Strategising Refinery Technology Solutions in Europe and Africa

Strategising Refinery Technology Solutions in Europe and Africa

Steve Wake, a licensing sales manager, shares how he’s strategised with customers on low-sulphur fuel projects to help them meet Marpol regulations.

By Steve Wake on May 10, 2020

I’m a licensing sales manager for Europe and Africa at Shell Catalysts & Technologies. Based in London, I’ve been a part of Shell for more than 30 years.

On an average workday, I negotiate license agreements and project contracts. This could be from my home office or with customers at their locations around the globe. After we agree on a contract, the Shell Catalysts & Technologies team leads the project to implementation. It’s been rewarding to collaborate directly with customers and to see our efforts result in successful projects.

Responding to Changing Regulations

In 2018, I served as a joint lead with the service manager to re-engage our customer, SAPREF. SAPREF is located in the city of Durban on the east coast of South Africa. It is South Africa’s largest crude oil refinery with about 35% of the country’s refining capacity.

SAPREF is a joint venture between Shell South Africa and BP South Africa. An original license agreement we’d had with SAPREF had self-terminated, because a project that was planned for 2013 was postponed. But in 2018, with new regulations and market conditions prevalent, the project was resurrected.

The SAPREF refinery needed to be upgraded to produce low sulphur diesel and to meet Marpol regulations.[1] The upgrade would also enable the refinery to meet changing customer preferences for cleaner diesel, like D50 and D10.[2]

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Our team collaborated with SAPREF to reinstate the original license and work towards long-term value for unit performance and profitability. Through our discussions, it was important to listen, maintain resiliency through challenges, and keep our common objective in mind.

Our negotiations were successful. The original license was reinstated, and the project progressed as once planned. In addition, we helped SAPREF find optimal solutions for unit performance with catalysts and reactor internals. The additional licenses complemented and added to the customer’s low-sulphur fuels projects. The new catalysts and reactor internals were designed to enable greater fuel utilisation and revamp performance.

I am still engaged with SAPREF to implement the signed licenses. We develop new projects to meet their operational objectives on an ongoing basis. They will continue to see benefits over the coming years as their new units become operational.

Related Article:  IMO 2020: Regulations and Solutions for Refiners

Recognising Value in Higher Specification Products

Today, I continue to identify business opportunities and solutions with customers. In the coming years, I think customers will be most impacted by technologies that reduce emissions and upgrade bottom-of-the-barrel feedstocks to higher quality products. Customers around the world will have to adapt to becoming a cleaner energy industry.

As regulatory requirements become more stringent, I believe licensing operations, rather than purchasing technologies, will continue to gain traction. Customers will have to continue modifying units to meet new regulatory limits.

Learn More About Shell Licensed Technologies

Licensing can also provide higher value and profit for products on the market. By adapting new technologies — and either implementing new units or revamping old ones — customers will be able to produce new, higher-specification and niche products to improve margins.

I’ve found it rewarding to help customers recognise the value of higher specification products in the market, while also helping the Shell Catalysts & Technologies brand become further recognized for our support and expertise.

It is important to me that we never give up on a customer. Especially when we are communicating in unfamiliar cultures and countries, building long-term and sustainable relationships has required drive, initiative, and humility.

I’ve always worked very hard individually. But through my career at Shell, I’ve seen the most impactful results by working as part of a coordinated team with a common objective.

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