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Can a priority imbalance lead to a Sustainability Stalemate?

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March 2023

The Global Downstream Industry is facing challenging times. Operations need to remain competitive, reliable, and profitable - even under volatile market conditions. Energy security is a priority, but at the same time, there is a need to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations. Can a priority imbalance - between the need to increase margins, reduce emissions, and protect energy security - lead to a sustainability stalemate?

Navigating this minefield will require strong partnerships between all stakeholders - investors, technology suppliers, and operators - to work together to implement sustainable solutions for the downstream sector - collaboration is key!

At Euro Petroleum Consultants (EPC), with our experience as a downstream consulting company, we fully recognise the importance of these collaborations, and the need to bring industry professionals together to exchange knowledge and experiences on these key industry developments. From day one this has been our mission across all our industry-leading events.

To address these important challenges, we held two of our industry-leading regional events (back-to-back) in Bahrain in January, ESF MENA - Energy & Sustainability Forum, and BBTC MENA - Bottom of the Barrel & Catalyst Technology Conference, both under the patronage of His Excellency Dr. Mohamed bin Mubarak Bin Daina, Minister of Oil and Environment, Special Envoy for Climate Affairs, and hosted by the Ministry of Oil & Environment.

After the resounding success of the inaugural ESF MENA, held virtually during covid-enforced travel restrictions, the industry was eager to meet in person and continue the decarbonisation conversation, and the second edition of this hugely popular, global series of events didn’t disappoint.

We opened proceedings with a highly engaging and insightful pre-conference seminar hosted by Honeywell UOP entitled, A Path Towards Carbon Neutrality: Innovations for the Refining & Chemicals industry.

ESF MENA 2023 Opening Ceremony by H.E. Dr. Mohamed bin Mubarak Bin Daina, Minister of Oil and Environment, Special Envoy for Climate Affairs

Figure 1. ESF MENA 2023 Opening Ceremony by H.E. Dr. Mohamed bin Mubarak Bin Daina, Minister of Oil and Environment, Special Envoy for Climate Affairs

The two-day conference then sought to address the greatest challenges and most promising opportunities for the MENA region to build a truly sustainable downstream industry, with compelling contributions from an esteemed and influential group of Thought Leaders and Domain Experts, notably: Waleed Al-Shalfan, SABIC, Mohammed Al Ruwaidhi, OQ, Bashir Dabbousi, Aramco, Suliman Al- Khattaf, TASNEE, Mohamed Al Shehab, nogaholding, Franky Smisaert, TotalEnergies, Magdy M. Hassan, ADNOC, Amin N. Nasser, Aramco, Richard Charlesworth, S&P Global Commodity Insights, Mark Houdek, Honeywell UOP, Andrew Inglis, NexantECA, Mohamed Al Ghailani, Boeing, Arun Arora, Chevron Lummus Global, Mohammad Abu Zahra, Global CCS Institute, Duncan Mitchell, KBC - A Yokogawa Company, Henrik Larsen KBR, Nicolas Menet, Axens, Markus Hartung, Evonik, Sashikant Madgula, Sulzer Chemtech, Islam Heikal, Daily Thermetrics, Raman Narayanan, Becht, Mohammed Benchekchou, Shell & AMG Recycling, Meher Doghri, AMG - Advanced Metallurgical Group, and Yassir Ghiyati, Topsoe.

This stellar line up of speakers and panellists covered a range of topics focused on decarbonising the MENA downstream industry, some of which included; Decarbonisation Strategies, Assets and Deployment; Proven Integrated Technology Solutions for Energy Transition & Efficiency; Instrumentation to Achieve Net Zero Objectives, Novel Process Technology Alternatives; Challenges of Producing Renewable Diesel; Opportunities for Alternative Fuels, Green Hydrogen Outlook, H2 in the GCC, Clean Ammonia Solutions, Carbon Capture Utilization & Storage (CCUS), Pathway to True Circularity; to name a few.

NEOM, one of the most exciting projects in the region, is planning the world’s largest renewable hydrogen project, and we had the great pleasure of having David. R. Edmondson, Chief Executive Officer, NEOM Green Hydrogen Company, provide the keynote address on Building the World's Largest Green Hydrogen Plant at Scale - a $5 billion world-scale green hydrogen-based ammonia production facility powered by renewable energy.

David. R. Edmondson, Chief Executive Officer, NEOM Green Hydrogen Company, ESF MENA

Figure 2. David. R. Edmondson, Chief Executive Officer, NEOM Green Hydrogen Company, keynote addess during ESF MENA

It was also a great pleasure to have Leon de Bruyn, President & CEO, Lummus Technology, Bryan Glover, President & CEO, Honeywell UOP and Jean Sentenac, President & CEO, Axens, join us again this year for the highly anticipated CEO’s Keynote Technology Panel to give their unique insight on the GCC's Path to Net Zero - Decarbonisation Strategies & Enabling Technologies.

