Key representatives from Russian and international oil and petrochemical companies including BP, Shell, LUKOIL and SIBUR, gathered in Moscow to attend the inaugural UNIHEAT Annual Conference: “Emerging technologies for refinery energy efficiency”.
The conference, showcasing technologies and projects under development by Imperial College and BIC in the UNIHEAT project, took place at the Hypercube, Skolkovo Innovation Centre on 12th September 2013.
Steering research to meet industrial needs
Following a warm welcome from the project co-directors, delegates heard Mr. Dan Coy from BP speak about collaboration with UNIHEAT as a major industrial partner. Mr. Coy emphasised the value generated for BP through steering the direction of UNIHEAT’s research programme to align with company needs. He also praised the flexibility of the collaboration agreement, which allows for other companies to easily join the project alongside BP.
Heat exchange revolution
A further highlight in the programme was the inspiring keynote address, delivered by Professor Geoffrey Hewitt, from Imperial College London and winner of the Global Energy Prize 2007. Speaking on the importance of accurate heat exchange equipment design in several industries, Professor Hewitt reviewed existing design methodologies and limitations, particularly when multiphase flows with multi-component mixtures are present. He also indicated the key developments needed to revolutionise this critical area of industry.
Presentations by joint Russian and UK teams highlighted significant developments in each of the eight UNIHEAT research themes, from waste heat recovery to drag reduction in oil pipelines, which encouraged lively interactions with the industrial participants.
Improvement in energy efficiency – a Russian priority
The day concluded with a question time panel session focusing on the key challenges facing the oil and petrochemical industries both in Russia and globally.
The panel, moderated by UNIHEAT’s Industry Engagement Manager Dr. Francesco Coletti, elicited enthusiastic contributions from representatives of oil and gas companies Shell and LUKOIL, petrochemical company SIBUR and technology supplier Axens, in addition to the UNIHEAT co-directors Prof. Oleg Martyanov and Prof. Sandro Macchietto, and Mr.Paul Docx of Imperial Consultants and representing the UNIHEAT Industry Engagement Programme.
The discussion highlighted the improvement of energy efficiency as a key priority for industry in Russia. Challenges were identified in the areas of treatment of crude oils with high sulphur content and performance of the visbreaking and hydrocracking processes. The discussion covered potential mechanisms for collaboration between industry and research, in addition to emphasising the requirements and challenges for effective technology transfer to the Russian market and some possible ways forward.
Both the audience and panel showed a great appetite for continuing the discussion, demonstrating an encouraging interest in taking forward the core role and objectives of the UNIHEAT project.
Atanas Ivanov from LUKOIL commented:
“This was a great conference with a welcoming atmosphere and brilliant participants! It is really important for industry to engage with academia in this type of research in order to ensure that we are all on the same page in terms of the types of technology and innovation that are needed.”
The UNIHEAT team are now working to develop further links with high profile industrial companies in addition to engaging other key players in a debate on future technologies in the oil and petrochemical sector.