Laurentiu Ghita: Connecting chemistry – Brenntag’s road to meeting its clients’ needs
Global market leader in chemical distribution, BRENNTAG is an international company which manages complex supply chains, offers innovative solutions and technological services for various industrial fields.
We’ve had a discussion with Mr. Laurentiu Ghita, Oil & Gas Business Development Manager Downstream for Central Eastern Europe (CEE), about the solutions provided for the oil and gas sector and the company’s future prospects.
Mr. Director, you graduated from the Petroleum-Gas University (UPG) in Ploiesti and you have over 25 years of experience in this field. However, where does this passion for ‘chemicals’ come from?
Laurentiu Ghita: Frankly speaking, chemistry was not one of my hobbies. Although the foundations were laid long ago, during high school, by an extraordinary chemistry teacher, whose name I am mentioning here with love: Mrs. Ariadna Baciu, at the National College Mihai Viteazul from my home town Ploiesti, who, despite giving us low marks, managed to seed the fundamentals of chemistry in me. She didn’t however succeed to turn me towards this field, as I went to the Mechanical Engineering career (I graduated from the Faculty of Oilfield Equipment at UPG Ploiesti – currently the Petroleum-Gas University). I worked in production for a downhole equipment manufacturing company for almost 13 years, reaching the Production Manager position, until something ‘broke’ and I felt the need for change. The opportunity was a Management scholarship funded by the Dutch Government, with a placement to BRENNTAG’s Amsterdam office, which expressed the intention of starting an Oil & Gas project in Romania.
In order to remain under the set terms, from the energy point of view, how did the chemical reaction/association with BRENNTAG take place and what are your tasks within the company?
Laurentiu Ghita: As I said, life ignores passions and hobbies and, after 13 years of mechanical engineering, I got the chance to evolve within a top company in the chemical distribution field, more precisely, to start up the Oil & Gas project in Romania. After a few years of searches and attempts, with successes but also with failures, the business gradually grew up. We’ve started to participate in tenders, being accepted as suppliers of OMV PETROM, ROMGAZ and, later on, in a strategic re-orientation, of all the operators on the Romanian scene; in the beginning, through the so called ‘commodities’ (general chemicals), and then, a little harder, through ‘specialities’ and services.
Presently, the business has developed enough to increase the team by a Desk Sales Assistant, and currently by a new member in charge with UPSTREAM, whereas I am in charge with the DOWNSTREAM segment.
As Business Development Manager in Downstream for CEE you have an overview on the market development. What is Romania’s position against the region in these terms?
Laurentiu Ghita: We all witness the turmoil caused by the abrupt fall of the crude oil price. Its evolutions have partly satisfied the final consumer, who sees lower prices at the petrol station for gasoline/diesel, but, on the other side, have caused a lot of troubles to the production chain. Starting with the halt of the drilling project, of production, of stimulation (by the way: has anybody heard anything new about the enthusiastic shale gas projects started a few years ago?) and continuing with the exaggerate caution in the DOWNSTREAM field, which now revs the engines to take advantage of this ‘gap’.
In our area, although we hoped that a lower price for the raw materials would mean a revival of investments, the main criteria for an offer is still the price. Romania is no exception.
What products and solutions does BRENNTAG supply in general and for the oil and gas sector in particular?
Laurentiu Ghita: BRENNTAG is worldwide leader in chemical distribution. Name a chemical product and BRENNTAG will offer it to you. Using its world network, the logistic capacities, local warehouses, close to the beneficiary, all is offered quickly and with dedication. By our specialists, in each field, besides the product itself, we provide know-how, counselling, recommendations, optimization. Lately, we have entered the services market, coming with full package, added value. This is what we also do in the Oil & Gas division, we offer general use chemicals for drilling, production, exploitation, processing, refining, petro-chemistry, etc: acids, lyes, salts, amines, glycols, etc. but also the so-called Specialties. This is a long story. The recent investments raised the expectations of our offer. We now have a completely new laboratory in Poland, we use the support of specialists there who amazingly developed this business. By lab tests, we recommend the proper treatment for the aimed purpose. Thus, we can supply: corrosion inhibitors, paraffin inhibitors, salts inhibitors, foamers – defoamers, demulsifiers, etc. For DOWNSTREAM applications, we come with pre-sulphiding solutions (product and service), special amines (selective retention) plus connected services (sampling, monitoring, testing, recommendation), in one word: optimization.
