TECHNIP ENERGIES: Making downstream industry more sustainable

Bhaskar Patelis Senior Vice President Sustainable Fuels, Chemicals and Circularity at Technip Energies.

Since joining the company in 2008, Bhaskar has held several business development and operational leadership positions, most recently as SVP Process Technology and Americas Business Unit, and as Managing Director of Technip Energies India.

Sustainable fuels, chemicals and circularity span such a wide range of technologies and applications, what are the common priorities for this business sector?

This business line covers our traditional markets – Refining, Petrochemicals, Ethylene and Fertilizers, as well as newer markets such as Biofuels, Biochemistry and Circularity. My role is to ensure that, when implementing our energy transition strategy, we pay more attention to these technologies, so that, overall, we adopt a coherent approach in all these areas. This means working closely with our Technology and Innovation (T&I) group, to drive the continuous improvement of existing technologies and, at the same time, evaluate and develop new technologies and solutions.

It’s a team approach. This means ensuring that knowledge is shared within the group. Our sales and One T.EN Delivery teams are regionally based, working closely with our customers to understand their specific needs and challenges. Our T&I group reviews appropriate technologies or solutions for specific prospects and, where appropriate, suggests ways to decarbonize these processes. We take ideas and processes that have worked in certain markets and seek to apply them globally. Our role is one of strategic input and coordination, to ensure that we send a coherent message to the market.

How is Technip Energies helping to make traditional industries – ethylene, refining and chemicals – more sustainable?

As a process integrator, we have a broad knowledge of the different technologies and solutions that can be deployed. Energy and material efficiency, heat integration, electrification, use of low-carbon fuels (such as blue or green hydrogen), feedstock substitution, capture and carbon utilization are all part of our decarbonization portfolio. In addition, we have alliances with a large number of technology partners, which means that we bring a holistic approach to developing process diagrams in a more decarbonized way. And we can bring this knowledge and applicable technologies to a very early stage of the process, at the stage of conceptual design, basic engineering or FEED. An added advantage of Technip Energies is our substantial EPC knowledge and experience which provides additional solutions to our customers.

The challenge for traditional businesses is to make changes. It’s progressing, but we still have customers looking to build projects with the lowest cost and fastest time to market. This is the economic reality. This is why decarbonization or plastic circularity are currently not always on the agenda because the return on investment is not yet apparent. But that’s no longer sustainable, and it’s our strategy to present them with alternatives and show them that decarbonization is possible and offers a longer-term financial benefit.

How do you see demand in this area evolving?

We are now seeing more and more customers, mainly in Europe, looking to decarbonise traditional factories by adding carbon capture, having more energy efficient furnaces, using renewable energy, considering options for electrification or heat integration. We also have customers who are considering using hydrogen as a fuel in furnaces.

Some technologies are available now, and I think the more we start implementing them, the more synergies we’ll see, the more benefits we’ll get, and the more cost-effective these processes will become. Costs will decrease as we move forward. We’ve started the journey over the last two years and I think as an industry we’ll continue to develop and make these technologies much more economical, much more carbon-friendly.

Is plastic recycling the solution?

Plastic is indispensable in many applications, so we look at many ways to remove plastics, including plastic pyrolysis, enzymatic depolymerization, or catalytic technologies. We need several solutions; There is no miracle solution.

Technologies exist to convert plastic waste into raw materials, but different types of plastics require different technologies. To address this issue, we have established a number of joint development agreements for advanced recycling with Synova, Agilyx, Alterra Energy and others to bring raw materials back into the loop. We have a technology called PLAnet™, in collaboration with Sulzer and Futerro, which makes plastic products from glucose that can degrade over a period of years rather than decades. And we are working with some customers on a new recycling framework and a circular economy for polyester.

However, the other side of the equation has yet to be resolved. We are still single digits in terms of plastic recycling and separation, so we have a long way to go. But I believe that once the problem of collection and sorting is solved, we can make rapid progress in recycling plastics, doubling the volume by 2030.

What are the main challenges and opportunities for Technip Energies in this area?

The main challenge we have right now is that there are a lot of technologies coming to market, but they need to have a more robust design in terms of continuous operation to bring them to a level where they can be economical.

This is an opportunity for Technip Energies. We can bring our experience and know-how to make them more continuous, to take new processes from laboratory scale to commercial scale. We have expertise in this area through our Weymouth laboratory in Boston as well as our Frankfurt laboratory in Germany.

The other way we act is as an integrator. We look at processes, our own as well as those of our partners, and find ways to fit them into a more sustainable flowchart. A successful example is our longstanding partnership with Neste around their NEXBTL™ technology. It allows the conversion of second-generation raw materials such as vegetable oil or fatty waste into renewable diesel and other renewable products. We have designed and built two major biofuel refineries in Europe and Asia and are currently working on their expansion. LanzaJet is another example. They have a biological conversion process, and we add our Hummingbird® technology through the front-end engineering package, to produce sustainable aviation fuel. It’s still early days, but it’s an example of how we’re integrating existing technologies with new technologies to help them evolve.

I would add that being a technology company and an EPC contractor with our own research labs sets us apart from many of our competitors. It is also an element that attracts good young talent, because we are a company that embraces technological development and new processes.

Internal and external partnerships are very important. We can only approach the energy transition as a group and not as individual companies. Engineering companies, raw material suppliers and buyers, we all have a common interest in working together to find the most practical solutions throughout the value chain.

Technip Energies’ leadership position in sustainable fuels, chemicals and circularity can make a difference in the world we live in.