July 2018

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Editorial Comment

In early June, Hydrocarbon Processing and Eni—an Italian multinational oil and gas company—hosted the annual International Refining and Petrochemical Conference (IRPC) in Milan, Italy.

Nichols, Lee, Hydrocarbon Processing Staff

In early June, Hydrocarbon Processing and Eni—an Italian multinational oil and gas company—hosted the annual International Refining and Petrochemical Conference (IRPC) in Milan, Italy. The two-day event, which focuses on technical solutions for downstream processing operations, featured insightful keynote presentations on the global hydrocarbon processing industry. These talks regarded global issues such as supply and demand, capital construction projects and how electric vehicles (EVs) will affect oil demand and challenges meeting the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) global sulfur cap standard, as well as regional issues, such as the state of the European refining and chemical industries. 

The Day 1 keynote presentation from Giacomo Rispoli, Executive Vice President of Portfolio Management at Eni, focused on three challenges facing the global refining industry: sustainability, decarbonization and new regulations. Regarding sustainability, Mr. Rispoli noted that the great challenge of the 21st century is to combine the planet’s growing energy needs and the need to progressively reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to combat climate change and limit the increase in the temperature of the Earth’s surface to below 2°C. 

This trend includes focusing efforts on a more sustainable transportation sector. “The challenge of combining growth with GHG emissions reduction is even more important in the transport sector as mobility is continuously increasing as the world becomes more interconnected,” said Mr. Rispoli. He went on to explain that the transition to an increasingly sustainable mobility will be gradual and will need to foresee all the available solutions. This adoption will involve new technologies. “The achievement and solutions of this objective,” said Mr. Rispoli “will be done by different models of individual and collective mobility, new transport infrastructure, increased use of biofuels, further development of traction systems, new energy carriers, carbon dioxide capture and reuse, recycling and the circular economy.” 

New regulations add to the challenges being faced by the refining industry. One of the most significant regulations is MARPOL’s Global Sulfur Cap, which calls for a reduction in sulfur content in marine fuels from 3.5% to 0.5%. This new regulation will go into effect in 2020 and will impact more than 50,000 ships worldwide. 

Another area of great interest during the event was the topic of this issue of Hydrocarbon Processing—the advance of more digital operations. The use of digital platforms in the processing industries, as well as in dozens of other industries around the world, have provided operators with greater flexibility and more efficient, reliable and profitable operations. The term digitalization has provided new meaning to optimizing the oil and gas value chain. It includes the use of big data, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), digital twin, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and virtual and augmented realities. 

Due to the advancements in digitalization, the industry is witnessing a convergence with other companies not readily seen in the downstream processing industries. These companies include computer/big data, video game and cyber security companies. The integration of these types of companies into the oil and gas value chain is opening new opportunities for increased process optimization. 

As you will read in this issue, the downstream processing industry is making great strides to incorporate more digital aspects into its operations. This move is providing a safer and more efficient way of doing business. HP

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