ABB teams up with BASF to explain digitalization in the chemical industry

2018-02-07 - The collaboration leveraged ABB’s technology leadership and BASF’s industry expertise to highlight new growth opportunities for the chemical industry.
Transformation is key to continued success in the chemical industry. The hyper competitive nature of the chemicals business is forcing leaders to look to digital technology as a means of delivering competitive advantage. With the rising standards of living and higher disposable incomes, the global chemicals demand is expected to more than double by 2030, hence the industry needs to brace itself for rapid technology disruption in an evolving energy landscape. Companies must continue to evolve to meet the headwinds and challenges from mega trends, macroeconomic factors, energy volatility and fast-paced technology which could bring huge rewards yet also risks to established chemical sectors.

With this backdrop, ABB demonstrated how the concepts of automation and digitalization can be applied to chemicals operations to make them more efficient and productive by significantly reducing costs, schedule and risks at the 12th Annual Gulf Petrochemical and Chemical Association (GPCA) forum in Dubai. BASF, the largest chemical producer in the world joined forces with ABB to host a seminar on ‘Digitalization in the chemical industry.’ During the session at the GPCA forum, close to 200 industry experts came together to discuss the current state of the chemicals market and how digital technologies will and are already impacting it.

Insights from the session

Dr. Frithjof Netzer, Chief Digital Officer, BASF kicked off the session by giving insights to the digital journey at BASF. “It is clear that digitalization continues to be a source of transformational change for the chemical industry. It allows us to add value to our customers through digitally enabled products and services. ABB has been an innovative partner throughout our journey towards a digital future.” said Dr. Netzer.

“The digital journey – and the fact that value creation happens at every level: device, process, plant and enterprise – is changing the way we are thinking and working. This transformation is improving how we build relationships with customers, partners and each other,” commented Havard Devold, Global Digital leader from ABB’s Oil, Gas and Chemicals business during his presentation on ABB AbilityTM , ABB’s digital solution to the market. Mr. Devold used proven examples of where ABB Ability™ creates powerful solutions and services that solve real business problems and produce tangible business opportunities, helping consumption.

The team talked about how this disruptive change isn’t only impacting existing facilities but it has also changed the tone for the future of project execution within the chemical industry. Dan Overly, Global Head of Product Management, ABB Oil Gas and Chemicals said, “The way companies are approaching projects has changed significantly. Cost overruns and schedule delays are no longer acceptable. By putting the customer’s needs first we are moving our focus from product-centric to a more ‘outside-in’ approach. This means having much better understanding of customer pain-points and where we can help them to identify opportunities for their business.”

In the Middle East, there is an overall strategic shift from producing commodity chemicals and petrochemicals to going further downstream into specialty chemicals, spreading further out into the value chain of the oil, gas and chemical sectors. Experts during the session discussed how the region is deploying more and more advanced technologies in many new mega projects as well as in upgradation and expansion programmes of existing facilities. It has been integrated equipment, systems and technologies that have made many of the early-adopter projects successful. Sadara Chemical Company (Sadara) – a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and The Dow Chemical Company – is a striking project where ABB has delivered all process control systems across the 26 integrated world-scale plants.

“Automation and digitalization done in the right way will further improve the uptime, productivity, energy efficiency and safety in the downstream industry. There is already a massive impact of automation and digitalization in the refineries and petrochemical facilities, and this trend is going to be more powerful in the future. The direction of this technology development is not just connecting systems but running them in a collaborative way with an increasing degree of autonomy. The way humans collaborate with plants is changing and ABB is at the forefront of helping customers to be successful,” summarized Joerg Theis, Global Head of Service, ABB Oil, Gas and Chemicals.

Trends to push the industry forward

The GPCA session with BASF brought light to many of the trends around digitalization and disruptive technologies. Global megatrends and challenges like ageing workforce, need for higher productivity, drive for safe and secure operations, climate change and urbanization along with population growth will continue to push the chemical industry to identify and implement sustainable solutions and embed rapid innovation. There is a strong need for industry collaboration, like ABB and BASF, as newer players emerge and global trade practices and regulations change faster than ever. It is time for industry players to work in parallel and think global as game changing technologies take hold.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids, serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally. Continuing a history of innovation spanning more than 130 years, ABB today is writing the future of industrial digitalization and driving the Energy and Fourth Industrial Revolutions. As title partner of Formula E, the fully electric international FIA motorsport class, ABB is pushing the boundaries of e-mobility to contribute to a sustainable future. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 136,000 employees.