"Until 2020 we had been facing some serious competition from Asia. Then the pandemic started, and the situation has really moved the pieces on the chess board."
Can you introduce Petrom Petroquímica?
Petrom was established in 1998 after a management buyout from the old assets of Carbocloro and, over time, it became the largest producer of phthalic anhydride in Latin America. We now have integrated assets for the production of phthalate plasticizers with a total capacity of 200,000 tons per year (t/y). Petrom is a 100% Brazilian company and is a key provider of plasticizers and bio-based materials solutions for Latin America.
What are the applications and market drivers of the phthalic anhydride market in South America?
Phthalic anhydride is a chemical that is widely used as an intermediary for plasticizers, polyesters resins, alkyd resins and polyester polyols for polyurethanes, driven by the construction sector and retail consumption such as shoes. Until 2020 we had been facing some serious competition from Asia. Then the pandemic started, and the situation has really moved the pieces on the chess board.
How has the pandemic impacted your business?
During the first phase of the pandemic, our top priority was to ensure the safety of all the employees by putting all the necessary health and safety measures in place. Covid-19 has really underlined the importance of all companies prioritizing working with local suppliers, chemicals included, due the risk of broken logistic options worldwide that remain under pressure. Globalization has its benefits, but it has also led to companies becoming oblivious of the importance of having strong local feedstock suppliers and sustainable regional value chains. During this time, the strategic position Petrom has in Latin America allowed for our continuous growth.
Despite the chaotic period the whole world went through in 2020, we had a reliable source of feedstock from Braskem, which meant we could deliver orders in full and on time. As for 2021, economic activities are recovering and are now picking up. Additionally, the situation is now more predictable, so we are projecting an even better year than 2020.
Can you tell us about Petrom’s products that come from renewable sources?
Brazil has a unique position regarding renewable materials, which creates an opportunity for the country. Since 2010, Petrom has been using technology to extract different kinds of alcohol, such as IsoAmyl alcohol, from sugarcane for personal care. We also produce oil to create bio-based plasticizers made 100% from renewable resources. We will carry on with these developments and continue to increase the range of our materials and the production capacity of our facilities in the upcoming years.
How does Petrom work to improve the quality of life in the communities around it?
Our site is located in the middle of the Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica), a UNESCO heritage area, where we cover 1 million m2 of its native vegetation that we zealously protect, preserving it from uncontrolled city growth. Local schools take part in the “Petrom Recycling” project where the residues and recyclables are collected and the respective value is given back as school supplies and environmental educational training.
Which improvements have been made by the Brazilian government to improve the country’s business climate, and what further improvements could be made?
The chemical industry is Brazil’s third largest sector and one of the top 10 in the world. Despite the challenges, the private sector has been doing a great job. During the pandemic the Government introduced positive initiatives, namely reducing the cost of labor to protect jobs and giving financial support to those who needed it the most. The legislators are still debating the new tax reform, which will be a big step forward. There is also a new law regarding natural gas which can drastically reduce the cost of energy in a few years.
What is Petrom's vision for the next five years?
To have a sustainable future it is essential for us to achieve energy and hydro self-sufficiency because we generate a lot of steam, and from this steam the idea is to generate electric energy. We use a lot of water in our processes, therefore we are also looking to become hydro self-sufficient. Furthermore, Petrom is planning to reduce its carbon emissions by 25%. Finally, our transition to bio-based materials will satisfy the customer demand in Latin America and other regions around the world.