How has Ecopetrol’s petrochemical division performed in the last two years, and how has the company’s structure helped it deal with the challenge of the pandemic?
2020 posed significant challenges as the price of all commodities plummeted when the pandemic started. Additionally, there was a drastic decrease in the demand for petrochemical and industrial products. Nevertheless, the consumption of certain products such as plastics (olefins, polyethylene and polypropylene) skyrocketed, since the medical and packaging industries are enormous consumers of these products. As far as solvents go, the industry stalled as there was a preventive confinement in order to control the virus. However, we recovered quickly in the second half of 2020, and sales have continued to improve this year. The first semester of 2021 is already representing, in local currency, more than 75% of annual achieved sales the previous year.
Ecopetrol has the advantage of being vertically integrated. We produce gas, have raw material feedstock and petrochemical assets, and we sell raw materials to our daughter company Esenttia. Currently, we are in the process of optimizing Ecopetrol’s assets to produce more with the same capacity. What is more, we are making use of our trading business as it is an opportunity to expand across the region.
How can companies like Ecopetrol contribute to a higher quality of life through their taxes and employment?
Ecopetrol is the national company of Colombia, with the major stakeholder (88,49%) being the nation and remaining 11,51% is on the New York and Bogota stock markets. In 2021 the company is reaching its highest investment levels ever, which is creating numerous employment opportunities. What is more, we have a policy of employing local staff. Ecopetrol invests in order to hire more people, generate well-being, and continues to contribute significantly to the 350 Colombian municipalities where it is present.
What is the company’s strategy with regard to the energy transition?
We are working with consultants to plan for the energy transition in the long run. Ecopetrol is the first Latin American company to publicly announce its intention to become carbon-neutral by 2050, with specific 2030 goals related to renewables and energy efficiency. The oil demand will decrease over time, however, we are flexible enough and have enough capacity to adapt by means of technology to determine where we should invest. The petrochemicals arm of Ecopetrol’s business is one area we expect to rise, with a target of two-digit annual growth in the coming years, doubling business volume by 2025 with the existing capacity.
Can you explain Ecopetrol’s TESG vision (Technology, Environmental, Social and Governance) approach to sustainability?
As a result of an internal evaluation we added the term technology to our ESG vision since we believe technology will change the way things are done so we can be more efficient and reduce emissions across the supply chain. Ecopetrol has set concrete goals in terms of upstream, midstream and downstream to implement emission reduction programs such as natural gas burning and methane fugitive emissions. By means of technology, innovation and solutions we are incorporating hydrogen to operate at low emission levels. There is a pilot project in one of our refineries for a hydrogen generator with electrolysis. Additionally, we are planning to plant 6,000,000 trees by 2022.
How is Ecopetrol working to attract a more diverse workforce?
Ecopetrol has experienced significant changes in this area. We have a corporate diversity and inclusion program which seeks to integrate the lenses of diversity in all the processes and areas of our company. This program includes a gender work front with various initiatives to promote gender equity.
We have several women in the C-level positions. More than 30% of the labor force that built the renewable plants in Castilla were women. In our sales department, 50% are women. Furthermore, Ecopetrol offers training to women so they can set up their own companies. More progress still needs to be made, but we are moving in the right direction.