IRPC Process: The future licensor and market drivers

Hydrocarbon Processing’s International Refining and Petrochemical Conference (IRPC) began with an informative interview with Leon de Bruyn, Chief Executive Officer, Lummus Technology. Mr. de Bruyn answered several questions on the current state of the hydrocarbon processing industry (HPI), how HPI production is shifting to different products, the industry’s advancement towards more sustainable technologies and what the processing technology licensor of the future will look like.

Over the past few years, HPI producers are making investments to incorporate new petrochemical units into existing operations and/or investing in grassroots petrochemical facilities. “We have witnessed a clear increase in petrochemicals demand from consumers around world,” said Mr. de Bruyn. “Shipping products has and will continue to increase packing demand, which, of course, increase demand for the polymers to produce such plastics.”

An area that has accelerated over the past year is the need to incorporate sustainable operations into company workflows and processes. “When we talk about sustainability and the energy transition, it is not disassociated from our industry,” said Mr. de Bruyn. “In my mind, it is impossible for one party—whether it be operators, technology providers, EPCs, maintenance/service companies and others—to do this all independently; it is going to take collaboration to drive sustainability within our industry.”

Mr. de Bruyn concluded with his views on the future of the technology licensor. “When you have this long-term view of where you will be in 10 yr, 20 yr, you start with your customer. For us, the customer is the end consumer and clearly there is a drive for more circularity. Our job as a technology licensor is to innovate and bring those innovations to a commercial state and bring them to the market. The reliability of resources, the circularity to minimize waste and carbon reduction are all going to be key ingredients, along with economics, will drive the success of the licensor in the future—we have to play that role across the board.”

Mr. de Bruyn was followed by Mark Schmalfield, Global Marketing Manager, BASF, who provided an overview on market drivers impacting demand for biofuels and alternative refinery feedstocks. “Today’s energy mix is much more complex than it was in the past. The energy mix of today has multiple set of sources of energy,” said Mr. Schmalfield. “For example, traditional biomass made up approximately 90% of the energy mix in 1850. Today, the total amount of traditional biomass consumed is the exact same as in 1850 but represents only a fraction of the total energy demand of our society; and the mix has become much more complex.”

Mr. Schmalfield went on to provide details on how the HPI is transitioning more into using alternative raw materials to manufacture the same products but in a more sustainable way—e.g., using biomass waste from agricultural production, crop or food processing to produce renewable fuels or chemically recycling plastics to be used as recycled feedstocks for new petrochemical production. These techniques have led to the production of advanced biofuels—leading to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions—and pyrolysis oil that is processed into new plastic products.  

“As the population continues to increase and entrants into the middle class continue to grow globally, the world will witness a significant increase in energy demand,” concluded Mr. Schmalfield. “However, society is needing this energy to be supplied in a way that is more sustainable. Biofeeds and alternative feeds are going to be part of the solution.”

            IRPC Process Technology continues through Wednesday, June 3. Register HERE for access to Day Two and on-demand content for a year. 


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