Lynk Insights Q&A with Knowledge Partner: Parthasarathy Nanduri on Fertilizers and Petroleum Refining Trends

As you have engaged in many consultation projects with Lynk, can you share with us what are the strongest attributes of your Knowledge Partner profile?
I believe the clients’ approach is mostly a two faceted-focus in search for sector specific experience, in my case, the fertilizer industry and the petroleum refining industry. The second reason is, the amount of time I have spent in the field, as well as the range of assignments and projects, geographies I’ve covered in these 35+ years. I believe these attributes about my knowledge partner profile interest clients quite a bit, especially with regards to the range of projects showcased on my profile as I have spent a significant amount of time in diverse project types, even on-site.

What are the recent technology innovations that have significantly improved the fertilizer and/or the petroleum refining industry?
There have been various innovations in sector-specific technology, especially in the petroleum refining environments. As common knowledge, fertilizer and petroleum refining environments are very energy intensive so there is always a high focus on improving energy efficiencies and sustainability. Most companies are trying to improve their conversion efficiencies from raw materials to the final products.

The other emerging innovation trend is in the reduction of environmental footprint for any given petroleum refining operation, which guides meeting and even exceeding environment policies. The use of renewable energy usually meant having to extract it from a power plant, but now there’s more of a mix of extraction sources available, and industry leaders are generally trying to move away from a power plant source to renewable and affordable electricity provision.

What are new emerging trends which you foresee gaining wider traction in the fertilizer industry?
(1) “Green Ammonia”:
Fertilizer manufacturing involves production of ammonia, which is an intermediate chemical used to produce a range of nitrogenous fertilizers such as Urea, Nitrates, NPK etc. The fertilizer manufacturing process is intrinsically energy intensive and over 85% of this energy (in the form of heat and electricity) goes into producing ammonia.

Renewable energy is now available at competitive prices in many regions and this has sparked innovative for other technologies which use electricity produced from renewable sources (solar, wind, etc.) to manufacture so-called “Green Ammonia” via the water-electrolysis method. This technology drastically reduces fossil fuel needs (thereby, “carbon footprint”) for producing ammonia.

Ammonia process licensors (e.g. Thyssenkrupp, Haldor Topsoe) are now offering proprietary technologies for “Green Ammonia” manufacturers and demonstration plants incorporating for this have already been built. Major operators in the fertilizer business (e.g.: Yara) are actively considering the “Green Ammonia” option. 

(2) Small-Scale Units:
Until recently, large capacity ammonia plants (producing about 800000 MT per year) were preferred due to economies of scale. However, financing such large capacity plants has become increasingly difficult due to high project costs (considering the average cost of USD 700 million per plant).

This has triggered the development of innovative designs for smaller capacity ammonia plants (producing about 20000 MT per year), while still achieving viable operating costs. An example of such a design is the “NFUEL” mini-ammonia plant developed by Dutch company, Proton Ventures. Such designs are especially suitable for monetizing isolated feed gas sources, such as ‘stranded-gas’, ‘waste-gas’, ‘bio-gas’ etc.

What are your thoughts on the Knowledge-as-a-Service economy?
KaaS has been growing rapidly in the past 6 to 8 years. Prior to this common practice, relatively few companies used to openly engage in KaaS. But that has changed significantly and companies are warming up to the idea that they can tap into a reservoir of knowledgeable people from across the world for a wide range of issues. They don’t think in a limited fashion in the conventional sense as previously. For instance, you go to a particular company to access certain information, now you have an endless range of options for the same offering and more.

I am looking forward to more innovative formats of engaing in the KaaS economy, such as tripatriate consultations or webinars with Lynk! To me, it is not about the money dervied from this knowledge-sharing, but instead it is more about the value I get to deliver and the processes I can bring my impact to. I

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