We expanded our interactive experience with three additional, absorbing panel discussions, including; the Sky’s the Limit - Opportunities for Alternative Fuels; H2 in the GCC: Ready to be the Game Changer; and Circular Economy Strategies: Getting to the Next Level.

Technology providers have a key role to play in helping to decarbonise the downstream sector, and licensors have the expertise, skills, and process knowledge to help speed up the transition journey. We were fortunate to gain first-hand knowledge from global leaders: Honeywell UOP, Topsoe, Lummus Technology, KBR, KBC (a Yokogawa Company), Axens, Shell & AMG Recycling, Becht, Evonik, and Daily Thermetrics.

No sooner had ESF MENA concluded than we were welcoming sponsors, speakers, exhibitors, and delegates to the 9th edition of BBTC MENA where we sought to update regional Refiners on the latest technology solutions to help them maintain high levels of productivity, competitiveness, resilience, and profitability through upgrading heavier lower value components.

From a downstream processing perspective upgrading the bottom of the barrel remains a pressing challenge. There is a real need for refiners to continue upgrading heavier components and increasing conversion to curb low-value fuel oil production. With the shift toward petrochemicals and chemicals, there are also new opportunities and new diverse revenue streams.

The two-day conference assembled an incredibly strong lineup of well-established, highly experienced industry stalwarts, including: Vipan Goel, ART HYDROPROCESSING, Younis Al-Hirz, NexantECA, Fatema Hashem, Bapco, Lucas Groeneveld, ART Hydroprocessing, Mahmood Alawi, CLG, Sophie Babusiaux, Axens, Peter Nymann, Topsoe, Mitch Moloney, BECHT, Ralf Gast and Felix Jülch, ART-Envi Services, Ian Elgey, KBR, David Chaplin, Bechtel, Shaikh Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Bapco, Jawad Ahmed Aleem, PARCO, Joseph Ibrahim, Axens, Najd AlAjmi, KIPIC, Mohammed Benchekchou, Shell Catalysts & Technologies, Robert Wade, ART Hydroprocessing) IK (Inkyum) Kim, Albemarle, Joey Berkhout, Hoover CS, Mariano Del Pozo, SATORP, Ibrahim Althaali, Aramco, Vergel Lantaco, Crystaphase, Deniz Keles, Daily Thermetrics, Martin Gough, Calgavin, Mohammed Al Shehab, nogaholding, and Remi Argiro, Albemarle.

This highly sought-after list of speakers and panellists covered the following topics: Coke Drum Studies and Net Present Value Economics; Environmental Coke Handling in Grassroot DCU Operations; Petrochemical Integration Using Bottom of Barrel Conversion Technologies; Innovative Integrated Upgrading Schemes; a Novel Approach Employed for KIPIC ARDS Pilot Plant Testing with Heavy Feed; High-Performance Catalyst Systems, Maximising Heavy Resid RFCC, Impact of Packaging on SDG's, Assessing Decarbonation Routes at SATORP, Active Filtration in VGO Hydrotreating, Impact of Thermal Profiling on Reaching Net-Zero, Future Proofing with Energy Efficiency - Low-cost, High ROI Solutions and many more.

BBTC MENA Closing panel discussion: Bottom of the Barrel & Sustainability

Figure 3. BBTC MENA Closing panel discussion: Bottom of the Barrel & Sustainability

Improvements in Process technologies and catalyst performance innovations will help diversify, increase profitability, maximise production, increase integration & develop new revenue streams. Making the right selection in terms of technology, catalyst management, waste management, and different recovery & regeneration techniques is key when deciding on the best operational strategy for the coming years.

Attendees thoroughly enjoyed the mix of thought-provoking presentations, highly interactive panel discussions, unique pre-arranged client meetings, the showcase of technologies and solutions, and the variety of networking opportunities, not to mention the invaluable insight they received from the region’s major producers (Aramco, Bapco, KIPIC, PARCO, and SATORP), as well as from leading consultants and solutions providers (Albemarle, ART Hydroprocessing, ART-Envi, Axens, Becht, Bechtel, CalGavin, CLG, Crystaphase, Daily Thermetrics, Hoover CS, KBR, NexantECA, Shell Catalysts & Technologies, and Topsoe.

audience at BBTC MENA 2023

Figure 4. BBTC MENA

As the curtain came down on another successful EPC event, the overwhelming response was, a lot was shared, a lot was learned, and most importantly, attendees left having strengthened existing relationships and made new connections, and with a greater understanding of the importance of getting the balance of priorities right - to avoid a potential sustainability stalemate.

For more information on both events, please visit and or simply email us at