"We need to use this moment with the pandemic to communicate the good things the industry does. There is definitely the issue of plastic waste in the plastics segment, so we need to be proactive and be part of the solution. Our project for a chemical recycling center is part of this."
Could you provide some background on IPA and its recent developments?
IPA is a knowledge-based institution. As part of a strong modernization plan we are currently implementing, in May 2020 we merged with CIQyP, although both institutions maintain their identities and distinct mandates. The Chamber has a wider membership, of around 150 companies across the whole value chain, and its mandate is to focus on the short-term scenario. IPA has around 20 members, covering the main petrochemical producers, and we focus more on the medium and long term. Now, through this union, our initiatives reach a much larger audience.
What are IPA’s main pillars?
We have three main pillars: the development of Argentina’s resources to add value to the country; the digital transformation; and the sustainability of the industry. All of IPA’s actions must to be linked to one of these three pillars. With regards to the first one, we try to promote the development of Vaca Muerta and other hydrocarbon deposits in Argentina. Of course, the market conditions are very volatile at the moment, but Vaca Muerta will be key for Argentina’s growth. As discussed, at IPA we look beyond the circumstances of a particular moment. What matters is that the petrochemical industry is going to move forward if there are hydrocarbon resources available.
Does Argentina offer opportunity for large petrochemical investments at the moment, particularly in fertilizers?
Fertilizers would be an obvious choice in terms of investing on a new project in Argentina, because the market for this product is already in this region, with large agricultural markets in Argentina and Brazil. On the ethylene value chain, the market would have to be overseas. In any case, if Argentina wants to solve its endless economic crises, the country needs to incentivize exports. Today, chemicals or petrochemicals make up 20% of all the industrial products manufactured in the country, so the industry offers enormous opportunities to add a lot of value by generating currency, jobs, and exporting value-added products. If Argentina does not take this opportunity, other countries will.
Could you mention some of your initiatives in terms of education and knowledge sharing?
We have just started a degree in the petrochemical business, in strategic collaboration with Universidad Austral. It is an online degree, so we are having a very good response from some of the country’s main petrochemical players, and there are even some pupils from overseas. We have other alliances with several education institutions, such as Universidad Nacional del Sur in Bahía Blanca, and also PLAPIQUI, which is part of CONICET, with a lot of virtual technical courses. We have also held workshops on health and safety related to petrochemical operations amid the pandemic, as well as on behavioral trends in remote work. Our final goal is always to connect academia with the petrochemical industry.
What other initiatives are you working on?
In diversity and inclusion we believe there is a lot of room for development in the industry. With CIQyP and our partners, we have built a network of diversity and inclusion in the country’s chemical industry, so the sector can benefit from all the talent available. Within that, the starting point is to improve a lot in terms of gender equality.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of chemicals and plastics for health and safety, but how is the industry working on its pending challenges regarding the circular economy?
A year ago we started with Ecoplas, a sustainability working table in the plastics industry. We are leading a working group on chemical recycling and we are developing a consortium of different plastic resin producers and CONICET to build up an advanced recycling center in Argentina, like the chemical recycling centers that are being set up in Europe. It is certainly an ambitious project, but a feasible one.
We need to use this moment with the pandemic to communicate the good things the industry does. There is definitely the issue of plastic waste in the plastics segment, so we need to be proactive and be part of the solution. Our project for a chemical recycling center is part of this. We cannot live without plastics, but we need to take care of the full cycle, and the industry is working on that direction.