapsed severely and the urgency to tackle these issues intensified. The economic discomfort is being felt throughout the oil and gas value chain.
Upstream companies seek to maximise production from onshore and offshore wells safely and economically. In the midstream, the primary concern of hydrocarbon pipeline operators is to ensure safe, reliable and compliant operations - all while managing energy costs and minimising time and installed costs. Across the downstream, refining and petrochemical producers strive to achieve superior performance through better management of their energy usage and costs.
Considering these priorities, the lack of digital maturity across oil and gas is perhaps surprising. According to multinational professional services firm PwC, “One of the clearest and most viable responses to these systemic challenges is to accelerate digitisation strategies to help improve resilience and remain attractive to investors.” But, “of more than 200 oil and gas companies surveyed, only 7% identified themselves as digital champions while more than 70% of respondents considered themselves to be in the early stages of digital maturity”.
Optimisation and innovation
In today’s economic environment, capital budgets and overheads are constantly being cut. Oil and gas producers are faced with rising manufacturing costs, global competition and soaring energy costs. To meet these challenges, companies must optimise manufacturing operations and make performance improvements to positively impact their bottom lines.
Digital transformation offers new toolsets that enable oil and gas producers to increase their competitiveness. These digital toolsets help improve yields of valuable products while reducing energy consumption and increasing throughput. Using digital technology, manufacturers can create a complete digital twin of their processes and assets to respond quickly and easily to unexpected events, reduce shutdown time, work and train operators remotely and evaluate what-if scenarios in batch processing and manufacturing.
Through digital transformation, operators can combine real-time process data with current economic conditions, giving operators the ability to make informed decisions at an expedited rate. Information sharing increases while stakeholders also improve their ability to visualise results and key performance indicator data across processes and overall plant production.
Technology offers the potential to impact process yield, energy use and throughput optimisation. Here are some considerations:
Own and maintain your own engineering data
Engineering data tells you what equipment is installed on each plant, what size it is, how it is connected and where it is located through 3D visualisation. It is generated in capital projects, from newbuild plants to brownfield revamps, and forms the backbone of the digital twin.
Accurate data, kept in one place, ensures the reliability of a digital twin’s output and the efficiency of operations throughout the asset’s lifecycle. Global oil and gas producers are moving fast to invest in their own cloud-based data platforms for current and future capital projects, operations and maintenance as part of their digital transformation projects.
Evaluate process design in the cloud to reduce costs
By leveraging the almost infinite processing power and storage available through cloud-based architecture, companies can accelerate process design while reducing capital investment costs for process modelling and training.
Oil and gas producers can spin up cloud-based servers and computing resources as needed. This also accelerates the flow of information throughout process design. A cloud-based architecture for process design increases information accessibility, enhances availability and significantly reduces total cost of ownership.
Encourage online collaboration
Process innovations becomes seamless through collaboration. Separating the content from the product allows the content, such as simulation models, to be managed easily with file history logs in a central repository. Efficiency is significantly increased using cloud-based architecture as refineries can adapt to changing needs.
Computing power can also be scaled up or down with varying numbers of virtual machines to facilitate simulation templates for engineering test or training scenarios. Secure user access control allows administrators to add, delete or edit users and privileges as needed. IT overheads are simplified to a pure on-demand cloud-based architecture where machines are accessed via a secure URL, and new versions of process designs are available as soon as released.
Accelerate operational excellence through a digital engineering platform
Consider supporting the entire engineering lifecycle from representation of the actual piping and instrumentation diagram, mapping each equipment object to a detailed engineering database and 3D model; to building/testing the dynamic stimulation early in the process design; optimising the process and control design, comparing capital versus operating costs; and the continuous improvement of operations as the engineering model becomes a plant’s digital twin.
Unify your supply chain model planning and operations
A complete 360-degree view of the digital value chain means all aspects of the enterprise are visualised, analysed and optimised. Inputs to the enterprise, such as feedstock and raw materials, are analysed in real-time against planning, operations, scheduling and distribution. Full plant models are managed simultaneously within a supply and distribution network.
Combining data and analysis
There are three key technological trends that will continue to accelerate adoption and help businesses reinvent themselves. First, cloud computing allows companies to manage large volumes of data generated in operations and improves data quality, data availability and single-source transparency across complex value chains.
Second, connectivity and the Internet of Things, in which machines carry sensors that support remote performance monitoring and efficient equipment integration, will support energy use optimisation and costs across company operations. Third, AI and ML tools help analyse data and identify operational patterns and shortcomings that can be used to improve efficiency, for example, in predictive maintenance.
Digital transformation offers a fresh lens to improve workforce training, sustainability, productivity, safety and regulatory compliance - while adapting to unforeseen events. Through digital transformation, oil and gas producers can more confidently explore opportunities, reduce operational risk and shrink the gap between plans and results.