By Mark Kelly

Over a year into the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the challenges involved in hosting a major global conference virtually are well-documented. Meeting those challenges with programming, participation and networking opportunities that meet the needs and expectations of attendees continues to be the mark by which successful conferences are defined.

The success of the recent IHS Markit World Petrochemical Conference for 2021 is a prime example. In keeping with its theme, “Chemical Renaissance: Building Resilience, Agility, and Innovation in an Enhanced Global Role,” the conference — held March 8-12 — highlighted innovation and sustainability as the keys for future growth in petrochemicals and related fields.

WPC 2021 welcomed more than 900 participants from over 40 countries, marking this year’s event as a truly global conference. Among other highlights, the conference featured:

  • More than 65 presenters from IHS Markit and across the petrochemical industry
  • More than 70 expert sessions with in-depth industry analysis — content that was made available to all attendees on-demand during the week prior to the conference
  • Innovative virtual networking opportunities to connect attendees, speakers, partners and experts
  • Live Executive Conference panels with top leaders focused on industry-wide themes
  • Live panels with experts discussing critical issues emerging in the global marketplace
  • Virtual Genius Exchange presentations, showcasing key solutions offered by WPC partners

In addition, WPC 2021 offered eight special programs, including the Latin America Petrochemical Summit; a session on financial and capital markets, a new addition for the 2021 conference; seminars on technology and fertilizers, agribusiness and ag chemicals (the latter topic expanded for the WPC 2021); the China Forum; the India and Middle East Forum (added for 2021); and summits devoted to Transportation & Logistics and Sustainability & the Circular Economy.

For the third consecutive year, the MAST Initiative was a sponsor of WPC. A collaboration of Alabama Power, the Mobile Chamber of Commerce, and leaders of the state’s chemical sector, MAST is committed to the continued growth and expansion of the industry along the 60-mile corridor north of the Port of Mobile; the organization’s acronym denotes the four communities along the corridor that are key to the MAST strategy: McIntosh, Axis, Saraland, and Theodore.

Alabama Power’s Amendi Stephens manages the company’s activities in support of MAST. She congratulated IHS Markit on the “tremendous success” of WPC 2021 and said the growing reach and impact of the conference is key to the strategy for realizing the full potential of the MAST Corridor.

“Alabama is positioned to be a leader as the petrochemical industry continues to move into a future built on innovation and sustainability,” Stephens said. “As Alabama Power continues to work for our state’s economic success, our partnership with IHS Markit helps ensure that we are reaching decisionmakers directly to help them understand the advantages Alabama provides.”

Benjamin Kinberg, partnership director for IHS Markit, stressed the value his organization places on the partnership with MAST. For WPC 2021, MAST sponsored the “multitude of networking capabilities that were associated with the virtual platform,” Kinberg pointed out.”

“Working with the MAST Initiative has been a win-win from the start,” said Kinberg. “We’re proud to provide MAST with elevated exposure to our global petrochemical audience regarding the valuable economic advantages associated with project planning in the Corridor. At the same time, as our official Passport Program partner, MAST enabled capabilities that were integral to the success of this year’s conference.

“It’s a strong partnership, and we appreciate it.”

WPC 2021: Five Key Takeaways 

Alabama Power’s Amendi Stephens manages the company’s support of the MAST Initiative, including MAST’s sponsorship of the IHS Markit World Petrochemical Conference (WPC). Stephens reported the following key takeaways from WPC 2021:

  • Petrochemicals and plastics are essential to society. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the industry’s products, and optimizing its global reach will require continued — and increasing — commitment to resilience, agility, and innovation. Top executives recognize that achieving circularity and finding long-term solutions to issues such as plastic waste will require increased collaboration throughout the industry and with key partners.
  • 2020 was a pivot point for decarbonization and the transition to “greener” energy sources. Among the leading factors in acceleration of the energy transition:
    • Oil demand has been “reset” at a lower level as a result of the pandemic.
    • Wind and solar demand increased by nearly 10 percent in 2020.
    • Governments at all levels are adopting green-oriented plans and policies.
    • Energy companies are increasing their commitments to the transition.
    • The cumulative effect of years of policy support and declining costs for wind and solar power and electric batteries.
    • The cost of electric vehicles is approaching the cost of internal combustion vehicles.
  • Climate change is the biggest challenge for the petrochemical industry — but also a tremendous opportunity. The chemical industry provides the building blocks for products for which demand is growing, including wind turbines, lighter-weight materials, and better-performing batteries. Increasing use of plastics and other renewables as feedstock is also part of the transition process. 
  • Electrification is the trend of the future, touching all industry sectors. The chemical industry’s shift away from fossil fuels will continue to accelerate, with electrification of heaters, furnaces, and boilers — as well, eventually, as new substations to deliver “green” electricity. 
  • Electronic chemicals will be the industry’s top growth sector through 2025. This includes specialty chemicals used in the manufacture of silicon wafers, integrated circuits, printed circuit boards, semiconductors, flat panel displays, and solar cell panels.

For more information on the MAST Initiative, contact Amendi Stephens at [email protected]