This will be the 10th annual forum organised by Euro Petroleum Consultants. How have the refining and petrochemical industries in the region changed during that time? What topics were relevant for local producers 10 years ago and what can we expect at ME-TECH 2020?
Over the past 10 years, the downstream sector in the Middle East has undergone a number of significant changes. Regional refining capacities have increased by more than 20%, exceeding 9,700kbpd in 2018. As a result, the region further strengthened its position as a refining world centre and doubled the export of petroleum products.
Even more impressive is the evolution of petrochemicals production. For example, if at the end of the last decade, regional ethylene production capacity was estimated at 17 million tonnes/year, then currently it amounts to about 40 million tonnes/year.
The first ME-TECH forum was held in 2011. It was an interesting time for the global economy in general and global refining in particular. After record high refining margins in the mid-2000s, the industry experienced a serious drop in profitability as a result of the global challenges in 2008, which led to a decrease in capacity utilisation and rationalisation of refining in a number of regions, primarily in Europe.
However, it was precisely at this time that the Middle East’s pivotal role in refining was formed, for balancing the global petroleum products market with an emphasis on meeting the growing demand for petroleum products in the Asia-Pacific region.
Within the framework of the ME-TECH 2011 refining sessions, the main emphasis was placed on the production of clean fuels, hydrogen and sulphur management. A special session was devoted to technologies for residue upgrading, since IMO plans to tighten the requirements for the sulphur content in bunker fuel were already announced, and the refiners in the region and solution suppliers had to accept this challenge.
As for the petrochemical industries, regional companies were expecting a new phase in their development, characterised by a new round of growth in production capacities, diversification of feed and product portfolio, the extension of the value chain and expansion into foreign markets.
After 10 years, the emphasis of the forum has shifted, continuing to keep up with the needs of producers in the region and the achievements of leading suppliers of technology and services.
In addition to the usual panel session devoted to oil and gas trends and strategies, a special session will be devoted to international cooperation in oil and gas, in which, among other presentations, there will be a report on the successful cooperation between France’s Total and Saudi Aramco using the example of SATORP, a refining and petrochemical complex processing 450kbpd of crude.
A key note of the technical sessions will be the strengthening of the integration between refining and petrochemicals and the optimal implementation of crude to chemicals concept. Among the speakers are Axens, Bechtel, Honeywell UOP, IHS Markit, Liwa Plastics Industries Complex, Nexant, Shell Catalysts & Technologies, and TechnipFMC.
Special attention will be given to improving the efficiency of the refining and petrochemical industries, including using the latest achievements of Industry 4.0. Among the topics under discussion are digital transformation, smart operations, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.
The newest topic of ME-TECH 2020 will be a session devoted to sustainable technologies. One might think that the Middle East is not the region at the forefront of this trend, but technical solutions to reduce the carbon footprint and increase the environmental friendliness of the economy, are of great interest in this region.
Without doubt, the Middle East will retain its position as a global refining and petrochemicals production centre due to the huge reserves of hydrocarbons and a geographically advantageous location. However, current challenges to improve efficiency in the use of oil and gas and having a careful approach with regards to the environment are gaining in importance.
This forms the perceived need in the implementation of advanced technologies and specialised solutions, as well as in the discussion of the experience of their implementation. The Middle East Technology Forum for Refining & Petrochemicals serves these purposes being a key platform for sharing knowledge and experience in the region.
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