Rafael Gerlein, Americas Lead for Plastics, TRICON ENERGY
"We created a new product line focused on renewable, circular, and low carbon products this year, and we see Latin America as a key market to grow here."
Can you provide an overview of Tricon Energy’s presence and activities in Latin America?
Latin America has been instrumental in the growth of Tricon Energy since the foundation of the company in 1996, and continues to be a strategic market. Our activities started with the trading of caustic soda and quickly diversified into other chemicals (aromatics chain). In 2004, we started our plastics activities and several years later we expanded into ethanol, fuels, and more recently into fertilizers. Our business in the region covers trading and distribution across four main product lines; chemicals 33%, fertilizers 25%, plastics 21%, fuels and others 21% (based on volumes in 2021). Tricon’s business activities in Latin America represented approximately 20% of our global annual revenue in 2021.
Our current footprint includes local offices in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Central America.
ICIS ranked Tricon the second largest chemical distributor in the world and leader in Latin America in 2021. Which product lines and markets have contributed to the company’s growth in recent years?
Our Plastics Business line is one of the main product lines that have contributed to our expansions in Latin America. Tricon’s plastics business includes PE, PP, PVC, PET, PS and engineering resins. We are also complementing the product lines by incorporating circular products such as recyclable and sustainable materials into our portfolio.
We launched Tricon’s fertilizer business in 2017, which has also contributed to our growth in the Latin American market. Although today it is relatively small in terms of revenue compared to our plastics and chemicals business lines, it has had tremendous growth in volumes, and we are dedicating resources to expand this line.
What potential do you see for consolidation in the Latin American plastics market?
In recent years there have been major capacity expansions in North America for plastics, especially PE. Latin America is the backyard for US-based producers and, as a result, we have seen new entrants coming into the plastics business in the region. With new entrants, an abundant supply of product, global supply chain challenges, a more conservative financial sector, and a downturn on the economic cycle will all lead to a more competitive environment, and this will open up opportunities for consolidation and M&A activity.
How is the company dealing with logistics and supply chain challenges?
On the liquid side, Tricon is one of the world’s largest chemical trading and distribution houses and adopted a centralized logistics strategy, including investing in and partnering with a brokerage and logistic expert in Lighthouse Chartering (starting in 2016). Lighthouse assembled a team of highly skilled logistics professionals with offices in USA, Europe and Asia, which gives 24/7 coverage and allows Tricon to leverage economies of scale, for example, by combining cargoes and ports for lower freight or improving use of tanker space or even booking the full vessel. This is combined with our strategy in selecting service providers to achieve the safest, highest quality and most efficient and economical logistic solutions.
What were the highlights from Tricon’s first sustainability report published in April 2022?
We see this as a moral and societal responsibility to ‘create good together,’ which is Tricon’s theme for 2022. To achieve this, we established three pillars – social and economic inclusion; climate & environment; and circular economy – supported by a foundation of governance.
We accelerated this in 2021 by conducting a materiality and risk analysis to understand what issues to focus on, putting in place policies and processes, such as our Sustainability Policy and Responsible Sourcing and Product Stewardship Standard, and starting to measure our impact, getting a baseline on environmental, social, and governance data. Then we put goals and targets and a workplan for how we can achieve those. This allowed us to reach Platinum status with EcoVadis, recognizing our sustainability program in the top 1% of companies assessed.
We created a new product line focused on renewable, circular, and low carbon products this year, and we see Latin America as a key market to grow here.