Refineries in the Middle East are facing serious challenges to remain competitive, struggling to reduce operating costs and to maximize production among other problems, according to an analysis by AspenTech, software provider for the processing industries.

Dealing with several challenges at the same time is an ordeal for refineries in the region, but for most of them this has already become part of their day-to-day business. Some of the most pressing challenges that decision-makers have to deal with include operational issues and shifting market balance, commented John Hague, AspenTech senior vice-president and managing director for Middle East and North Africa.

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Hague spoke to the Gulf Daily News at the Middle East Process Engineering Conference and Exhibition in Bahrain. He stated that one of the clearest trends in the Middle Eastern oil and gas industry was the construction of what he referred to as "mega-sites," which allow a wider range of processes and more flexibility in production and capacity. This tendency refers not only to refineries but to big integrated petrochemical complexes as well, he added.

Middle Eastern industry is still focusing its attention on value chain extensions. The region has been ramping up production of innovative products with higher margins, such as niche products and speciality and fine chemicals. Another top priority for businesses in the area is ensuring efficiency and a reduction of energy consumption, Hague explained.