TBY talks to Eric Roper, Managing Director of Arya Sasol Polymer, on production volumes, the Pars Special Economic/Energy Zone, and the Iranian workforce.
Arya Sasol's vision is to be a leading polyethylene producer in the Middle East. How does your strategy match with your overall vision?
The Arya Sasol Polymer Company (ASPC) is primarily a polymer producing company that has an excess of produced ethylene feedstock that we export. Arya Sasol's production assets are world scale, and at the time of investment they were the latest technologies and consist of an ethylene cracker and two polyethylene production plants. The original scope of the investment was to have a third polymer plants but this investment has yet to be approved. The original ASPC joint venture was between the National Petrochemical Company (NPC) of Iran and Sasol of South Africa and was formed in 2002. The investment decision was taken in 2003, and ethylene production started in 2007, with polyethylene soon after in 2008.
What is the production volume of Arya Sasol?
The production assets of ASPC are a one million ton per annum of ethylene cracker and two 300,000 ton per annum polyethylene plants, one producing low density and the other medium- and high-density polymers.
What are some highlights from Arya Sasol's experience in 2011? What factors contributed to the company's strong performance?
Our business achieved a world-class, 12-month recordable accident case rate of 0.25, for the Iranian year 1390. The year also saw the sustained and high volumes of supplied ethane, our feed gas for the cracker, from our current shareholder Pars Petrochemical Company. This enabled consistent production across all of Arya Sasol's production assets. The low-density plant exceeded its design capacity. Arya Sasol also began managing and exporting its own ethylene exports. Overall, it was a good year.
Your plants are located in the Pars Special Economic Energy Zone (PSEEZ) and Arya Sasol was one of the first companies to establish operations there. What makes the zone attractive for business?
There are significant synergies gained by being in the PSEEZ. The most significant being the shared process utilities ASPC receives from Mobin, the utility supplier. The site is very well integrated with pipeline interconnections on feedstock and product lines. These enable production flexibility between the various petrochemical businesses during periods of production and feed upsets. There is a common spirit of goodwill amongst the producers in the PSEEZ to ensure we all succeed.
Which countries do you export to the most?
ASPC is a joint venture. Our shareholders have appointed polymer off-takers to manage the marketing, logistics, and sales of the produced polyethylene. Ethylene sales are managed internally by ASPC. All of ASPC's products are marketed and sold to our customers in Europe, Far East Asia, and China.
Arya Sasol puts a lot of energy into manpower training and environmental issues. How is your company implementing its strategies in these fields?
There are some 800 permanent staff and a further 500 contractors working for Arya Sasol, making us a significant employer in the PSEEZ. There is a government initiative to maximize employment from local areas, which Arya Sasol fully supports. The local Iranian workforce is relatively inexperienced in petrochemical operations, as this is a relatively new industry to this part of the country. Therefore, sourcing experienced people for the industry is difficult unless you widen your search to the national population. Our strategy is to employ people from local areas wherever possible, but if the skills are not available we unfortunately have no other option but to recruit nationally. However, we have created a large number of training positions and apprenticeships within all disciplines of Arya Sasol, and these are designated for locals only. This gives locals the opportunity to gain experience and grow within Arya Sasol. In addition, we are also working with local universities on scholarships and related projects. Selected students are offered vocation work with Arya Sasol to gain experience in their chosen professions. All of these initiatives are coordinated with local government institutions in an effort to promote opportunities for local populace. I'm very pleased with the Iranian workforce. They're young, well qualified, energetic, and eager to learn. That has to be a winning formula. We are also an accredited ISO 14001 facility. We are audited every year by an accredited external company and pass these audits with excellent results. Similarly to our values regarding the safety and health of our employees, Arya Sasol has also set world-class standards for our environmental compliance. While we face many challenges, especially with the current lack of a formal hazardous waste landfill facility in the PSEEZ, our air emissions are monitored by an independent accredited authority, and both our air emissions and water outfalls more than comply with Iranian legislative requirements. As I have mentioned before, ensuring the health and safety of our employees and conducting responsible operations within our environment are primary Arya Sasol values.
How would you assess the quality of your materials vis-à-vis your competitors in Iran?
It is hard to answer this question as we export all of our products. Therefore in theory our competitors are all the other global and national polymer manufacturers. As a brand ASPC polymers are highly respected in the regions they are sold. This is due to the combined efforts of the operations and the off-takers to ensure product quality, grade planning and logistics sales and marketing are all focused to meet the customer's expectations. There are large Middle Eastern capacity additions planned, under construction, or about to commence production, and so it is important for Arya Sasol to continuously monitor the quality, grade range, and packaging offer of its products in order to ensure that we remain competitive. Our capital spend is thus focused on improving these and productivity.
© The Business Year - July 2012