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After joining Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) as a trainee engineer in 1991, Sanjay Khanna juggled multiple roles before stepping into his current position as Director (Refineries).
According to him, the company has experienced remarkable changes over time. Initially, it dealt primarily with transportation fuels, but it has since expanded its portfolio to encompass a wide array of petroleum and petrochemical products, which has been crucial for its success as India’s second-largest oil marketer.
“In those days, meeting the numbers was important,” Khanna says of the shifts he has seen over the years. “Today, along with meeting numbers, meeting environmental norms, customer demand and financial performance parameters have become crucial. I am seeing a drastic change even in our targets now.”
As a major public-sector undertaking, BPCL is dependent on several factors to keep moving ahead while staying sustainable.
“We inherited our journey from Shell. Our core value was always customer-centricity, and today, whether it’s an internal customer or external customer, the value remains in our genome,” he says.
“We are one of the leanest companies in the industry. Our manpower cost is among the lowest, and our energy efficiency is one of the best.”
“We are one of the leanest companies in the industry. Our manpower cost is among the lowest, and our energy efficiency is one of the best in the industry.”
BPCL’s people are crucial to its success, according to Khanna.
“The most important element, which is woven into our culture, is innovation through the involvement of people,” he explains. “So when it comes to our short, mid-term and long-term plans, the experience and expertise of our dedicated team help us achieve our targets.”
As Director, Khanna sees challenges at various levels, and yet, the work culture at BPCL helps the team tackle these hurdles efficiently. At the immediate front is the turbulence caused in the industry by the Russia–Ukraine war.
“Our gross refining margin has undergone tremendous changes,” he says. “I don’t think there’s any continent which sells and where we don’t buy crude from.
“In recent times, amidst fluctuating cracks, we had our own strategy for price control and availability of most techno-economical crude recipes for each of our refineries with a core spirit – fueling the nation in every circumstance. ”
While the refinery business is the key focus of BPCL, Khanna says decarbonization is another crucial part of the business approach.
“The company is planning energy transition in a big way, and we are present in almost all options of decarbonization,” he explains.
“As a company we are in line with India’s COP26 climate action plan, where as a nation, we have a target to reach 500 gigawatts of non-fossil fuel energy capacity, and 50 percent of our energy must be from renewable sources.
“The company has also made comprehensive plans to achieve net zero for scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2040.”
“The company is planning energy transition in a big way.”
BPCL also has innovative plans in the field of renewables.
“We have gone big with ethanol-blended motor spirit,” he says. “Our company is launching our own ethanol production unit at Bargarh in Odisha.”
Khanna points out the recent introduction of green hydrogen as a source of green energy and lists out BPCL’s initiatives toward that resource.
Given the limited storage space with which BPCL operates, it is imperative to have a perfect understanding with suppliers to procure and circulate materials.
“Considering the current geopolitical situation, we realize that if we are together as an industry, we can tackle many hurdles with ease,” he says.
He also shares that BPCL is among very few companies in India to offer niche petrochemicals through the Kochi Refinery Propylene Derivative Petrochemical Project. In line with the increased demand for petrochemicals, BPCL has major plans for its petrochemical business at its Bina and Kochi Refinery.
“If we are together as an industry, we can tackle many hurdles with ease.”
He also emphasizes the importance of liquefied natural gas (LNG) integration. Natural gas is one of the important sectors in the energy transition, along with renewable and hydrogen.
BPCL has a significant and growing presence in the gas value chain and is one of the leading natural gas marketers in India.
“We were among the earliest refiners to bring LNG into our refinery,” he says. “We have come a long way, but we are still working on our LNG business to maximize its potential.”
To keep up with modern trends, BPCL must be agile, scalable and open to every possible automation, according to Khanna.
“Whether it’s improving the efficiency of the unit or the productivity of people, digital initiatives have come up in a big way,” he says.