US-based GE has inaugurated the second phase of its Manufacturing and Technology Center (Gemtec) in Dammam, an industrial hub in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, as part of its $1bn investment programme in the kingdom.

This is the second expansion for Gemtec, which will enable the company to manufacture heavy-duty gas turbines at the 26,000 square metre facility to serve power, oil and gas and other industrial sectors within the kingdom and beyond. The total project value was SR185m and it was built by local construction firm Nesma.

The formal opening coincided with the delivery of a 7F turbine to Waad al-Shamal combined-cycle power plant being built by state-controlled utility Saudi Electricity Company (SEC).

GE was awarded the approximately $1bn contract earlier this year to design and build gas turbines for the plant, which will serve the $7.5bn phosphate mining complex being developed by joint venture partners Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden), The Mosaic Company and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic). The 48-month contract involves delivery of the plant including four heavy duty gas turbines and one steam turbine with capacity of 1,390MW of electricity.

“With this expansion, GE can now build any heavy-duty gas turbine we offer right here in Saudi Arabia,” GE Power’s president and chief executive Steve Bolze said.

The company has already assembled an F-type turbine at Gemtec, and it now plans to build world’s heaviest HA turbines in Saudi Arabia for customers in the Kingdom and beyond, he said.

GE’s expanded manufacturing facilities will create 150 specialised jobs in the next two years and currently, Gemtec is at par with any other GE maintenance and the manufacturing facility anywhere in the world, he told Minds + Machines Saudi Arabia 2016 conference in Dammam on 12 October.

GE, earlier in May, announced signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Saudi Arabian Industrial Investments Company (SAIIC) to jointly invest as much as $3bn in strategic sectors that will help develop and localise industrial value chains in Saudi Arabia. Under the agreement investments of $1bn will be rolled out by 2017, in addition to an aggregate potential investment of $2bn in following years to drive projects in water, energy, aviation, digital and other sectors from 2017, according to a company statement at the time.

With joint investment, GE and aims to establish transformative projects to speed up industrial diversification, deepen manufacturing capabilities, build industrial know-how and create quality jobs for Saudi nationals.

Earlier, the kingdom’s Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih said GE, which has been present in the kingdom for the past eight decades is a long-standing partner of Saudi government and has supported the country’s economy through development of industrial sector. It is now complementing Riyadh’s efforts to diversify economy as part of the Saudi Vision 2030.

“GE was the first to come here. It was a desert,” Al-Falih told the conference. “It has contributed enormously for development of this country.”

The kingdom, he said, could not rely on oil only for revenues, however, that does not mean that the oil sector will receive less attention from the government in the future. The kingdom, will continue to look at it but the main policy driver will be diversification and development of industrial sector and Saudi Arabia is looking forward to GE to be a partner in that next phase of transformation.

The GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt in his opening remarks at the conference spoke about the digital industrial partnerships in the kingdom and how it could support the Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 by enhancing industrial productivity.

GE Saudi Arabia has signed several agreements with state-controlled companies and has rolled out a number of technology initiatives to complement the Riyadh’s development goals.

Saudi Technology & Innovation Center in Dahran will be hub for digital solution and a base for ‘Industrial Internet’ roadmap to drive transformation of industry and expand GE’s digital footprint in the country. The centre will help customers to work with GE developers in finding solutions that will become apps running on GE’s Predix – the world’s first and only cloud-based operating system built exclusively for industry.

The centre will also focus on building digital talent across the country through training, focusing on start-ups and entrepreneurs in the digital industrial space.

”Some of the ideas we generate here can be monetised and exported from the kingdom in the future,” Immelt said adding that GE believes that Saudi Arabia will be at the forefront of digital industrial technology in the future.

“The most modern technologies will be brought here first so the kingdom can be quite competitive with the rest of the world,” he said.