IRPC EurAsia '19: Borealis SVP says Euro petchem must digitalize, join circular economy

Adrienne Blume, Executive Editor, Hydrocarbon Processing

HELSINKI—On Day 2 of the International Refining and Petrochemical Conference (IRPC) EurAsia, Senior Vice President of BU Hydrocarbons and Energy for Borealis Polymers Oy Thomas Van De Velde opened with a keynote talk on strategic opportunities for the European petrochemical industry.

Borealis sees two significant challenges in the industry—the circular economy and digitalization—while carbon neutrality remains a major challenge. The polyolefins circular economy requires a wider view on the value chain that incorporates the mitigation, and eventual end, of plastics disposal in the environment.

Fig. 1. Thomas Van De Velde provided the keynote address on Day 2 of IRPC EurAsia.

Recycling solutions for polyolefins. Recycled solutions will dominate the growth of polyolefins in Europe, Van De Velde said. For Borealis, this represents a business opportunity of more than 1 MMt.

"We need to sort waste, and then we need to put it into a circular route," the SVP said. "But there is no 'silver bullet' solution; it will be a combination of approaches. We believe in mechanical recycling, which has the best carbon footprint, as well as energy recovery."

According to a 2015 McKinsey study, the circular economy could deliver €1.8 T in economic gain—a potential significant boon for the energy industry. The European Commission's strategy for plastics sets a high bar; it calls for more than 50% of plastics waste generated in the EU to be recycled by 2030.

"The key message here is that collaboration and cooperation is needed between all players in the value chain to deliver sustainable solutions in the future," Van De Velde said.

Digitalization opportunities. Digitalization technologies improve the customer experience by adding value and service while offering optimized technical support and functionalities, Van De Velde said. They also improve the reliability of assets and the quality of business execution, and maximize insight from data to further improve decision-making.

Van De Velde gave an example of Borealis' Digital Studio, which concentrates on early testing, user acceptance and user value. The company also offers tracking, guidance and optimization programs for polyolefins and fertilizer customers through its MyBorealis and NutriGuide programs, respectively.

Another Borealis technology uses an intelligent algorithm to connect live and historical data and events to formulate a predictive maintenance and condition monitoring program. The company has developed a prototype for a hyper compressor failure.

"Europe can remain competitive in both chemical and petrochemical if it provides sustainable solutions, and if it focuses on both the circular economy and digitalization," Van De Velde said. "This will help secure Europe's market position and drive the goal of carbon neutrality."

IRPC EurAsia is taking place in Helsinki from 5–6 June.

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