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Innovation in sustainable initiatives a life-line for downstream’s future

Nov 14, 2019
4 min read
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Innovation in the downstream sector placed a prominent focus on environmental impact during an industry conversation as the industry looks to leverage digitalisation.

At ADIPEC’s Global Business Leaders Session titled ‘Downstream 4.0: refining and petrochemicals - growth through innovation and digitisation’ a panel of downstream executives spoke about how sustainability means different things in respective businesses, while keeping environmental footprint in check.

Abdulaziz Al Judaimi, Senior Vice President, Downstream, Saudi Aramco said that while sustainability is a fundamental building block for its digital strategy, the company uses an in-house solution in the form of a manufacturing application for monitoring downstream operations.

“This looks at all its operations and monitors HSE and sustainability. This is a key pillar in our digital strategy - we look at efficiency, productivity as well as safeguarding the environment from our industry,” he said.

Alfred Stern, CEO, Borealis, spoke about plastic recycling to reduce the impact on the environment.

Borealis, Borouge and NOVA Chemicals won an award at ADIPEC for Social Contribution and Local Content Project of the Year for its Project STOP in Indonesia.

“Marine pollution with plastics has become a major issue for the society. That is very unfortunate because the plastics application today are the most environmentally friendly solutions. If you use any other products, we know we will have a bigger environmental footprint, we will need more energy, more water, there will be more food wastage and transportation will be harder,” Stern said.

Project STOP began with educating society about plastics and provided access to waste management.

“It’s a good idea to have clean up activities but the plastic waste is coming so quickly that if we don’t stop the littering first, we can’t keep up,” he said, mentioning the importance of working with governments and the communities to make these projects successful.

“It’s one of the most low-cost projects globally, which is why a lot of people are buying into it. We started this as a corporate social responsibility programme and while we needed some funds, this is not a sustainable programme - we need to make a business out of it,” Stern said, about being able to sell used plastics for recycling and conversion.

“These challenges will present new business opportunities for all of us - it is going to be disruptive for all of us,” he added.

Echoing about the benefits of recycling, Todd Karran, President and CEO, NOVA Chemicals, said the company’s mission is to be a leader in innovation to make the industry sustainable. “We have to grow responsibly and solve customer needs,” he said, while adding that people have actually forgotten the needs that made plastics usage so popular.

“We forget that they are lower cost, have higher applications, are stronger for food preservation, have multiple healthcare applications and are less weight to transport,” he said. “In the conversation about sustainability, we think about what’s safer and before plastics were the solution with a lower footprint.”

However, he said that there is a need to educate communities before clean up projects take place. 

“Once we figure out the model that solves a problem - we can replicate it in different places,” Karran said.

While innovation has it benefits, partnership are expected to move the industry forward.

“Companies that do not partner will get left behind and the ones that do partner, will have added value, better operations, said Darryl K. Willis,Vice President, Energy Industry at Microsoft.

Additionally, he said the next big win for the industry will come from a healthy disrespect for the impossible.

He said a company’s cultural journey is very important, whereby they have the courage to develop without compromising on health and safety, as well as celebrating wins and losses.

He spoke about leveraging the vast amounts of data that is being collected from sensors in multiple operations to lower cost and boost operational efficiency.

Additionally, he said:  “The industry needs to do one big thing - have the courage to form partnerships that are built on trust. Any progress we make with an intersection in energy and technology will be built on trust.” 

Meanwhile, Antonio Pietri, President and CEO, Aspentech said: "From our perspective, longevity of the industry is about the communities in the organisations to have the capabilities to absorb and adapt technology, and one of the biggest challenge we’ve see is to attract, develop and retail talent.” 

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