Five minutes with: Leon de Bruyn, senior vice president of Lummus Technology, McDermott

Leon de Bruyn, senior vice president of Lummus Technology, speaks with Martin Menachery, on the vibrant role of Lummus Technology in the global refining and petrochemicals industry landscape

Leon de Bruyn, senior vice president of Lummus Technology, McDermott.
Leon de Bruyn, senior vice president of Lummus Technology, McDermott.

Prior to leading Lummus Technology for McDermott, you served as vice president and managing director of Chevron Lummus Global (CLG), which plays a critical role in certain crude-oil-to-chemicals (COTC) projects in planning/under implementation. Can you please give us some insight on the involvement of CLG in the COTC projects?
Chevron has been a partner to Lummus Technology (Lummus) since the 1990s, through the CLG joint venture. Similar to this partnership, Lummus has a portfolio of technologies built on many partnerships. When I was leading CLG in 2018, we signed the joint development agreement with Saudi Aramco for crude-to-chemicals technology, also dubbed as the TC2C, and since that time, CLG has been pursuing the development of the crude-to-chemicals technology.

Critical to developing TC2C are the R&D sites – Chevron is situated in Richmond, California; Lummus is in Pasadena, Texas. CLG contributes in multiple aspects – the deep conversion of heavy crude oil, building on the strong position of CLG on heavy oil conversion, maximising yield, specifically naphtha, high selectivity of naphtha from heavy oil conversion, and last but not least smart hydrogenation. It is really exciting to see how Saudi Aramco, Lummus and CLG have come together as a very coherent team with clear objectives. I think this collaboration is a good reflection on how by joining forces we can come up with innovations that we would not have been able to achieve individually.

As the world transitions from crude reliance to greener energy sources, how significant is the potential increased refining revenue from converting crude to higher value chemicals?
Lummus has an important role to play in the energy transition that is currently ongoing and will for several decades as we reduce our collective carbon footprint and shift to more sustainable energy supplies. In 1907, when Lummus was founded, the first process technology the company worked on was production of transportation fuels from bio-feeds such as molasses. If we look at the history of Lummus, green technologies are part of our foundation and can be further improved upon.

Crude-to-chemicals is clearly a part of the solution in the energy transition. There are a lot of pieces that have to contribute to the energy transition as the demand balance between petrochemical products and fuel prices is significantly changing. If this drives the economics behind crude-to-chemicals, and a related issue is to have less carbon footprint, higher energy efficiency, better utilisation of hydrocarbons, then crude-to-chemicals is a great way to be more efficient. I want to call out the process intensification where we have an opportunity – the CDTECH technologies, or catalytic distillation, which is a great technology where we combine two functions in one machine, catalytic reactions as well as distillation. Process intensification is always on our mind and it always helps us to be more efficient and reduce carbon footprint. The crude-to-chemicals technology is a key part, but there are a lot of other parts that help in this respect.

Can you please elaborate on the applications of the portfolio of Lummus in specific projects in the Middle East?
The Middle East has been a very important region for us since the early years of Lummus. We have presence in all the Gulf countries and have been present in the region since the early days of oil. It is a great region because there is a certain cultural determination, I would say, to always improve the economic conditions and for diversification. Some of the projects that we have been working on the last few years in the region that I want to highlight, it is not all inclusive, are ADNOC’s clean fuel project (CFP); the KIPIC's Petrochemical Refinery Integration Project (PRIZe), which is obviously very fresh; and then the Bapco project in Bahrain called BMP (Bapco Modernisation Project). We have a big role to play there, especially with CLG. Then, we are associated in Duqm refinery and petrochemical complex in Oman. These are some of the examples but of course I would really miss a very important element if I do not mention Saudi Arabia here.

Saudi Aramco has invested in the export refineries in the 2000s, as you know, multiple world-scale very modern refineries geared to exporting products to Asia, Europe and other parts of the world. I am very proud that we are a partner to Saudi Aramco essentially in all their export refineries, and in their lube oil refineries.

Our role in the Middle East is unparalleled as a technology provider and it is really because of our ability to work in partnerships and work with our customers finding solutions that go beyond the expectations and are really satisfying. There is a new wave of petrochemical projects that you are seeing in the region.

It is remarkable that in the last six ethylene crackers in the pipeline worldwide, Lummus has won the contract in all. Many of them are in the Middle East. Some are already announced, for example the Amiral project. Some will be announced shortly, and it is just a testament of our drive to consistently improve our technologies.

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