JGSPG’s President & CEO on how the company transformed challenges into opportunities
Digitalization was a lifeline that helped JG Summit Petrochemicals Group adapt to the challenges brought about by the pandemic. This was one of many key insights revealed by Patrick Henry Go, President and Chief Executive Officer of JGSPG, in his opening keynote address during the 9th Asian Petrochemical Markets Conference.
Held on March 25, 2021, the event was organized by S&P Global Platts, a leading provider of information and data for the energy and commodities markets. Delegates from more than 50 companies from across 20 countries attended the conference’s first-ever virtual edition.
As Go opened his speech, he described how JGSPG as an organization “had always envisioned business interruption as an event that would prevent us to access data, and/or disrupt our business processes.”
He recalled the early challenges at the onset of the pandemic that redefined business interruption for the company, such as being restricted from freely communicating face-to-face, which initially hampered the flow and exchange of ideas and made working as a cohesive team difficult.
In addressing the event’s theme: “Driving sustainability, innovation, and competitiveness in a new era,” Go spoke about how going digital as a tool has helped immensely and how JGSPG redesigned its business processes and working models through digital initiatives. With the pandemic, “Embracing the tech has been accelerated and will form a larger part of our processes moving forward,” said Go.
As a result, JGSPG has welcomed more explorations into how digital transformation could further improve the company’s operations, such as in the areas of maintenance, communications, and analytics. According to Go, “the lessons learned at this time will continue to be of practical use moving forward.”
Go credited the people that make up JGSPG for their resourcefulness, flexibility, and agility in the midst of the crisis. “The bottom line to all this is, that it was and is still people that drove the innovation and improvements in our processes to address the challenges and solving the problems,” said Go. He added that “the discovery on innovating and changing of our mindset will now be part of our business DNA in the future.”
This shift in the organization’s paradigm will be crucial in the success of its expansion. JGSPG is currently commissioning its new butadiene and aromatics extraction units, and will also be increasing the capacities of its existing naphtha cracker and polypropylene plant. The group will also be entering the fuels trading business this year through its new subsidiary, Peak Fuel Corporation. By 2022, JGSPG will begin operating a new polyethylene (PE) plant, to produce high-performance bimodal and metallocene PE products.
With these ongoing projects, JGSPG is set to become the largest petrochemicals investment in the Philippines. With its increased volumes and new value-added downstream products, JGSPG continues to contribute towards the further diversification of the Philippine petrochemical and chemical industries, and is helping to strengthen the industrial value chain linkages of the country’s manufacturing sector.
At this time of a changed global landscape, Go pointed out the special role that petrochemicals play, especially in the areas of sanitation, product safety and protection, packaging, logistics, and transportation. Despite the many benefits, Go ruefully noted that a negative perception of petrochemical products still persists among the public, particularly on plastics, one of the industry’s major products. Amid moves to regulate the use of plastics, Go said that “the solution is not to ban a useful product that helps reduce carbon emissions, but to prevent it from ending up as trash.”
Go went on to express his views on the broader and more complex issues on sustainability faced by the industry. The environmental problem of waste mismanagement goes beyond plastic waste, according to Go. He opined that any alternative material to replace plastics will still end up as mismanaged waste unless the more fundamental problem of insufficient and ineffective waste management infrastructure is resolved.
Nonetheless, the complex issue of plastic waste has to be adequately addressed. Go took the opportunity to share JGSPG’s initiatives in the area of the circular economy, and talked about JGSPG ongoing and future initiatives to help tackle waste reduction.
Go highlighted that JGSPG’s new PE technology will allow development of more sustainable mono-material packaging that increases recyclability. The technology will likewise open up opportunities to develop more durable and reusable products, reducing the need for single-use and disposable carriers. This new technology will also produce polymers that are more efficient in terms of consumption, and offer better performance that extends usability, contributing to a reduced carbon footprint due to the use of less material.
“The technology we have decided to invest in in our current expansion, and will continue to invest in, will need to be supportive of this call for sustainability,” he said.
In the area of recycling, Go cited JGSPG’s ongoing discussions with downstream manufacturers on mechanically recycling laminates into reusable pelletized products and other household and industrial products. Additionally, Go underscored the importance of improving waste collection and incentivizing the return of recyclable products. They key to sustaining the recycling sector, according to Go, is creating a robust model to support the emphasis that plastics need not end up as waste.
Go stressed that the government, industry players, and the general public must work together to ensure that measures being put in place bear fruit and prevent waste from ending up in the environment.
Besides JGSPG, speakers from other petrochemical industry players such as Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, INEOS Trading & Shipping, and IRPC Public Company Limited, as well as from the International Energy Agency, Neste, and Novomer, presented at the event.