Interview with Vikas Deshmukh, VP of Technology CoE, Hydrocarbon Business, Reliance Industries

Oil and gas well profiled on dramatic sky

We discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry, how new technologies can shape the recovery of the industry and more.

What does a typical day in your role look like? What are the biggest challenges?

A typical day in my role includes remote meetings, project progress reviews, digital transformation initiatives and innovative sessions.

What do you think will be the biggest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the oil and gas downstream industry? What do you think the shape of post-pandemic recovery looks like for your organization?

The biggest and most significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the downstream oil market has been the price crash of crude oil within a short time. Secondly the spread of this virus has forced many oil and gas companies to either stop or slow down their physical operations, which has impacted production in both upstream and downstream operations. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has hit each and every industry hard.

What role will vertical integration between downstream, midstream and upstream play in the next normal of the oil and gas downstream industry?

The oil and gas industry needs to focus on integration between downstream, midstream and upstream and there are direct benefits of pursuing vertical integration such as greater control over the supply chain and lower variable production costs.

How will new technologies shape the recovery of the oil and gas downstream industry? Are we entering the era of the virtual refinery?

That’s a good question. Yes, technologies have great role to play here in shaping the recovery of the oil & gas downstream industry. Digitalization will have a major role, so, yes, we are entering the era of the virtual refinery.

One of the biggest challenges the market faces is equipping the workforce to adapt to the pace of digitalization. How do you empower your workforce to adapt to the digitalization strategies needed to survive and thrive in the new normal?

You are right. Change management is important in digital transformation. The workforce needs to get used to the latest digital tools. Organizations need to focus on “Digital Mindset” for the workforce to adapt to the digitalization strategies needed to survive and thrive in the new normal. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”— Charles Darwin

What role will hydrogen play in the future of the industry, and your organization? Do you think that hydrogen is a sustainable and viable future for the downstream sector?

I believe the emergence of hydrogen as a clean and green alternative to conventional fossil fuels is promising, as it too offers high octane ratings, energy content and furthermore is a large base source for production.

How can digitalization/new technologies help organizations reach their sustainability goals?

Yes, digital transformation is key to tackling this important issue of sustainability within the energy sector and beyond. There is need for oil & gas industries to get maximum value out of real-time data, contributing to workforce and onsite safety, and delivering efficiencies thus reducing carbon emission.

Do you think that sustainability is increasingly becoming a corporate CSR and ESG concern? How can organizations adapt to stakeholders’ sustainability demands?

Yes, sustainability is increasingly becoming a corporate CSR and ESG concern. There is a need for organizations to focus on renewables, sustainable fuels.

How will the industry adapt and respond to the growing demand for petrochemicals?

I think many downstream industries are focusing now on oil to chemicals and it is important from the perspective of the Net Zero goal set by most of the industries.

What will be the biggest challenge to FCC operators in the next 3 -5 years?

Refiners may have to tweak (FCC) unit operations and severity to decrease gasoline output to a certain but limited extent.  In addition, refiners may have to adjust distillation cut points to move jet fuel volumes into the diesel pool

How do you encourage greater diversity in the oil and gas and downstream industry?

I believe cross-industry collaborations in support of decarbonization and energy industry transition are fundamental to encourage greater diversity in the oil and gas and downstream industry

What would be your tip for young engineers looking to enter the industry?

For new engineers my message would be to be “Digital Ready” with a “Digital Mindset”.



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