In February, Euro Petroleum Consultants (EPC) held the 9th edition of their premier technical downstream event for the Middle East – ME-TECH – Middle East Technology Forum for Refining and Petrochemicals.
The event was held in Abu Dhabi with the support of ADNOC as strategic partner. The two-day conference was attended by over 350 delegates representing a wide spectrum of the downstream sector, ranging from oil refiners and petrochemical producers, including ADNOC, Bapco, Borouge, Duqm Refinery and Petrochemical Industries Company, Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Company (KIPIC), Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), KPC, Orpic, SABIC, Saudi Aramco Shell Refinery Co (Sasref), Saudi Aramco, Ministry of Oil (Iraq), Khartoum Oil Refinery (Sudan), Byco Petroleum, Reliance Industries, Bharat Petroleum and Hyundai Oilbank, amongst others, to the leading international suppliers of technology, services and equipment.
The conference kicked off with an opening speech by Jasem Ali Al Sayegh, CEO of ADNOC Refining, in which he confirmed the company’s development course aimed at ensuring sustainable economic prosperity of the UAE, and wished all conference participants an enjoyable and worthwhile experience at ME-TECH.
ME-TECH 2019 focused on the key industry trending topics such as remaining competitive in today’s market through increased refining and petrochemical integration opportunities, joint ventures, partnerships and acquisitions. Discussing and sharing views on the potential game changers, IMO 2020 regulation, the growing importance of electric vehicles, insight on new innovations in digital transformation and optimisation – and not forgetting the importance of human capital – adapting the industry’s approach and use of new tools to shape and guide a new generation of skilled and motivated engineers.
It is clear to all that the refining and petrochemical industry is experiencing interesting but challenging times, which is due to both political and economic reasons. Among the risk factors for oil refining is the slowdown in the growth rate of fuel consumption against the backdrop of increased use of electric vehicles. As a result, some commentators consider peak oil demand a possibility. On a brighter note, it is also predicted that the global growth in demand for chemical and petrochemical products will continue at a high rate, driven by rising standard of living. In this regard, solutions that enhance the integration between refining and petrochemical, and facilitate the implementation of crude-oil-to-chemicals projects are becoming increasingly important.
According to Nadia Bader Al-Hajji, deputy CEO, petrochemicals and LNG, KIPIC, for the survival of the fittest, downstream needs to meet growing demand in refined fuels and petrochemicals, invest to cope with changing regulations, invest in flexibility to adapt to the market and in integration, as well as to build-in operational excellence, reliability and maintainability into all stages of capital projects and asset lifecycle.
As an example of successful integration, Mubarak Al-Mutairi, technical services manager of KNPC, presented a case study of KNPC integration, Kuwait Paraxylene Production Company and EQUATE’s plant located in Kuwait and producing polyethylene, polypropylene, monoethylene glycol and styrene.
Displaying the technological trends in the development of petrochemical industry, the conference showed an interest in solutions that allow increasing the production of propylene. For example, McDermott, ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions and Rezel presented their latest advances in propane dehydrogenation (PDH) technology, and Dr Mikael Berthod, vice president of ADNOC Refining Research Centre, introduced the new catalyst formulation, which allows a significant increase in the yield of propylene at the RFCC unit.
According to Valentin Kotlomin, director of strategic studies and downstream economics of EPC, the importance of propylene is increasing due to wide range of its derivatives and their applications, and there are a number of technologies that allow to produce propylene from different feedstocks as well as to convert it into high demand products.
In the refining section of the conference, the results of a survey conducted during the Middle East Catalyst Technology Conference – ME-CAT 2018 – held by EPC in Bahrain last December were confirmed. Then, it was noted that, in the opinion of oil refiners in the Middle East, the hydrocracking unit is the moneymaking machine at the refinery due to the high yield of middle distillates with ultra-low sulphur content. In addition, hydrocracked light distillates are excellent feed for petrochemical products, providing refining-petrochemical integration.
At ME-TECH, Shell Global Solutions presented a case study on the achievement of operational excellence at Sasref hydrocracker, and Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) shared their latest achievements in the residue hydrocracking technologies field.
Particular attention at ME-TECH 2019 was paid to digital transformation in refineries and petrochemical plants. It is common knowledge that the subject is a current hot topic; however, the importance of its proper implementation cannot be underestimated.
According to a report by Abdul Nasser Al Mughairbi, senior vice president, digital, ADNOC, one of the ‘Oil & Gas 4.0’ revolution slogans is ‘It’s All About the Data’, and the company, in their digital and artificial intelligence vision, focuses on machine learning, predictive maintenance, supply chain optimisation, cost optimisation and production stability.
Another example of digital strategy implementation in the Middle East is Saudi Aramco. Yousif Abualsoud, project engineer, presented the Integrated Manufacturing Operations Management System (imoms) that is a set of advanced and automated decision support systems for the business processes of the Jazan refinery, integrated gasification combined cycle and marine terminal.
EPC plans to continue paying close attention to the development of refining and petrochemical industry in the Middle East and looks forward to the 10th anniversary of the Middle East Technology Forum for Refining and Petrochemicals, which will be held in Abu Dhabi during 18-20 February 2020.
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