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Cover Story: Catalysing refining-petrochemical integration

by Martin Menachery on Feb 7, 2018


Rebecca Liebert, president and CEO, Honeywell UOP.
Rebecca Liebert, president and CEO, Honeywell UOP.

In the near future, all refineries will get integrated with petrochemical complexes, and all downstream facilities will become digitally connected, envisages Rebecca Liebert, president and CEO, Honeywell UOP, in an interview given to Martin Menachery.

Honeywell UOP is an innovator and enabler in the catalytic processing of hydrocarbons. The company has the widest offering of licensed technologies for the refining and petrochemicals manufacturing industry. Its core offerings are for the refineries, integrated with petrochemical complexes in many cases, and aromatics and propane dehydrogenation (PDH) units.

Honeywell UOP also has many natural gas processing capabilities in its portfolio of core competencies. In the Middle East, it offers many integrated natural gas processing technologies, which have the capability to remove all the contaminants like sulphur, water, mercury, etc. The company’s technologies also facilitate recovery of natural gas liquids.

“We focus on fully integrated solutions for the downstream industry. We demonstrate our core capabilities through our innovative solutions for the customers. Everything we do is to help our customers make more money – at the end of the day, it is all about better yields, lower CAPEX and OPEX, enhanced energy efficiency, etc.,” says Rebecca Liebert, president and CEO, Honeywell UOP.

“We also empower our customers with green capabilities, for example, making minimal VOC emissions. So, we are here to help our customers make more profits and be kinder to the environment. That is what our investments and our new solutions typically aim at,” Liebert adds.

Driving continuing success

In her earlier roles, Liebert was famous for leading the businesses she steered into new markets, diversifying the product portfolio, driving new product development, steering the businesses through industry downturns, and enabling a strong recovery. “I am very focussed on the customer. I have a saying which is: ‘You need to know the market better than the competition and the customers better than the customers know themselves.’ I think if an organisation follows this saying, that company will be very successful. I inculcate this philosophy throughout Honeywell UOP,” reveals Liebert.

“We need to think ahead of the competition every single day. And, we have to help our customers to be better than they can be by themselves every day. If we follow this philosophy, we will continue to be successful. That is really the way I think about running a company and empowering its people to help the customers more,” Liebert asserts.

Recent key innovations

In terms of introducing new technologies, Honeywell UOP has been very active in the past few years. For example, it recently unveiled the energy efficient Light Desorbent Parex process which is the most efficient way to recover high purity para-xylene from mixed C8 aromatics isomers. This process offers lower CAPEX and OPEX, and better energy intensity than any other process available in the market.

“On top of this, we launched our next-generation Oleflex capability, and continue to drive innovation in this process. The Oleflex process converts propane to propylene and isobutane to isobutylene using catalytic dehydrogenation. Compared with competing processes, Oleflex technology provides the smallest environmental footprint, the lowest cash cost of production and the highest return on investment,” observes Liebert.

“Then, we introduced ionic liquids alkylation technology. We call it ISOALKY which is the first successful liquid alkylation technology to be introduced in 75 years. While traditional technologies use hydrofluoric or sulphuric acid as a liquid alkylation catalyst, the new technology uses a non-aqueous liquid salt, or ionic liquid, at temperatures below 100ºC to convert a typical stream from a fluid catalytic cracker into a valuable high-octane blending component that lowers the environmental impact of motor gasoline. So, this is a greener technology,” Liebert explains.

“We are also focussed on modularisation and use of modular solutions to drive higher speed, better quality and enhanced reliability to help our customers get to the market faster.”

“We think about innovation as a continuing process. It is what we do for a living. We do nothing but innovation in catalysts, processes, technologies, equipment and software for the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors. This is our core competency. We are focussed on being the most innovative company in the world,” Liebert remarks.


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