In the Middle East, increased integration and diversification in the refining and petrochemicals sector has been a bid to stay competitive in a dynamic global market.

Thomas VADUM LA COUR Managing Director for Middle East HALDOR TOPSOE

in figures

Share of fertiliser used around the world made with the help of Haldor Topsoe technology50 percent

A preference for petrochemicals

November 12, 2015

The Middle East managing director for Danish company Haldor Topsoe, Thomas Vadum la Cour, talks to TOGY about the challenges and opportunities for international technology providers in Kuwait, as well as the increased integration and diversification of the petrochemicals sector. The catalysis company has licensed technology for the Clean Fuel Project and Al Zour refinery.

How is Kuwait’s downstream sector expected to evolve in the coming years?
Kuwait has great potential. Looking at global market dynamics we see an increasingly competitive market for refineries, where the major players are upgrading their exsisting facilities and integrating petrochemicals into the scheme, looking to both meet the increasingly stringent specifications and optimise the overall efficiency and value chain. Taking the initiative to upgrade the Mina Al Ahmadi and Mina Abdullah refineries into the Clean Fuel Project and execute the planned New Refinery Project is the right choice for Kuwait given these variables.
The same trend is occurring in other countries and differing regions of the world. In this context it is key to build on and expand the local expertise in the downstream sector. The Kuwait National Petroleum Company has dedicated significant resources towards enhancing local knowledge and capabilities. International technology licensors should see this as an excellent opportunity to help build local knowledge and strengths, not only in terms of projects but also in developing local innovation and entrepreneurship.

How can international technology licensors complete local mega-projects?
Working closely with local clients and other engineering partners to ensure the implementation of optimal technologies and configuration in the projects and operational excellence is key to ensuring successful major oil investments. Not all the clients have the same requirements, so tailoring the available technologies to their needs is extremely important.
Best practice examples are seen when the technology licensor follows the project from design through engineering, procurement and construction to startup operation. Keeping the relations tight ensures the exchange of knowledge that is vital for the success of the project.


Where do you see the greatest area of growth for the petrochemicals industry?
The majority of grassroots projects in the methanol and fertiliser segments, for example, have already been executed. There is a trend where local refineries are starting to look more downstream into various products, diversifying the product slate predominantly in the specialty chemicals and olefin segments.
In the Middle East, increased integration and diversification in the refining and petrochemicals sector has been a bid to stay competitive in a dynamic global market. The region is implementing the latest technologies and we are seeing an increased demand for high performance solutions within hydroprocessing and hydrogen production units for both newbuild and revamped refineries.
Furthermore, although the current global economic climate and market conditions have been indicators of slower growth in new large-scale fertiliser and methanol projects in the region, we are seeing an increasing interest in fertiliser and methanol industries to optimise operations in terms of energy and gas utilisation efficiency, as well as diversifying the product slate by using new technology to create valuable products from waste gas streams.
In recent years, we have seen China’s petrochemicals sector undergo rapid growth, and the US market has been stimulated by abundant shale gas and low feedstock prices. Furthermore, growth in the most developed and oil- and gas-rich countries in Africa is also expected, where new methanol and ammonia projects have been mushrooming within the last two to four years As such, industry operators in the refining and petrochemical sectors are wisely considering how to stay competitive.

What is the next value-adding trend in oil refining following the modernisation of facilities to produce Euro 5 quality fuels?
Being able to produce fuels to the specifications of European fuel standards is definitely the next step in advancing regional refining efforts. However, environmental standards are expected to continue to increase in Europe and elsewhere.
To remain competitive, Middle Eastern refineries will have to be able to accommodate new requirements as they gradually become more stringent. Furthermore, we expect that refiners will continue seeking added value by upgrading existing facilities and integrating petrochemicals. These types of developments require new technologies and continuous updating of refineries with the latest innovations.

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