Hungary's MOL Group sees global refining business trending against Europe

By Billy Thinnes
Technical Editor

BOSTON -- Dr. Bela Kelemen was one of Tuesday's keynote speakers during AspenTech’s Optimize users group. He is a senior vice president for the Hungarian company MOL Group. Dr. Kelemen is a dynamic and articulate speaker, and his remarks were well received in the convention hall. He noted that the energy world is now diverging into three distinct regions—North America, Europe and Asia. Somewhat humorously, Dr. Kelemen labeled America as a returning rock star, Europe as a retiring pensioner and Asia as a hungry youngster.

Dr. Kelemen would not be surprised if 30% of Europe’s refineries were shuttered due to financial woes. Meanwhile, he noted that Asia’s impressive economic growth over the last ten years shows no signs of abating. To demonstrate Europe’s problems, he used his own company as an example. He said that before the market crash of 2008, MOL Group was producing $10 to $12 of profit per barrel at its refineries, but then that plummeted to around $4 post-crash. Still, he retains optimism about the future. He believes that the magic trinity of business is technology, process and people, overlaid by the knowledge that the most important thing is always the voice of the customer.

Refiners face a litany of challenges in the realm of scheduling and distribution, Dr. Kelemen said, so it therefore quite important to place events in the right sequence. For this, he said that a feasibility test is crucial. The constant drama in the refining business is measuring what is optimal vs. what is feasible. Interruptions, unexpected events and opportunities are a day-by-day occurrence, and the refiner that copes well with such challenges will the refiner that is still in business in the future.

“Knowledge is the right combination of information and experience,” he said.

To that effect, Dr. Kelemen extolled the virtues of AspenTech’s Academy, a corporate advisory group of university professors. In particular, he referenced a supply chain management class that emphasizes how theory and practice go hand in hand. Lessons learned from the academy and other business virtues could be summed up best from a Charles Darwin quote that Dr. Kelemen spotlighted:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

MOL Group has worked with AspenTech for over 25 years and looks forward to many more years of such a positive and productive relationship, Dr. Kelemen said.

Other keynote speakers featured at the Optimize users group in Boston included John Kearney, technical director at Wood Group, Dr. George Stephanopoulos, professor of chemical engineering at MIT and Manolis Kotzabasakis, executive vice president at AspenTech. 

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