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Making of the Largest Public Sector Refinery
BPCL has indeed strengthened and expanded its areas of core competencies throughout the country. In its constant efforts to meet ever-increasing demand for petrochemical products, the company is expanding and diversifying its horizons. In an exclusive interview with CEW,
P Padmanabhan, Executive Director - Refineries Co-ordination, BPCL, talks about sustainable initiatives, refinerypetchem integration and increasing competition in the country. Padmanabhan is also in-charge of Petrochemicals Project of BPCL.

In recent times, as focus of policy makers as well as consumers has shifted towards the planet and profit, a new dimension of industrial growth in the form of sustainability has been added. Your comments?
Yes, it is imperative we protect the planet. If we donĘt do that, our very survival will be at stake. At BPCL we are also ensuring contribution to the welfare of the society.
In our annual report, we have talked at length on Non-Conventional Energy Initiatives and explained how BPCL is firm to tap non-conventional energy sources like bio-diesel, wind energy, solar energy and fuel cells. In this regard, steps are taken to develop non-conventional or renewable resources of energy. The organisation believes that promoting green fuels will protect the environment by reducing pollution and dependency on imported fuels. Further, the organisation is in discussion with various State Governments including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka to set up Bio-diesel Value Chains in these states.

What are you views on refinery and petchem integration? What are the key areas India will have to address to emulate this model successfully?
There is always synergy in integrating refinery and petrochemicals. Refiners should go for petrochemical because petrochemical profitability is higher than refining over the cycle; On average over the medium term, petchem offers higher profitability than fuels only refinery; Combined refinery-petchem complexes can be best option for global competitive advantage; Low cost feedstock from refinery leads to better synergy and value addition; petchem in the product portfolio hedges against drop in price/ demand of fuels; and Irrespective of location, refining-petrochemical integration can improve margins.
India is somewhere lacking in implementing the PCPIR concept. There are couples of regions, which have been announced but they are not functional as of now. This is something which needs to be addressed.
All the issues which are obstructing the operations towards making the PCPIR functional must be resolved immediately and these entire regions must go on stream.

Please tell us about the refinery and petrochemical integration or other additions undertaken by BPCL at its refineries in the country, particularly at Kochi refinery.
As we had announced earlier, we plans to spend up to 140 billion (USD 2.51 billion) over the next five years to expand its Kochi refinery. Under its expansion plan, the company will set up a petrochemical fluid catalytic cracker, which will generate 500 thousand metric tons per annum of propylene, to help the company diversify into petrochemicals. At our Kochi refinery, we are expanding Refinery capacity and the configuration is chosen to set up niche Propylene derivative project, which is integrated with the Refinery. The proposed joint venture for Kochi refinery will encourage a myriad of downstream small scale units. Some of the products proposed in our JV are Acrylic Acid, Acrylates, SAP, Oxo Alcohol, etc.

By 2015, all 23 plants of Sadara Petrochemical complex are expected to go on-stream with approximately 45 per cent of supplies targeted for the Indian market. How do you see that as a competition in Indian domestic market?
The business environment in Middle East is completely different from India. If we have to compete with an organisation, which is operating from outside India, we have to be innovative and extremely efficient. Government policies have big role to play in ensuring favourable environment for us. We have to be cost competitive in terms of both Capex and Opex. We have to have optimum world scale size plants. Our manufacturing and marketing strategies should be innovative. Further, we have look at minimising fringe and logistics cost. BPCL will invest about 20,000 crores in expansions and diversification during the 12th five year. The integrated expansion of the BPCL-Kochi Refinery will make the facility one of the largest public sector refineries in the country.

How was your experience at Chemtech World Expo 2013?
It was heartening to note the response to exhibition and conferences organised by Chemtech Foundation. There was an opportunity to exchange notes with potential entrepreneurs, Licensors and EPC companies. I am sure this will lead to further development of the Petrochemical industry in India.