What shape will the refining industry take?
Refineries and Petrochemical plants are considered amongst the most prized industrial assets in the world; the petrochemical industry of today is an indispensable part of the manufacturing and consuming sectors, churning out products which include paint, plastic, rubber, detergents, dyes, fertilizers, textiles, and even solvents.
However the appetite for economic development and urban progress, coupled with climate change concerns and the development of more efficient energy technologies, is driving change among both consumers and operators of the energy industries.
The 21st century is seeing a paradigm shift from West to East in the Refining & Petrochemicals business, with the Middle East & Asia emerging as global production hubs with natural advantages of low cost feedstock.
Major consumption centres are shifting to Asia given the rapid growth in demand in China on account of chemical intensive and export driven industry & India emerging as global consumption centres.
This trend is likely to also shake up the global industry with emergence of National Chemicals and Oil Companies as global players and established western companies having to exit or shrink unless they realign by moving eastwards through partnerships or strategic alliances to be near the consumption centres to catch up with Asian Petrochemical boom.
The Asian Downstream sector is now experiencing a move towards integrated petrochemicals and refinery complexes to maximize economies of scale and fully exploit the numerous integration opportunities available. The trend going forward is towards mega-refining and petrochemical integration. Preliminary winners are expected to be those who are focused on delivering value-added operations and are aggressive in reducing costs. This is a revolutionary step change for the industry.
However, as regional petrochemical development continues, the industry will face significant challenges relating to energy, feedstock availability and to climate change, particularly carbon dioxide emissions.