Looking beyond oil.

Earlier this month StocExpo and Tank Storage Magazine hosted their first online conference entitled: The Terminal of Tomorrow.

COVID-19 has without doubt accelerated the energy transition and there was a significant amount of interest in this event – with over 720 registrations from 75 different countries.

Day one featured speakers from three of the leading terminal operators: Exolum, Oiltanking and Vopak.

Jorge Lanza, CEO of Exolum, kicked off the event by explaining why the company has changed its name from CLH. The new name, he said, symbolises the company’s commitment to evolve beyond the traditional hydrocarbon oil business.

‘Our sector is still pretty old school,’ Lanza explained. ‘For many years we’ve been focusing on safety, which has been the right thing to do, but there’s a lot that can be done regarding sustainability.’

He also made the point that, despite the hype, there are still growth opportunities in the bulk liquids business and not everything is about hydrogen or batteries.

‘Demand is still growing for biofuels, which will require new tankage and new capacity,’ he explained. He also expects a growing trend for renewable chemicals which will need new tank capacity. There is also likely to be a demand for smaller tanks, which may need different requirements, such as heating.

‘As a result of COVID-19 many companies are looking for shorter supply chains, which will help create new local, smaller hubs, which will also require new capacity closer to home,’ he added.

So what is the terminal of the future?

Lanza believes that in the near term the terminal of the future will be one that is operated in a more sustainable way and Exolum is making this a priority. Three years ago, Exolum pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions by 50% by 2025. Its biggest source of emissions (around 40-50%) is the power the terminal consumes, particularly in its pump station that it uses for its pipeline network. As a result, the company is now building solar panels to generate its own power and using artificial intelligence to optimise and miminise its energy consumption.

Looking further ahead, Lanza believes that hydrogen is not yet an economical or credible alternative to traditional fuels. However, it will play a part in the future energy mix in 10-15 years to decarbonise sectors that are difficult to electrify. Exolum is already participating in projects to produce green hydrogen using solar power.

More than ‘just tanks’

About 18 months ago Exolum set up a new division called Exolum Ventures. This is a way of teaming up with start-ups to drive new innovations.

For example Exolum Ventures recently launched a digital platform called Avikor, which allows customers to fuel their flight with sustainable aviation fuel. Exolum then ensures that this flight is partly fuelled by sustainable jet fuel.

Exolum Ventures also works with another company that allows people to book spare space at the terminal to use as car parking.

‘These are great ways of merging traditional infrastructure with new digital applications,’ Lanza explains.

As well as these innovations, Lanza also believes that Exolum will need to develop new capabilities. As an example some of its customers have already asked Exolum to get involved with pre-treatment of raw materials for biofuels, an activity which is brand new to the company.

‘The terminal of the future requires us to think beyond oil but in a prudent way,’ Lanza concludes. ‘We are certainly going to be working in the traditional bulk liquid storage industry for many years to come, but this will evolve to be much more than ‘just tanks.’

The full event review will be featured in the April/May edition of Tank Storage Magazine – find out more and subscribe here: www.tankstoragemag.com