By Per Øyvind Nordberg, Gassmagasinet, issue 6/2013

– We export 95 percent, says Managing Director Ketil Gorm Paulsen, who quickly excuses the lack of space in NEO Monitors locations at Loerenskog, Norway. – We are moving, but have not yet decided where to, he explains.

Ketil Gorm Paulsen is showing muscles with a lift. The «lever» is the main key at Neo Monitors, namely laser analyzers that are being exported worldwide.

Ketil Gorm Paulsen is showing muscles with a lift. The «lever» is the main key at Neo Monitors, namely laser analyzers that are being exported worldwide.

Global distribution
NEO Monitors celebrated their 10-year anniversary in 2013 as the commercial part of the Norsk Elektro Optikk (NEO), established by Tycho Jaeger, the pioneer in laser research in Norway.

Oil, gas and industrial companies worldwide are using Neo Monitors’ solutions to measure gas and dust in pipes and tanks. The majority is supplied through a global distributor network and surprisingly the solutions are unknown, and not widespread in Norway.

The company reached record results in 2012 with a revenue growth of 20 percent. The growth continued in 2013 and Neo Monitors is the fastest growing company within this niche in Europe.

– With 26 employees we reached our goal of 105 million NOK in 2013, says Paulsen.

Analyzing absorption
The major advantage of laser-based measurement is the absence of direct contact and moving parts. This provides low maintenance and precise and quick results.

– The instruments analyze absorption. By sending a laser beam through the gas flow, we can measure the loss of light. We then know what has been absorbed and can calculate the concentration of gas in parts per million (ppm).

The solutions are under great demand in terms of spectroscopy, optics, electronics and software. Dealing with noise and optimal signal treatment is essential in the quest for accurate measurements.

– Our typical clients are big international industrial companies such as Bayer, Shell and Exxon. You also find our solutions in ironworks, aluminum industry and cleansing systems in coal-fired power plants.

Tailored solutions
The solutions cover two typical requirements: Measure emission and improve processes. The list of measureable gases includes Oxygen, Ammonia, Hydrogen Chloride, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxides, and more.

– Chinese coal power plants use our solutions to measure DeNOx in their cleansing systems. At these locations, the air can be so polluted that you cannot see your hand in front of you. They have realized that something has to be done.

When measuring gases in so many different processes, physics can set restrictions. Some of these limitations can be circumvented by using NEO’s proprietary algorithms that compensate for variations in pressure and temperature.

– It’s all about tailoring. We provide the solution the customers want.

Gas in small concentrations
It is of course important to ensure that the solutions are measuring meticulous at all times. Neo has developed their own electronics for this purpose. The analyzers have achieved TÜV approval, which means they have passed stringent laboratory and field tests.

– The equipment can perform highly accurate measurements over time without frequent calibrations. This makes the solutions tailored for measuring gas in small concentrations.

Measuring leakage of gas in refineries can be critical. The optimal result is zero, but how can you be certain that the equipment functions properly when it displays zero?

– Our solutions test themselves to insure that the instruments are functioning. This is a prerequisite for approval at this level.

High value in use

According to Paulsen it is the ability to find niches where laser-based analyzers have high utility value that is the key to success. There are niches where no good alternative solutions exist.

– We have signed interdisciplinary cooperation in various engineering disciplines. But perhaps most important, our owners have given us permission to keep on improving the products.

The analyzers were launched on the market in 1995, while Neo Monitors was established in 2003. The company has now sold 7,000 analyzers, and 2012 was the first year to surpass a thousand sold in one year.

– NEO is still driven by research and development, while NEO Monitors compile and sell the products, he says.

Area of growth
The electronics and the software is developed by the holding company NEO and most of the components are produced by collaborators in Norway. A few critical components are imported. The assembly takes place at Loerenskog together with testing and qualification of products.

The analyzers are based on diode laser and execute continuous measurements of gas flow with a response time under five seconds.

– This provides great advantages in regards of gas measurement, and we believe that this will continue to be our growth area. We have the advantage of being a global supplier, because some markets always go well.

Although we have experienced a drop in Europe, the momentum is good in Asia.

– But also South Korea has recession, and it is quiet from the U.S. We believe the Americans are bouncing back with their shale gas, among others.

Great interest from Germany
In the gas sector, the focus is on optimization, low maintenance and high safety on the installations. This requires accurate measurements.

Neo Monitors are experiencing great interest, especially from Germany. One of the competitors is Siemens, a giant compared to the relatively modest company at Loerenskog. But Neo Monitors have the advantage of quick actions on specific needs and several measureable gases on the lists.

– This is due to our commitment and investment in research and development. We will probably never be left alone, but we are managing well in our little niche. The benefit of being small is that we can adapt quickly.

Neo Monitors has never gained a strong foothold in Norwegian industry. This might seem odd, but it has a logical explanation.

Sustainability
– We operate in a special niche, and there are no guarantees that we will be preferred in Norwegian installations. We started with aluminum plants in a commercial point of view, not oil and gas.

Paulsen reveals that he is passionate about keeping the Norwegian industry alive, also companies operating outside the oil and gas business. He believes that manufacturing companies must help each other and build networks to keep each other up.

– It is exciting to work with industrial companies in Norway. They have a flat structure, are friendly and very open. We are also in a position where a large amount of qualified people would prefer to work in Norway, which provides good access to expertise.

A tour around the premises demonstrates that the managing director lives by his word. The staff of 26 consists of foreign workers from near and far. They exude pride to the company founded on innovation and research, as well as willingness for long-term commitment.