IOC aims to be global refinery tech provider.
With the edge proffered by its R&D centre, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOC), the over-$70-billion public sector oil giant, is transitioning from an adopter to provider of indigenously developed refinery technology to the world.
Its R&D now has the capability to supply about 90 per cent of the technology needed to set up a modern greenfield refinery.
Two major developments
Meanwhile, the company’s R&D operations are getting strengthened for the future with two major developments.
First, it is on the verge of becoming a full-fledged refinery technology player from concept to commercialisation. Second, its upcoming ₹2,300-crore world-class R&D facility, about 8 km from the existing one in Faridabad, is expected to provide a significant technological edge to IOC not just in its core refinery and lubricants segment, but also in alternative energy areas.
The oil major’s R&D centre in Faridabad has commercialised at least a dozen technologies at various plants of the company. The cumulative improvement in GRM (gross refining margin) on account of the adoption of own technologies at IOC refiners is estimated at ₹1,577 crore per year.
Its flagship INDMAX is a residue upgradation technology that maximises the LPG yield in a refinery. This technology has won many international awards, beating global refinery giants such as BP and Total.
Crossing boundaries“The time has come now for us to cross national boundaries to license our INDMAX technology. At least six overseas refineries are in advance stage of dialogue with our licensing partner to deploy INDMAX,”
said SSV Ramakumar, Director - R&D, Indian Oil, in Faridabad. The R&D centre is on the verge of acquiring engineering and other related capabilities.
“We are essentially a process developer and our engineering capabilities have been led by Engineers India Ltd. However, we will be correcting this situation, acquiring and augmenting engineering capabilities also with the second R&D centre. So, we will have capabilities right from the lab to commercialisation/licensing in five years,” said Ramakumar.
Some progress has already been made. IOC can now handle at least four-five of its own refinery technologies without an engineering partner.
Second R&D unit
Ramakumar said the construction work for the second R&D unit — Technology Development and Deployment Centre — is being taken up. It will be a net zero power and water usage campus.
“The first phase of the second R&D unit will be operational by 2021 as per our plan,” he said.
With increased focus on alternative energy areas, the company will double its current R&D spend of ₹300 crore in the coming years. Also, the present 400-strong scientific team at the existing R&D campus will see an addition of 100 people.
“Apart from infrastructure and sophisticated equipment, human capital will be our biggest asset. We hope to have a strong 1,000-member team in both the campuses put together by 2023, said Ramakumar.