The 5th Med Hub Day defines the future trends of the petrochemical sector in the Mediterranean
Published in 2021
Decarbonisation, the energy transition and sustainability were the basis of the debates on the future of petrochemicals
The hybrid event brought together more than a hundred online and in-person attendees
The petrochemical sector has undergone many changes in recent times, but recovery seems to be on the horizon
The Port of Tarragona concentrates 14% of the petrochemical traffic in the Mediterranean
The Med Hub Day 2021, organised by the Port of Tarragona as a hybrid online/in-person conference on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 November, served to define the future trends of the petrochemical sector in the Mediterranean. With more than 100 attendees between both formats, speakers of international stature analysed the recent changes the sector has undergone and those it can expect to face in the coming years.
The 5th Med Hub Day was held at the Tarragona Seminary and was attended by a total of 15 European speakers specialising in the world of ports and hydrocarbons, as well as experts in the field of chemical and petrochemical product logistics.
The analyses presented by the experts highlighted the keys to the future faced by ports in terms of logistics, capacity and sustainability. At a crucial time for the change in trends towards a new model, many of the ideas in the presentations had in common sustainability and the emergence of new types traffic derived from it.
One of the general conclusions of the meeting was that "Mediterranean ports must adapt to the challenges of the energy transition". This year's edition of Med Hub Day helped shed light on all these challenges for the future and, increasingly, for the present.
Tarragona handles 14% of the petrochemical traffic in the Mediterranean
In his welcome speech, the Port of Tarragona president, Josep Maria Cruset, pointed out that “the Port of Tarragona will continue with its goal of improving, investing in strategic infrastructures to increase its traffic, and augmenting intermodal transit”. Given that, "we are in a period of change and this brings opportunities that we have to be able to take advantage of", the president stated that "the Port of Tarragona is working to move forward in time". Mr Cruset went on, “thanks to this continuous work and thanks to the investment effort, both public and private, Tarragona is one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean in terms of petrochemical products traffic, handling 14% of the total volume in the Mediterranean”.
First Session, Ports and Terminals
In the first session of Med Hub Day 2021, Jordi Anglès Jové, Port Tarragona Commercial Coordinator, analysed the liquid bulks market in the Mediterranean and the links with petrochemical hubs. To do this he revealed the results of a study carried out last year which showed that around 364 million tonnes of liquid bulks were moved in the Mediterranean in 2019. He highlighted the Port of Tarragona’s storage capacity, which places it among the ports with the largest capacity in Europe: “It is the third largest enclave in Europe in terms of production capacity in tons, with a total of 18.2 million, behind Lombardy and Rhine-Westphalia and ahead of Algeciras, Huelva and Cartagena”.
Dialogue on port strategies in the new normal
Genoveva Climent, Port of Tarragona Commercial Director, and Ronald Backers, Port of Rotterdam Director of Innovation, then took the stage. Both addressed the future of oil refineries and agreed that "they will need to reinvent or transform themselves to continue producing fuels from new raw materials". The two speakers also agreed that ports are facing the emergence of new types of cargos resulting from the changes in the coming years in the petrochemical sector: the circular economy (reuse of plastics), energy transformation (green hydrogen), new raw materials, etc.”.
In this port-to-port dialogue, the Port of Tarragona Commercial Director stated that
"Ports have the obligation and commitment to invest in order to anticipate market trends and the sector’s needs, as the Port of Tarragona is currently doing." In addition, Ms Climent pointed out the need and commitment of the port of Tarragona to have good storage infrastructures to provide facilities for companies that are committed to Tarragona.
In this debate on port strategies for the new normal, Ronald Backers, Director of Innovation at the Port of Rotterdam, emphasised that the Dutch port's strategy was based on “working with the city council to attract industrial activity into the port and on improving the docks in order to facilitate operations, taking advantage of the proximity of refining and storage”.
Storage terminal round table
The face-to-face session ended with the round table on terminals. Anastasia Mozgovoy, director of Euroenergo, explained that “terminals are facing changes that the pandemic has accelerated. Companies have already had to make several alterations to their businesses, beginning in 2008 with the movement towards a more global economy and, it now seems, towards a more local logistics chain”. She explained that "the biggest change we will see will be the decrease in hydrocarbons and the growth of biofuels."
For his part, Leandro Crespo, head of operations in Tarragona for TEPSA, stated that “our sector is facing a new change, from the tank to the container, due to the new raw materials that the sector will use in the future ”. And Josep Forcadell, Vopak Terquimsa’s commercial director, affirmed that “ecofuels will play a very important role in the future and all the agents involved will have to adapt to this new scenario”. And he added in an optimistic tone that "the chemical sector is resilient and a promising future awaits it."
The three representatives of the port terminals agreed on calling for the ports to maintain close contacts with the market, to invest in increased storage capacity, infrastructure and improved mooring points, to achieve a powerful hinterland and to have the ability to diversify. These companies also explained that Euroenergo, TEPSA and Vopak Terquimsa are investing in adapting to energy transformation, improving connectivity and generating renewable energy, etc. with the aim of becoming greener and more sustainable.
The day ended with a networking session among all the attendees in which they were able to exchange opinions and feelings about everything that had been said during the presentations.
Second day of the 5th Med Hub Day
The second day of Med Hub Day 2021 began on Friday with a session on "Petrochemical Companies and Hubs". Daniel de Miguel from Cepsa was charged with opening the session with his talk on bunkering. De Miguel highlighted the increase in new fuels that "will account for more than 10% by 2030" and added that "the Mediterranean is a key point on the world's major sea routes and has significant potential for bunkering activity".
Javier Azagra (Repsol), Fran Sánchez (Dow Iberica) and Albert García (BASF) took part in the dialogue with the petrochemical companies. BASF’s representative highlighted the Port of Tarragona as "our reference port as a distribution point for different production centres located in the hinterland".
Fran Sánchez of Dow Iberica wished to underline the union of the petrochemical cluster: "it is important to be able to achieve the global sustainability objectives". Repsol’s representative, Javier Azagra, concluded the conversation by emphasising the role of costs "to be able to develop a hub port, from port services to logistics costs".
The future of petrochemicals in the Mediterranean
Olivier Maronneaud (HIS Markit) closed this session with the presentation “The future of petrochemicals in the Mediterranean” in which he analysed the past to look to the future: “Covid-19 has changed different fundamental aspects related to the chemical industry, but recovery appears to be on the way ”. Maronneaud spoke on the highly topical issue of the increase in energy prices that has caused "disruptions in the logistics chains leading to increased transport costs." The consultant ended his presentation by pointing out that the road to "electrification and hydrogen could serve to decarbonise the industry".
Energy transition and sustainability to end the 2021 edition
In the final sessions held in the emblematic Tarragona Seminary, the participants directly addressed the subjects that had come up most often during the previous sessions: the energy transition, decarbonisation and sustainability, the origin of the major concerns and challenges for the sector’s future. Paul Hickin, Director of S&P Global Platts, noted that the decarbonisation of the maritime sector "could be achieved quickly in short distances." In his presentation he also spoke about the energy transition and the role hub ports can play.
The last speaker at the V Med Hub Day was Martijn Elbers from Lineas, who spoke about the Mediterranean Corridor. It is a service that "will bring Tarragona and the whole Mediterranean closer to Europe" and that "its arrival will open up new opportunities for liquid bulk cargos".
Jordi Anglès was entrusted with closing the event. He thanked all those in-person and online attendees for their participation in the fifth edition of Med Hub Day and he looked forward to next year’s conference, hoping that it will be 100% face-to-face.