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Technological developments essential for petrochemicals business

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

With the majority of GCC’s petrochemical companies adopting a strategy for innovation management, top executives from regional and international organisations emphasised the importance of cultivating an awareness of emerging technologies, their business and external factors that influence their operations while implementing plans, at the 2nd Research & Innovation Summit, hosted by the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) in Dubai.

“Technological developments are costly and uncertain but have a profound impact on [the petrochemicals] business,” said Dr Moayyed Al- Qurtas, Chairman, GPCA Research & Innovation Committee. “A deep understanding of the interaction between technology and our business is critical for our survival, growth and profit.”

Dr Al- Qurtas advised that organisations must plan for a long haul game. “Major breakthroughs are rare and can take decades rather than years. Investments are very high and need to be judicious. Investments in performance chemicals, like plastic, need to be understood before major decisions.”

Global populations are expected to stabilise at 9 or 10 billion people by 2050, with a majority of the growth coming in developing economies in Asia and Africa, making the Middle East a region with great opportunities. “This region has a bird’s eye view of developments because most of the 2 billion people that will inhabit this Earth will live in urban environments,” said Dr Thomas Zacharia, Executive Vice President, R&D, Qatar Foundation and Chairman of the Board, Qatar Science and Technology Park. “Modern cities will truly be the living laboratories of tomorrow.”

“If you look at the world we live in everything is made possible by the fuels and materials that are made by [petrochemical] companies. From transport to fabrics to plastic goods and even bottled water, we enable the modern lifestyle,” added Dr Gavin Towler, Chief Technology Officer, UOP.

By 2050, Dr Towler predicted that energy demand will rise by 40% as people will need more electricity, natural gas and oil to live, work and survive. “[As an industry] we will need to get hydrocarbons from where they are found to where they are needed, convert oil and gas efficiently into the fuels and chemicals that people need, maximise the value of our product slates to as to generate the best return for our investors and do all of this without harming the environment.”

“The GCC’s petrochemical industry has to create competitive advantages which are not solely based on access to favourably priced hydrocarbons, and research and innovation will play a pivotal role in realising this goal,” said Dr Abdulwahab Al- Sadoun, Secretary General, GPCA. “We have grown into an industry worth more than a US$1 billion with a 140 million t capacity in just over four decades. Moving forward, it is clear that there is not one specific success model or one best practice which works for everybody. Companies have to find their specific way to leverage research and innovation in order to gain or keep a competitive advantage.”

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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