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Oil GIANT In Team-up with Researchers
March 29, 2012   
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Paweł Olechnowicz, chairman of the board at Gdańsk-based oil corporatin Lotos, talks to Karolina Olszewska.

What major research and development projects is your company involved in?

Grupa Lotos S.A. is an industrial partner of the CC Poland Plus clean coal technology project launched as part of the European Union’s Knowledge and Innovation Community initiative. The CC Poland Plus project involves Polish institutions, academic centers, research institutes and businesses interested in collaborating with scientists, with a view to applying research results in industry in the future. The project also involves educational institutions helping train business professionals.

CC Poland Plus partners include the AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow, which is coordinating the project, the Silesian University of Technology based in the southern city of Gliwice, the Central Mining Institute in Katowice, and the Institute for Chemical Processing of Coal in Zabrze, in addition to the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and many other universities. Partners from industry include energy company Tauron, fertilizer producer ZAK Kędzierzyn, and oil and gas company PGNiG. CC Poland Plus is one of six components of the EU’s Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) in the sustainable energy, or InnoEnergy, field.

Why did industry and science decide to join forces in the project? Is it all about money?

Each component of the Knowledge and Innovation Community has a specific annual budget. If the case of CC Poland Plus, this is around 250 million euros allocated for the 2014-2020 period. This money comes from institutions including the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which was established as an initiative by the European Commission. The Knowledge and Innovation Community is part of the institute and its individual components have been selected on a competitive basis. Of course, all the partners, while declaring their desire to work together, had to demonstrate that they have the economic potential needed to carry out the EIT’s objectives.

Each component of the Knowledge and Innovation Community pursues its goals by building an appropriate portfolio of projects financed from multiple sources. The main stream of funds, accounting for more than 30 percent of the project’s budget, comes from participating organizations (in the form of in-kind contributions), roughly 25 percent is contributed by the EIT, 21 percent by national and regional funds, 10 percent by affiliated partners, 8 percent from EU funds, and the remaining 5 percent from other sources.

Just now Grupa Lotos SA is considering joining an undertaking involving research into the production of second-generation biofuels.

What foreign scientific institutions do you work with as part of the CC Poland Plus project?

KIC InnoEnergy, or the Knowledge and Innovation Community focusing on sustainable energy, covers virtually the whole of Europe and brings together a large number of businesses and research centers to produce a synergy effect. The network of international cooperation now being developed is based on close partnership between business and science. The aim is to lend an impetus to the development of innovation with the use of existing expertise. These ties should help bring about effective collaboration between research centers, universities and enterprises. The main objective of this collaboration is to develop and accumulate the innovative capacity of participants through shaping new relations between research, education, technology and business leaders as far as innovation is concerned. KIC InnoEnergy also aims to help launch new businesses and to have a significant impact on society by supporting education and entrepreneurship.

Each KIC InnoEnergy member country selected a research field to focus on. The Polish companies and institutions affiliated in the Knowledge and Innovation Community are focusing on developing clean coal technology: increasing the efficiency and reducing emissions from conventional power units, developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, developing new technology for the gasification of coal, as well as nuclear cogeneration—or the use of nuclear reactor heat in clean coal technology and in industry. So each partner contributes what they are best at and can count on access to research findings at a more advanced stage.

In general, what does Lotos expect from its business partners?

The company’s development and its technological potential these days result from cooperation with companies leading the way in their respective industries. One example is our technologically advanced, strategic investment project called Program 10+. This was a unique project in this part of the world. As part of that project we worked together with renowned partners, who shared their know-how with us and enabled us to take a huge step forward in terms of technology. A number of modern oil installations have been built as part of Program 10+, significantly improving our oil processing efficiency. The best available technologies were used during the expansion of the installations, ensuring a high level of desulfuring for petroleum products and minimizing the impact on the environment.

Work with renowned companies such as Technip, KTI, CB&I, Fluor, LURGI, Shell and KBR guarantees the attainment of the Lotos group’s goals, which include sustainable production of fuels and other products meeting European standards.

What were the objectives of Program 10+?

The main aim of this investment program, which was carried at our refinery in Gdańsk, was to increase nominal oil processing capacity from 6 million to 10.5 million tons annually, which marks a 75-percent increase in productivity. Another goal that has been achieved was to increase the level of raw material conversion, which means ensuring higher product yields from each barrel processed. The program helped change the structure of production in a positive way in favor of a much larger role for high-margin products. On the other hand, the role of heavy and low-margin products has been reduced, while the overall production volume increased. This allows the Lotos Group to positively shape its financial performance and value. Let me add that after the completion of Program 10+ revenue increased considerably; it currently stands at nearly zl.30 billion. This further improvement in the company’s financial performance benefits shareholders and means increased tax revenue for both local government and state coffers.
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