Braskem Idesa's priorities are clear: encourage local production of feedstock and implement a circular economy model in the plastics industry.

Stefan Lepecki

Stefan Lepecki is a mechanical engineer from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He has an MBA from the Getulio Vargas Foundation of Brazil. Lepecki also has over 30 years of experience in the petrochemical business. He was responsible for the implementation of the Braskem Idesa Petrochemical Complex from its inception in 2010 until it began operating in 2016.

How is Braskem Idesa ensuring it has a stable supply of feedstock for its operations?
It is critical to have access to competitive feedstock from the US. The US is a competitive country in terms of feedstock, especially in natural gas and ethane due to the shale gas phenomenon, which paved the way for new investments there in natural gas, ethane, and petrochemical plants. We are working on a fast-track solution for importing ethane gas using trucks initially. Then, we intend to support a permanent storage terminal connected with pipelines, power plants, and Pemex facilities so we can share this terminal with Pemex. The number-one priority is to support Pemex and the government to recover local production of feedstock because Mexico has all the conditions to produce natural gas and ethane; however, this will take some time, so we need to support our operation in the meantime by importing, which has two phases. We are almost at the first phase, namely fast-tracking using trucks to import feedstock. The second phase is the terminal concept, a two-and-a-half-year project. The entire country needs this feedstock for many industries and products. Currently, we are running at around 72% of our capacity. Other players are closing plants or reducing their production significantly. With our natural resources and proximity to the US, we have the potential and the market to recover our position. We are working with the National Association of the Chemical Industry (ANIQ), the Business Coordinating Council (CCE), and other entities supporting the industry to have positive dialogue with the government and find a solid recovery plan for Mexico.

How are you implementing Mexico's vision of the circular economy?
In November 2018, we published our voluntary commitment to the objectives we want to reach as a plastics industry. We have set priorities around technology development, education, and agreements with clients and the government. The circular economy is a process that should be implemented across the entire plastics chain from producers to converters, plant owners to the government, and the general public. Alignment among all stakeholders will represent the success of this initiative. We are close to launching a recyclable post-consumption resin (PCR) that has a certain content of recycled material; this is an example of the circular economy. We have partnerships with recycling companies in Mexico responsible for collecting waste in cities, and we will guarantee the quality of these recycled products. Mexico has great potential to implement this type of circular economy. We already have extensive experience in PET and high-density polythene, as we produce it here. We started this strategy to protect the environment and continue to educate the community on this as part of our social commitment.

What were some 2019 highlights, and what are your main priorities for 2020?
In 2019, Mexico saw a new administration, which means a new environment for the industry. After some doubts and lack of interaction at the beginning of this administration, we now see a new approach. 2019 was when the private sector got to know the administration better and vice versa. For 2020, the main priority is to have a feedstock solution. Second, we are focused on the circular economy and developing better products and services, as well as doing many education programs. This is really a huge priority for us. In the future, I see Mexico as a hub for circular economy products due to its capabilities with low-cost production and competitive exports as well as its experience in PET and other kinds of recycling processes. We are putting in great effort into this because we see Mexico's potential. We want to continue to grow the region based on that. Even a year ago, plastics were seen as a huge enemy, and now the discussion and opportunities are changing. Society is beginning to understand the relevance of plastics in our lives and of post-consumption management of these products.