“What the region should do is to monetize the gas from non-conventional sources in relevant industrial applications. A new urea plant in an agricultural country like Argentina makes total sense, considering the Latin American region imports 5 million tonnes of urea fertilizer every year.”
Could we have some background about Haldor Topsoe and your career at the company?
Haldor Topsoe company started in Denmark in 1940 and has been a world leader in catalysis since then. With around 2,200 employees all over the world, we supply high-performance catalysts, proprietary technologies and equipment, licensing, process design, engineering, and services for customers in the chemical and refining industries. We are also at the forefront of developing sustainable technologies.
I joined Haldor Topsoe in 2001, after working 20 years for YPF in Argentina in the refining business. After staying seven years in Denmark, where I headed Topsoe’s hydrocracking catalyst segment worldwide, I took part in opening our Latin American office in Buenos Aires in 2008. We started the office with two people, and since 2016 I have been in charge as Managing Director, including the three main segments: refining, chemicals, and sustainables. Today, the Buenos Aires office has 25 engineers working on customized solutions for our clients, and we have expanded with branches in Brazil and Mexico.
May we have more details of Haldor Topsoe’s areas of expertise?
Haldor Topsoe invests around 10% of its revenues in research and development (R&D) every year. We have the most comprehensive knowledge of heterogeneous catalysts and catalytic processes for the chemical and refining markets within one company anywhere. We are global market leaders within ammonia, ultra-low sulfur diesel, and hydrogen, and we are very strong in methanol, sulfur management, and hydrocracking refining.
We typically do not execute EPC activities on projects, with the exception of some cases where we deliver modular plants. For instance, we supplied YPF with a modular hydrogen plant for their Luján de Cuyo refinery in Argentina, built in Europe, in 2011. Typically, we provide the technology, license, critical proprietary equipment, catalysts, and basic engineering, and in some cases detailed engineering.
What is the company’s history in Argentina and the wider region?
The company already had a strong presence in Argentina when the Profertil ammonia/urea plant began operation in 2000 with Topsoe technology. Today, we are the undisputed market leader in ammonia and hydrocracking catalysts in Latin America, and we also have very considerable market shares within refining and petrochemical catalysts, with technologies in different countries such as Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia.
Where do you see the main opportunities ahead?
One of the important opportunities for growth is in Argentina, thanks to the potential of the shale gas in Vaca Muerta. However, the seasonal variations in the country’s gas demand are a problem. What Argentina and the region should do is to monetize this gas from non-conventional sources in relevant industrial applications. A new urea plant in an agricultural country like Argentina makes total sense, considering the Latin American region imports 5 million tonnes of urea fertilizer every year. We have the gas in Argentina, the market is there, and all we need is a new fertilizer plant. That gas not only would add value to the country’s agro industry, but it would also bring more life to Vaca Muerta.
How do you see the trend for more efficiency, cleaner fuels and reduced emissions?
The driver for cleaner fuels is not only the regulation to bring sulfur levels down. New truck engines that demand higher quality fuels are pushing the development as well. YPF has a project for clean fuels and has already purchased from us the basic engineering for two ultra-low sulfur diesel plants at Luján de Cuyo and La Plata refineries. For REFICAR in Colombia, we have recently won the catalysts for one hydrocracking unit and two ultra-low sulfur diesel hydrotreaters. In addition, we have a large part of the hydroprocessing catalyst market in Chile.
Meanwhile, Topsoe has developed new technologies for the ammonia, methanol, and hydrogen production segments that are able to reduce the CO2 emission by about 14% and with significant energy savings.
What are the prospects for the future?
We strongly believe that the middle class in Latin America will continue growing, and that we are well positioned to support this growth. We continue training high-level engineers in the region so they can speak the language of our clients. We know there have been ups and downs in the region, but we always look at the long run and maintain our pace. Haldor Topsoe can support growth in Latin America with reliable, clean, and efficient technologies that enable investments in new plants.