Guru Gobind Singh Refinery (HMEL ), Bhatinda
HPCL-Mittal Energy Limited (HMEL) aims at catering to the needs of Northern India
Prabh Das, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, HMEL

"With Indian refineries going for accelerated capacities, the footprint of India on the global refining map as a major player is worth taking note of. The refining industry in India is all set to see an increase in margins and product portfolio."

According to Prabh Das, the Rationale behind commissioning of the 9-MMTPA Guru Gobind Singh Refinery (GGSR) operated by HPCL-Mittal Energy Limited (HMEL) at Bathinda in Punjab is to leverage the proximity of the deficit in petroleum products in the Northern parts of the country.

The Guru Gobind Singh Refinery (GGSR) is a zero bottoms, energy efficient, environmental friendly, high distillate yielding complex that produces clean fuels and polypropylene meeting Euro IV specifications by processing heavy, sour and acidic crudes, claims Prabh Das, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, HMEL. In an exclusive interview, Das reveals that the facility is a state-of-the-art complex refinery that has the ability to process relatively economically priced tough (heavy and sour) crudes that are selected through the best-in-its-class LP software that has been tuned to deliver the best possible margins for the given refinery configuration. "We are continuously on the lookout for and regularly undertake low investment Gross Refining Margins (GRM) improvement projects which would help the company in performing well in volatile scenarios," he adds.

Current Capacities and Product Mix
GGSR's current capacity is 9 million metric tonnes per annum (MMTPA); however, Das reveals, the refinery can be run on higher level as well. "The product mix is always worked up based on economic viability and demand in the market place. Northern India faces a deficit in petroleum products, and the Guru Gobind Singh Refinery leveraging on its proximity to the northern states namely Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, the National Capital Region of Delhi and parts of Haryana and Rajasthan is ideal to fill the fuel deficit that the region faces," Das adds .

Das further details and adds that refinery is marketing all liquid products through HPCL or their nominated companies. He informs that the three solid products i.e. Polypropylene (PP), Sulphur and Pet coke are being marketed by HMEL directly. "These products have been well received by the industries in North as well in other parts of the country. While Sulphur and Petcoke are mainly consumed within Northern region, PP is being marketed on an all India basis through our network of distributors in all parts of the country. HMEL is currently focused on meeting the demand in the domestic market," says Das . A small quantity of Pet coke is also exported to Nepal and Pakistan to seed the market looking at opportunities for these products in the near future in those regions. He further updates that product evacuation of all liquid products from the refinery is done by rail, road and through dedicated pipelines. Solid products are evacuated through rail and a very minimal quantity is transported through road. Most of the product evacuation is through pipeline in the most efficient manner.

Mother Polypropylene Plant
The refinery includes a world class mother polypropylene plant for developing several medium and small scale industries. Very few refineries in the country have the capacity to produce polypropylene. Das reveals that HMEL's refinery has created a big potential for industrialisation of the area. "If capitalised, it could lead to development of petrochemical industry in Punjab bringing prosperity to the state," Das adds. He further explains that petrochemical and other value addition units such as Aromatics manufacturing facilities enhance the profitability of refineries to a great extent as petrochemicals and aromatics command a significant premium over liquid and gaseous fuel products. For instance, the petrochemical polypropylene is sold at a premium over liquid fuels. This is precisely the reason why HMEL chose to set up a polypropylene plant with a capacity of over 400KT per annum.

Niche Products
HMEL has the capability to make specialty products such as Hexane and Mineral Turpentine Oil (MTO). Hexane is mainly used as solvent in the solvent extraction units for vegetable oil. It is also used by the pharmaceutical industry as a solvent. MTO is a clear, transparent liquid which is a common organic solvent and is used in painting, decorating, dry cleaning etc. Additionally, Das adds, it is one of the few refineries in India that has the capability to produce eight grades of polypropylene which have a wide variety of film, injection moulding and woven & non-woven fabric manufacturing applications. The new product in the pipeline is asphalt which is primarily used in road construction, as the glue or binder mixed with aggregate particles to create asphalt concrete. The refinery has been operating at full capacity.

When asked about the current biggest challenges and HMEL's approach to towards addressing the same, Das replies that the biggest challenges currently facing the Indian refining and petrochemical industries include the squeezing GRMs, capital intensive nature of new projects, high rates of interest, volatility in exchange rates, plateauing of growth rates of certain fuel products. He further comments on other external future unforeseen challenges that the Indian refiners will have to be prepared for and adds that unconventional hydrocarbons can play a big role in securing India's energy security. These are new areas, and therefore have to be carefully nurtured. Shale gas and solar power can become a major source of energy, provided these assets are developed to their full potential. Indian refiners will need to gear up for the impact of change in the upcoming unconventional energy scenario.