by Daniela Lessa
As a result of Akzo Nobel's - Dutch Petrochemical Company - decision to strengthen its business in other areas, the company decided to discontinue its participation in the world's catalyst sector. The 50% worth of shares from the Rio de Janeiro catalyst plant (FCC), which belonged to the company, now belong to Albemarle Corporation. The North American Chemical Industry bought all units from the dutch company to enter the catalyst sector in oil refinery. Thus, it became a partner of Petrobras, which holds the other 50% of FCC S.A. capital control.
Albemarle made investments on the order of 625 million Euros to acquire the control of the catalyst sector. This new business will be taken to its clients, who are concentrated in more than 100 countries - the world market of catalysts for oil refineries generates an annual income above US$ 2 billion. With FCC S.A. participation, the North-American company will capture the South-American market, which represents a Sales volume of 33 thousand tons per year and billings of US$ 70 million. The Brazilian refineries alone consume 28 thousand tons catalysts per year. The 4 thousand tons of remaining catalysts are sold in the Argentine, Uruguayan, Colombian, Peruvian and Cuban markets.
For FCC S.A., the change in partners and the increase in production allow its entry into the Venezuelan market with a consumption potential of 7 thousand tons per year. "Venezuela is our new challenge", admits FCC S.A.'s operations manager, Cid Carvalho. Previously, in the agreement with Akzo, the Brazilian company was limited to the participation in the South American market, except for Venezuela, and included the Cuban market, in Central America.
In order to meet the demand of the new market, the company invests in the expansion of its production capacity. The investments foreseen for 2004 and 2005 are on the order of US$ 40 millions and the objective is to get to produce 45 thousand tons of catalysts per year. "In fact, the investment is already in progress, but most of it will be made available at the end of this year and during all next year", informs Carvalho.
Together, Albemarle and FCC S.A. hold world leadership in catalyst market participation for the oil refinery industry. Alone, FCC S.A. is a leader in South America and is present in every country where there are catalytic cracking units with excellent market standing. At the moment, the company waits for the result of a Repsol Bidding in Argentina, in order to expand its client portfolio.
The products prepared to process hydrocarbon heavier residues are the company's market niche, which competes with giants in the chemical industry, such as North American Grace and Engelhard and the Asian Sinopec (Chinese) and CCIC (Japanese).
The change in partnership had little influence on FCC S.A. operations, which proceeds with the same structure and, particularly, with the same people. According to the operations manager, the largest benefit of the new partnership will be the integration of the areas of technological research of both companies. "Albermarle is renown worldwide for its support to technological innovations and is a leader in all areas of the chemical industry where it is plays an active role. It did not have an area of catalysts for oil refinery; now it does", he adds proudly.
FCC S.A. is also renown for its research activities, which are held at the Research Center of Petrobrás (Cenpes), in addition to other two centers in the United States and in Holland. With the alliance of Petrobrás and Albemarle, FCC S.A. will have plants and technical/Sales offices in these countries, extended to Italy, Japan, Spain and Singapore.
The new Topaz technology, high accessibility catalysts, allowing the processing of carbon complex molecules, will be employed by FCC S.A. in the coming year. "The new catalysts are basically crystal-like structures with wider areas for the passage and breakage of a giant molecule, which previously had no access to the catalyst", explains the executive, who further states that, "since the initial passage of the catalyst is larger, the large molecule is broken during a first phase and then, already reduced, goes through smaller areas and little by little it is decomposed". The biggest advantage of the new technologies is that they will allow processing a larger volume of oil and a heavier kind of oil.
In addition to high accessibility catalysts, FCC S.A. also produces a series of environment oriented additives, such as the Resolve line, whose job is to decrease the concentration of one of the most polluting components in the gasoline: sulphur.
"The additive's job is to change the capacity of the catalyst temporarily, allowing the refinery to control which oil derivatives it wants to produce in larger or smaller volumes as well as to influence on the quality of these derivatives", he summarizes.
As to the formulations created to meet the specific needs of the clients, the company is in a fast changing rhythm: at each 17 days, it creates a new catalyst formulation.
Regarding management, the company has also innovated by creating a sole service of automatic catalyst replacement, called Total Catalyst Management (TCM). By means of this service, the plant monitors the supply in the refinery and sends new loads according to the need of the client, who, in turn, determines the minimum and maximum volume of supply it needs.
As this volume drops, FCC S.A. receives a signal through the control system, indicating the need for a replacement. A new load is prepared and sent to the client along with all the documentation. The client may further monitor all the logistic movement via Internet. "For the client, it ends up being difficult to change suppliers, because without this service he will need to control his supply, issue orders and carry out a series of logistic operations, which we are performing today", highlights Cid Carvalho.
In parallel to the monitoring of the virgin catalyst silo, FCC also makes available a complementary service of removal of and destination for the equilibrium catalyst (e-cat). The objective of the company is to assure that the residues are discarded correctly from an environmental point of view as well as its reutilization in the civil construction industry. The equilibrium catalyst has a practical application as component for mortar and cement.
Pursuant to the innovation line, the Polo Industrial de Santa Cruz, where FCC S.A. is located, will also shelter a technological park. FCC S.A. objective is to attract incubated companies and provide more synergy with teaching and research institutions. According to Cid Carvalho, FCC S.A. would be one of the technology leaders, which would strengthen the research institutions, the incubated companies and FCC S.A. itself. "We are already negotiating with a few universities and we know that there are research lines related to our business and the institutions already know that we mean market for some of their ideas", he summarizes.
In addition to transforming the Distrito Industrial de Santa Cruz under the technological aspect, FCC S.A. has also attracted complementary companies, thus creating the Polo de Empresas Parceiras. At present, the raw-material suppliers are already installed in Santa Cruz, as well as several infrastructure service companies, such as transportation, restaurants, stationery stores, etc. The partner companies represent a generation of more jobs for the region and some of them arose out of the entrepreneurial initiative of the local community.
The incentives to entrepreneurialship and several social responsibility actions are also part of FCC S.A's philosophy, just like the concern over an environmentally sustainable development. The company has certificates from OHSAS 18001, security and occupational* health, ISO 14001, environment, and ISO 9001, relative to the quality of products and to management.
Since 2001, the Forest Reservation area, created with the support of the company, has provided more than 8 thousand scions and contributed to the reforestation of a 60 thousand square meter area. The idea is that the space becomes a new leisure alternative for the local dwellers. In parallel with the reforestation, the company also fosters the community's environmental education.
In 2003, the company began a program to provide technical support to local farmers, by stimulating diversified organic production. The result was the creation of an organic fair in the vicinity of the plant, which meets the needs of the community and company's employees. "On fair day, products are purchased at Record time", remarks Carvalho.
As far as education is concerned, FCC S.A. has joined the program of schooling upgrade and will begin the digital inclusion program. The company provides two teaching rooms, one of them equipped with computers, and offers classes at basic and medium levels, and computer for employees and local dwellers.
In addition to the projects that work in the local community, the company supports others in several areas of the city, such as the creation of furniture made of Pet bottles, in Mangueira.
Fábrica Carioca de Catalisadores S.A. is an international technology company that produces and provides solutions in catalysts and additives for the oil refinning industry.
As a joint venture, FCC S.A. joins the tradition and know-how of two world giants of the oil and petrochemical areas – Petrobras and Albemarle Corporation.