June 2016

Columns

Editorial Comment: Optimizing the downstream industry’s message

This issue of Hydrocarbon Processing revolves around the central theme of optimization. This topic has been a major focus in our publication for decades. Thousands of pages of editorial have been devoted to this subject over our 95-year history. But what do we mean when we use the term ‘optimization?’

Nichols, Lee, Hydrocarbon Processing Staff

This issue of Hydrocarbon Processing revolves around the central theme of optimization. This topic has been a major focus in our publication for decades. Thousands of pages of editorial have been devoted to this subject over our 95-year history. But what do we mean when we use the term ‘optimization?’ The word’s definition means to make the best or most effective use of a thing or situation. Within the context of the downstream industry, it is a broad statement that could include recognizing opportunities to better develop management, maintenance and safety practices, plant operations, or to develop new technologies and improve existing processes. Or, to put it in layman’s terms, to strive to make the industry better and more efficient.

Sometimes, however, we lose the meaning of this word when it comes to conveying the innovations and benefits our industry provides to billions of people on a daily basis. A majority of people outside the hydrocarbon processing industry think crude oil is only good for fueling their vehicles. They equate oil with their local gas station, without realizing that over half of the vehicle they are driving is composed of the very same substance that fuels it.

It doesn’t stop there. You, as a professional in the oil and gas industry, know the plethora of products that oil and natural gas processing can create. From transportation fuels, such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, to the many products that petrochemical and natural gas processing create, our industry provides a higher quality of life to the world’s people.

This is accomplished by the investment of billions of dollars to meet global demand for petroleum products. The oil and gas industry continues to optimize its plants to reduce emissions and improve safety, all the while lowering sulfur content in transportation fuels and creating high-quality products. It provides good-paying jobs to millions of people, as well as millions of indirect jobs that help support local communities and businesses. This is the kind of messaging that the oil and gas industry must optimize. It needs to convey to consumers that processing hydrocarbons allows people to live better lives, as even this simple notion appears to be lost on many outside the industry.

When I started in this industry a decade ago, I was one of those people. Like most people working outside of the oil and gas industry, I thought that all the industry did was make gasoline for my car so that I could get to work in the morning. However, after working in the industry for the past 10 years, I now know that thought could not be further from the truth.

In actuality, our industry creates products used by billions of people around the world every day. It is not just about fueling your car or truck; it is about providing building materials for your family’s home, energy to run businesses, and products to create life-saving medical equipment. Industry technologies are responsible for the production of electronics, food packaging, chemicals/pharmaceuticals, paints/coatings, adhesives, detergents, furniture, cosmetics and appliances. Making a phone call or working on a computer would not be possible without the products created by our industry.

Optimization is not just a word; it is an idea, an action. It is time that our industry optimizes its message to the rest of the world. Consumers need to know that the downstream industry is one of the most innovative industries on the planet. It includes some of the brightest minds in the world, who provide solutions and products for everyday living. From modern conveniences to the products that drive global trade and world economies, the oil and gas industry continues to enhance the lives of many. It is an industry that provides far more than fuel for your car. HP

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