Leonardo and Maire Tecnimont partner up for next generation industrial plants

28 May 2021

We spoke with Manuele Marra, SVP Critical Infrastructure, EPC & Large Enterprise of the Leonardo Cyber Security Division

Leonardo and Italian company Maire Tecnimont have signed an agreement to promote the industrial evolution through the development of next generation greenfield plants (yet to be built) and brownfield plants (already operational) to transform natural resources into green chemicals.

The goal is to make Italian and foreign companies more competitive through integrated cybersecurity solutions and digitalising operational processes. Through the initiative, a single Italian design and engineering platform will be developed to then be positioned as an international reference point for highly digitalised cybersecurity and tech industrial sites that guarantee more sustainable processes and products and that are ready for immediate use.

“Maire Tecnimont operates in the large energy and petrochemical plant market as well as in the green economy,” explains Manuele Marra, SVP of Critical Infrastructure, EPC & Large Enterprise for the Cyber Security Division at Leonardo. “And Leonardo has chosen this highly relevant player to work with to design and implement a project to renew, digitalise and secure this industrial fabric. Alongside Maire, we’ll work in two main areas.

"The first is the modernisation of existing plants and the creation of new plants that are extremely advanced from a digital and technological point of view. These plants allow us to use everything our division offers: from control rooms and advanced monitoring systems (new Leonardo X2030 solutions), to global security systems, smart factory and Industry 4.0 solutions, converged IT and OT security solutions applied to industrial plants, and communications for critical safety & mission applications. These are often very large plants where communication is extremely important. Our investments in IOT and 5G can be applied immediately in these types of plants.

“The second area is safety and security. We witnessed the recent cyber-attacks on the American gas pipeline (Colonial Pipeline), but in general, attacks have become increasingly frequent in the energy sector globally. Here, the joint integrated offer between Leonardo and Maire Tecnimont allows us to design and build highly resilient industrial plants, which is an added value in line with national and European regulations. Among other things, in a country like Italy where most plants are rather dated, there is ample room for this type of modernisation and there is a concrete need for such measures. Such excellent acceleration allows Leonardo to get closer to the objectives of the Be Tomorrow 2030 strategic plan, blending digitalisation, safety and green evolution.”

The two companies will collaborate on an initial two-year study phase to identify pilot projects aimed at developing next-generation industrial sites in Italy and internationally. Thanks to this agreement, Maire Tecnimont's distinctive and technological skills in green chemicals, in designing, building and maintaining large industrial plants, as well as in digitalising operational processes, will be combined with Leonardo's strategic technologies in integrated security, infrastructure management and control platforms, telecommunications, and Industry 4.0.

"In Italy, the energy sector is highly dispersed and extremely complex, with plants built many years ago; approximately 40% of petrochemical plants were built before 1977, while only 25% of the 250 active power plants are above 500 MW. It means that we have many heterogeneous and dated plants that were built long ago. Up until a few years ago, protecting these plants would have been approached and managed in a totally different way, focused entirely on classic physical security, with plants that were not particularly digitally advanced or connected. Connecting systems now, however, has become unavoidable, and thus, an increasing number of threats have arisen as 4.0 industry is far more vulnerable to cyber-attacks aimed at generating operational, economic – not to mention reputational – damage.”

The two companies will collaborate in several different areas: cybersecurity to support end-users in containing potential risks to plants; digitalisation (including upgrading to 5G connectivity through proprietary solutions) to safely optimise operational processes of the industrial sector and the Maire Tecnimont Group itself; and industrialisation of the green economy by providing cutting-edge technologies and services to support the energy transition through NextChem, a subsidiary of Maire Tecnimont Group. In particular, the companies’ focus is on reducing the carbon and energy impact of production processes, as well as applying technologies to produce Sustainable Aviation Fuels, or SAF.

"Running a modern 'green' plant means relying heavily on the collection and analysis of a series of complex and heterogeneous data, telemetry, monitoring and protection technologies. Where there is digitalisation and technology, we have to raise the level of awareness and control in terms of global security. Essentially, technology and security must go hand in hand. For this reason, we’ve created a sort of ‘industrial empathy’ with the Maire Tecnimont Group; we’ve both put our respective abilities on the table and we’ve outlined – with an open and collaborative mindset – where and how to collaborate quickly and effectively to design and implement the latest generation plants or modernise old ones. The key is to ensure a soft and well-planned transition. Alongside Maire Tecnimont, on the cybersecurity front, we’re addressing the entire technology stack in Industry 4.0 by applying our secure-by-design connected factory platform for industries and industrial processes. Furthermore, these types of plants often have environments that make standard technologies, such as wi-fi, unusable, and therefore, being able to install alternative and innovative technologies – such as LTE or 5G bubbles – sets us apart."

Initially, the partnership will focus on producing plants in Italy to then extend into international energy and industry markets where the two groups are already active.

"We began our collaboration with the idea of creating an all-Italian supply chain, but this does not mean we’ll operate exclusively in Italy. We are currently working on two fronts: in Italy, where we’ve planned significant investments in PNRR; and internationally, where we often have contacts with mutual customers and can therefore work effectively to present a joint offer. Normally, we’d sign an agreement and then get to work, but with Maire Tecnimont, we already had a promising pipeline of concrete initiatives. Our agreement has all the makings of a winning initiative for both.”