Interview with Diomidis Stamoulis
Head of Strategy for Manufacturing Operations, Hellenic Petroleum
What do you think the impact of COP 21 will be on the refining industry?
It will have a huge impact in the refining industry in Europe and will play a crucial role in future legislations and agreements. We are already operating in a heavily legislated environment and I feel that as refiners in Europe, we have additional expenditures compared to those regions that surround Europe. We need to anticipate increased competition due to the fact that Europe will have a common legislation but in surrounding regions the legislation could be vastly different. An example of this is Greece which sits at the edge of Europe and competes with refineries in Turkey and the Middle East where the regulations for sustainability are not mandatory; in this sense COP 21 will have critical implications for the economic balance. It may cause an uneven situation among refineries and become a catalyst for increased competition.
Do you think the European Commission is doing enough to help refiners?
The European Commission has to find a balance between opposing forces within the region. On one hand it is difficult for the European Commission to ignore the impact that refining has had on the current climate change crisis, with many people and NGOs vocally opposing to the industry. However, it is also true the industry serves around 95% of our transport needs, produces products that people use in their daily lives and provides jobs for thousands of individuals. If products produced by the refining industry ceased to exist we cannot imagine what the repercussions would be.
Personally, I believe that until now the European Commission has tried to remain on the side-lines of the criticism of the refining industry, but it will become increasingly difficult in the future to avoid confrontation due to regulations concerning carbon emissions. We are slowly phasing out fossil fuels and refining will have to bear the cost of that.
Do you think that operational excellence still separates the best and worst performers in downstream?
Absolutely yes! Throughout my years in this industry I have seen a vast amount of progress in technology advances and I believe that trying to be efficient in all processes is a daily job for every refiner. In order to survive, preparation and adaptability is key. Focusing on long term vision is part of the culture of operational excellence, focussing on where the technology is making advances while taking into consideration the fact that refining technologies may take years to implement.
Operational Excellence can also be seen in short time business strategy in the daily scheduling of your operation to be optimally efficient. I strongly believe in operational excellence and think it is a crucial process that has to take place continuously in our industry in order to drive success.
Are energy costs and efficiency still important to Europe, global refiners and petrochemical producers?
People sometimes forget that the oil price has lowered and continue to try and make savings as the cost of energy becomes higher. I believe you should always prepare yourself for the worst, and even in this environment of low oil prices you should not reduce investments. Doing this can place you in a dangerous position in the future when prices may spike again; being efficient is something that should be continuously designed and implemented.
Will we see an increasing move towards greater “digitalisation”? i.e. supply chain (supply and demand market analytics, digital processes); predictive maintenance; operations intelligence: digital workers/remote operations.
Digitalisation it is a matter of cost benefit analysis, refiners who have simple, repetitive operations and are not continuously evolving will hesitate to invest in digitalisation on an operational level. Like all systems it’s not a matter of buying new software, it’s the mentality and culture of the business which is key. What we have observed in several ‘digitalisation’ products is that businesses are very eager to buy the tools and the right technology to help move their businesses forward. If a company want to invest in this technology and make it as cost-effective as possible, you need to ensure the company has the right mentality about the digitalisation otherwise success is not guaranteed. Digitalisation will play a crucial rule in this industry and if we ignore it we are ignoring reality.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s ERTC event?
Last time I participated, I was really impressed with the variety of topics discussed, and how the event addressed the challenges of our time, both technical and through long-term vision.
What do you think the benefits are of events such as ERTC for the industry?
The atmosphere of the event, the discussions and presentations are the catalysts which invite key conversations between participants. It’s a great gathering of the refining industry and the fact that it is held yearly means it can always include recent developments; I think that the variation of participation from various areas is important. The participants are a good mix of refiners, suppliers and technology experts who have an excellent opportunity to share knowledge and opinions.