Out of the range of solutions for the oil and gas sector, which ones are the revolutionary options in terms of solutions/technologies recommended in view of cutting the costs within the supply chain, considering also the compliance with environment and work safety regulations?
Laurentiu Ghita: To this question I can reply with the example from one of my favourite products: the range of pre-sulphiding products and services of catalysts for units such as FCC, HDS where for a long time, they are using rich sulphur products, but are extremely dangerous and environmentally unfriendly. We have an alternative, indeed, a bit more expensive, but for which we guarantee later savings which might compensate the initial cost. Plus a chemistry that allows a process start-up at a lower temperature than in the classic mode, meaning energy cost savings. Plus no more flare problems. Plus no more danger in utilization due to the lower flash point. Plus no more annoying smell. Plus, more important, the best quality and availability of the service which brought us many successes and recommendations worldwide.
What projects are currently ongoing and what priority future plans do you have?
Laurentiu Ghita: We have now a period of some re-organization, of activity optimization. We benefit from the experience of our Polish colleagues, a support which makes us optimistic. We’ve started some new projects we hope to implement, such as biocides for stocked fuels in order to prevent the microorganisms growing and their development, and the problems they create. We even had a presentation on this issue during the DOWNSTREAM Day at the Romania Oil & Gas Conference 2016, organized in November and the outcomes are positive.
Another possible direction could be the process chemicals for refining, as we could extend our offer to DAV, HDS units and more. Another direction could be liquid and solid foamers for gas production wells, as our products passed the tests performed by courageous potential beneficiaries. We are coming up with chemicals and services for production, for water treatment. Recently, we’ve started, together with some friends, an innovative project for internal covering of pipes with epoxy resins, for corrosion protection, where we come with internal chemical cleaning. And there is still more to come…
What directions aim the company’s predominant investments in the coming period?
Laurentiu Ghita: I can strictly talk about my division. Until now we have looked at the human side: trying to provide a specialized, competent team. From now on, we have to start thinking about equipment, a small mobile laboratory. We have to be closer to the customers’ needs, to offer them the desired answers, as quickly and precisely possible.
In the current context of the falling refining operations in Europe and of the petrochemical industry and refining situation in our country, what is your vision on the company’s development in the coming years?
Laurentiu Ghita: We have to be optimistic. This low crude price cannot last forever. The need for fossil fuels is (still) high and the counteroffer of alternative energies is still not so consistent.
What is your assessment on the company’s financial results for 2016?
Laurentiu Ghita: As a whole, BRENNTAG is a solid, strong company, whose results can only go in one direction: Upwards. And the current figures show that.
How does the company’s philosophy of ‘Connecting Chemistry’ practically turn into reality?
Laurentiu Ghita: It’s a life philosophy. Chemistry, besides being a ‘cold’ science, can unite people. Daily activity needs chemistry. Either we like it or not, chemistry is part of our life. Besides the ‘evil’ E-s, we need to keep the food fresh as long as possible, we need gasoline to burn cleaner and more efficiently, the crude to flow through the pipes with no ‘plugs’ and so on. We are here to make contact between the two parties: the beneficiary and the supplier, to let them know each other and to find out about one’s needs and the other one’s solutions.
What ‘chemical’ relation is there between Manager Laurentiu Ghita and the less known character, by his industry colleagues, epigramist Laurentiu Ghita. How does engineering meet poetry?
Laurentiu Ghita: Well, here you’ve touched a chord. Everybody has a hobby, a passion, an alter ego. You have to keep the balance between professional life and this one. I’m trying to and I hope to succeed. Epigram is my big passion, to which I dedicate most of my spare time. If anyone should be dissatisfied, that is my family. But I was lucky and they bear with me! I am participating in contests (sometimes I even win), I publish on-line and also in magazines and books, well… I am involved. And I must say I really made my name known. I am sure in 50 years’ time or more, nobody would remember Laurentiu Ghita worked with the company X or Y, but the book’s cover will last, there will still be the author’s name on it: Laurentiu Ghita.