Gabriel Rodríguez Garrido, Executive Director,

Argentine Petrochemical Institute (IPA)

"The chemical and petrochemical industry represents between 16% and 18% of Argentina's exports and Vaca Muerta could boost these numbers in order to generate more foreign currency influx for the country."

Can you tell us about IPA’s modernization plan, including the union with CIQyP?

Since the middle of 2019 we have been going through a continuous transformation process. For IPA this “union maintaining identity” of each Institution was a fundamental change as we are not only able to reach a much broader audience than before, but also benefiting from the diversity related to the value chain of the Chamber. This has given us ten times the number of companies outreach. We have also restructured the three main pillars that IPA covers.

First, education (we launched a diploma executive course in petrochemical business in strategic alliance with University Austral in Argentina; and we also developed in alliance with PLAPIQUI (University Nacional del Sur/CONICET) an online course platform called P-virtual related to petrochemical processes oriented to technical/operators level. Second, diffusion of technology (example: promoting the chemical recycling for plastc waste); and third, statistical information (we issue a statistical yearbook which contains downloadable information grouped in tables). Knowledge is the crosscuttng theme of these three pillars.

How significant would the development of Vaca Muerta be to Argentina’s petrochemical industry?

Analyzing the current needs of the petrochemical industry, the state-of-art of the circular economy (the plastics industry) and the importance of blue hydrogen, the added value of Vaca Muerta is evident. As of today, the chemical and petrochemical industry represents between 16% and 18% of Argentina's exports and Vaca Muerta could boost these numbers in order to generate more foreign currency influx for the country.

What initiatives is IPA working on to ensure the sustainability of the petrochemical industry in Argentina?

We have already set up a consortium to develop chemical recycling in Argentina. In addition, we are working in partnership with an international recycling certification. In another project, we are starting to discuss the transition to green hydrogen, where we are developing an advisory table with the main players in the chemical and petrochemical industry. Blue hydrogen could be a bridge towards this transition by making use of gas.

What progress has been made in the area of digital transformation in the industry in recent years?

Digital transformation has been most apparent in the field of education. On one hand, the diploma executive course in petrochemical business we offer together with Universidad Austral, and on the other hand, the P-virtual platform which stands out for containing well-structured forums and being highly interactive, as well as asynchronous. Furthermore, a new alliance has been established with ASIQUIM (the Chilean Chemical Chamber) to include all of IPA’s programs, just as we did with CIQyP, and we hope to keep making alliances with various institutions in Latin America. This will help us expand internationally as the petrochemical industry is a globalized one.

How are IPA and its members working to attract a more diverse workforce to the industry?

Last year, we carried out a diagnosis survey to find out where we were standing and the results we obtained were not satisfactory at all. It was not a surprise to establish that international companies show a significant headway in this regard, whereas domestic ones still have a lot of catching up to do. We also organized a workshop on how to make workforce diversity happen and work. This year we have been focusing primarily on small and medium-sized companies and we are wrapping up a mentoring program with IAE (Business school at University Austral) to close the existing gap. Fortunately, more companies are joining our initiative and the IPA members have been participating in a number of forums to address the issue.

Looking ahead, which factors do you see impacting the industry in the future?

We have been working towards finding solutions in terms of circular economy and sustainability. I am of the opinion that setting up the chemical recycling consortium will be a turning point that will take us closer to the technologies needed to collectively close this circle. There is not a single technology that solves the issue as the matter is complex.