GE considers manufacture of gas turbine generators in Saudi Arabia
Move would create upto 100 new technology jobs for Saudi nationals
GE eyes opportunities in $200 billion solar project
GREENVILLE: General Electric, the giant American engineering conglomerate, is considering manufacturing its latest series of high-technology power generators in Saudi Arabia.
If it decides to go ahead, it would be a big boost for the Kingdom’s economy and its strategy of moving away from dependency on the oil industry. The move would also add up to 100 new technology jobs for Saudi citizens in Dammam, in the Eastern Province, where GE’s business is currently based.
Scott Strazik, the president and chief executive officer of GE’s power services division, told Arab News that the company had the capacity to manufacture the state-of-the-art H series of gas turbines in Saudi Arabia.
“We have the ability and the capacity to manufacture the H series in Saudi Arabia, and we are considering that. But we need to look at the state of possible orders for them in the Middle East to justify the build. We are assessing that now. It would be a win-win for us and for Saudi Arabia,” he said, speaking at the power division’s US HQ in Greenville, South Carolina.
“If you’re going to be a player in Saudi Arabia you need a local presence. We already have that in Dammam, but manufacturing the H would be a major step,” he added.
Some 76 of the latest iteration of the H turbine — the HA9 — have been ordered around the world, with a large proportion in the US and Japan, with 26 currently in operation. Bahrain recently took delivery of three HA9s to generate power at an aluminum facility.
If GE starts manufacturing in Saudi Arabia, it could become the export center for the equipment for the wider Middle East region, and would be a significant step in the Kingdom’s strategy of creating technology jobs for young Saudi citizens.
The American company has been involved in the Kingdom since soon after its foundation in 1932. For the past decade, it has operated the GE manufacturing and technology center (Gemtec) in Dammam, where it has a repair facility as well as a virtual monitoring and diagnostic center, connected to its global monitoring center in the US. Female engineers are already employed in Dammam, and more will get jobs if the new manufacturing facility goes ahead.
The project is likely to be discussed on Strazik’s visit to the Middle East next month. “I’ve enjoyed my visits and each time I can see the change. It is very exciting to see what is happening there. It’s an exciting place because of the changes going on.
“Any country should be looking to diversify its fuel mix, it is the responsible thing to do to grow the renewable element of your fuel usage. Gas-powered energy generation is the way the industry is going. For a country to give itself the optionality of using other energy sources has to be a good thing.” He said that GE might get involved in the $200-billion solar generation initiative announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his visit to the US. The Public Investment Fund and the SoftBank Vision Fund are partnering on an ambitious plan to make the Kingdom the center of the world’s solar energy industry.
GE’s oil and gas business, Baker Hughes, is also in Saudi Arabia, and GE does business with Saudi Aramco and with the Saudi Electricity Company. There has been speculation that GE might spin off some of its constituent parts after a period when its share price has come under pressure on the American stock markets. In addition to power, GE also operates aviation technology, health care and financial services divisions.
Strazik, who has been with GE for 18 years, said that there were clear synergies between some parts of the business, especially between aircraft engine manufacturing and power generation. “But that does not mean we cannot run GE in a simpler, leaner way. We have to do that. But that is really a question for the group chief executive, John Flannery,” he added.