“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”
Benjamin Franklin may not have been working in the bio-economy, but he was a scientist, so he knew a little about correct processes and the right ingredients, and he certainly had an entrepreneurial spirit. And change is at the heart of the work of TechnipFMC, the focus of this exclusive feature – change as a company, and change in the way they develop their polymers as they move away from traditional methods into a more bio-based and sustainable way of delivering technologies to their clients.
Let’s begin with the change at company level.
In January 2017 TechnipFMC began operations as a combined company, following the merger of FMC Technologies of the United States and Technip of France. Bringing together more than 37,000 employees and decades of experience, this new company is able, through their innovative technologies and improved efficiencies, to deliver fantastic results for their clients through an integrated approach across project lifecycles from concept to delivery and beyond.
This merger comes as a response to the changing nature of the energy industry. With proprietary technologies and production systems, integrated expertise, and comprehensive solutions, the newly minted TechnipFMC ( @TechnipFMC ) has the ability to bring significant and sustainable improvement to the economics behind major projects. The company has three main segments – Subsea (technology, situated or occurring beneath the surface of the sea, typically related to oil and gas), Onshore/Offshore (again related to oil and gas, but also gas monetization, petrochemicals, polymers, refining and hydrogen – can include floating and fixed facilities at sea and facilities on land) and Surface (which gives their clients access to leading solutions in measurement and productions systems and integrated services).
And it’s the onshore segment where we find our bio-based change. Within it, a global business unit named ‘Process Technology’ is where the segment’s process technologies reside and are managed and developed. Already experts in this area, the group strengthened their position further by acquiring the Frankfurt-based Zimmer polymer technologies in December 2014. By bringing this business into the company, they gained technologies for the processing of polyesters and polyamides, research and development facilities, and around 40 skilled engineers, researchers and project teams. One member of this skilled team is Dr. Andreas Bormann, Managing Director of Technip Zimmer Process Technology (pictured below left), in Frankfurt and he spoke to our Editor, Luke Upton, exclusively about their growing work in the bio-based sector.
Luke Upton (LU): Thanks for the time today, please give us a little introduction into your work:
Dr. Andreas Bormann (AB): Here in Frankfurt, first as Zimmer and now as part of TechnipFMC, we have built a market-leading position with our proprietary polymer processes. The company has always had a strong focus on research and development and over time we have developed our own technical processes. We have two major polymer product groups: polyester plants – used for production of a wide variety of products such as bottles (as PET), shirts, wraps, carpet and more, and polyamide plants – used for the production of packaging, textiles and engineering plastics.
LU: In recent years, you’ve changed your processes to give a bigger focus on creating bio-polymers. What has driven this change?
AB: For over 60 years, we’ve used traditional methods of polymer production. But in the last few years, we’ve expanded significantly into bio-based and bio-degradable polymer processes. Why has this happened? Well for our clients, legislative pressure in Europe and China has had a big impact. There’s been a major effort to raise awareness of the environmental footprint of all products, including those made from polymers. We work in a market where our clients are looking more and more not only for high-quality, but also for more sustainable polymers and we made it our goal to provide them with the right solutions. And we are already seeing success with this for our large, international clients around the world.
LU: So for a company reading this, and looking to re-examine their own polymer production, how does your process work?
AB: There are several ways that we partner with clients. We can work in our labs, with the client, developing a novel polymer together and then move to upscaling. Or we can develop the polymer ourselves, and then take it to the client. Either way, our in-depth knowledge of the technology and polymer design enables us to work with a host of clients. We can manage the whole project, from the master planning and process design stage through front-end engineering, lump sum turnkey execution and commissioning. And the project timeline can be between eight months and 18 months, depending on the scope.
LU: Thanks, and what has the shift meant for your total polymer plant sales?
AB: In 2014, 100% of our plants sales were based on traditional polymer technologies. This year around 50-60% will be from technologies for bio-based or biodegradable polymers. So it’s a major change and a big commitment from the company.
LU: On that note, many of our readers work for companies that aren’t yet fully embracing a more bio-based way of doing things but are considering making changes. Could you give some words of advice for them?
AB: Yes of course. In making our change we’ve had the full support of our company’s board and senior management. But if you don’t have that, I’d urge colleagues to not forget that there is always change going on in any industry and sometimes you have to embrace it if you do not want to get left behind. To go on the kind of journey we are on requires open-mindedness, curiosity and the will to leave beaten paths!
LU: And one last question, if we have companies that want to make a change, why should they contact you?
AB: We are always happy to talk! We bring decades of experience, proprietary technologies and integrated expertise to the table. Beyond this TechnipFMC also has engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) capabilities and the flexibility that our own laboratories, pilot plants and partner facilities offer to clients. The team here consistently has a focus on bringing ideas through our innovation process into commercialisation, often by challenging conventions. We call it ‘purposeful innovation’. And we are all excited about the developments that are happening in our industry and proud to be a big part of them!
It’s fantastic to speak to Dr. Bormann and learn about the change that TechnipFMC has made in how they develop their polymers. Launching a more sustainable product is one thing. But making a sustainable change within a company that is already successful is often rare, and always commendable. I think that Benjamin Franklin would approve.
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