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Global downstream players look to technology for cleaner solutions

Feb 12, 2020
3 min read
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Growing pressures of energy demand coupled with carbon emissions censure are pushing downstream players to employ technology to make the energy industry cleaner.

Top industry speakers at the Egypt Petroleum Show (EGYPS) 2020 on Wednesday highlighted the latest issues facing the downstream sector amid increasing demand for petrochemicals.

Ibrahim Al-Buainain, CEO, Aramco Trading said the company is a system integrator for Saudi Aramco and its strategy is increasingly global and aimed at taking on demand and environmental challenges.

The company is pursuing its goal to have a closer relationship with chemicals and moving away from transportation fuel through converting crude directly to chemicals, derivatives and aromatics, bypassing fuel oil, Al-Buainain said.

“We see fuel oil to be phased out in the next 10-20 years. Now, any integrated refinery will not have any fuel oil production. All of our refineries are on that track as well,” Al-Buainain said.

Saudi state energy giant acquired last year a majority stake in SABIC - one of the world’s largest chemicals producers.

“If you cater your strategy to future demand of product and more diversification then you will de-risk your business model. That’s why we acquired SABIC because we see a lot of integration and as one of the big chemical player in the world,” Al-Buainain said.

Meanwhile, France’s major Total has employed a multi-layered strategy as it sees the need to incorporate growing demand expectations with changing customer behavior and expectations.

Stanislas Mittelman, Senior Vice President, Africa Division, Total Marketing & Services, at EGYPS said the company has articulated a response to the market in five levels. These include improving energy efficiency by optimising its facilities’ energy consumption and encouraging its customers to use their products responsibly, adopting more natural gas on the portfolio given that it is the cleanest of hydrocarbons, delivering low-carbon emissions businesses by using gas and renewables to generate electricity, developing reliable bio-fuels and lastly investing in carbon capture businesses. “This is key in cutting emissions. We are looking to expand our CCUS technology at the same time, we are working out how to restore our ecosystems that can naturally absorb carbon emissions,” Mittelman said.

Additionally, Andreas Shiamishis, chief executive officer, Executive Member of the Board of Directors, Hellenic Petroleum said petrochemical products will have to become cleaner so the industry needs to invest in it.

“We have to be relevant to the world. Europe Investment Bank said it will stop financing hydrocarbons - so the pressure is there. We have to move away from energy into petchems and we have to improve efficiency and drive our own consumption down,” Shiamishis said.

Jean Sentenac, President and CEO, Axens said the company is investing in new technology for cracking - naphtha to chemicals, as well as digitalisation. “If you want to be competitive, you have to maximize throughput. Digital is playing a role in that because it allows you to be efficient,” Sentenac said.

“We are all working to leave behind for our children a cleaner, affordable and sustainable world.

Energy is part of enhancing our life, so the industry should develop downstream, which also creates jobs. Pushing into downstream is creating integration of the industry - there is a lot of interest in that,” Sentenac said.

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