In January of this year, BASF, the world’s leading chemical company, announced the appointment of Dr. Udo Huenger as the new vice president for operations in the Middle East, Egypt and Iran. We speak to Dr. Huenger at the company’s regional headquarters in Jafza to find out more about the company and its plans for the future.
The Zone: What is the ethos of BASF and why is the Middle East important to it?
Dr Huenger: At BASF, we create chemistry for a sustainable future. As the world’s leading chemical company, we combine economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility. Our more than 115,000 employees in the BASF Group work on contributing to the success of our customers in nearly all sectors and almost every country in the world.
In the region, we have offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Khobar, Cairo and Tehran. In addition, we run a polyurethane system house in Dubai, a state-of-the-art production facility for customer-specific antioxidant blends (CSB) in Bahrain, and production sites for construction chemicals in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Oman. This shows our focus and commitment to the region and it also demonstrates how important the Middle East is for us.
The Zone: How do you plan on implementing the new global strategy in the Middle East?
Dr Huenger: The main driver of our new global strategy is to focus even more on our customers. This means that we combine our unique expertise with our customers’ competencies and join forces with our customers and other business partners to jointly develop solutions that are both profitable and sustainable, and tailored to the region. We are also launching a series of measures, which will, among other things, increase our transparency for our customers, enhance customer service and explore joint growth potential.
The Zone: Why did you choose Jafza for your new office?
Dr Huenger: Our move to Jafza One fits with the next phase of BASF’s growth in the region. Our new office allows a new way of working for our staff. The office is designed to increase collaboration and communication. It also has sustainability in mind. The new set-up allows us to sharpen the focus on our customers in many ways.
The Zone: What do you think about the digital agility in the petrochemical industry?
Dr Huenger: Digitalisation is a key element of our new corporate strategy and we have been stressing this topic for many years with great success. Since 2015, we have explored opportunities for the intelligent use of data and digital technologies, tested them in pilot projects and rolled them out in the company.
Work in research and development has also been supported by digital solutions, with our Supercomputer Quriosity being the main driver in this area. We are able to offer our researchers computing power like no other company in the chemical industry.
And perhaps even more critically, by using digital technologies and data, we are creating additional value for our customers and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness
of our processes’ for instance, in the supply chain. Our customers can now have access to important information in real time through the use of new digital services.
The Zone: As a recognised sustainability leader, how do you contribute?
Dr Huenger: Thank you! I believe that being recognised as a sustainability leader is something that all of our employees around the world are most proud of. We have just announced that we aim not just for profitable, but also for CO -neutral growth. This means that we will decouple our greenhouse gas emissions from organic growth. To achieve this, we will improve the management, efficiency and integration of our manufacturing sites and, wherever possible, we will purchase a greater share of electricity from renewable energy sources.
The Zone: Any upcoming projects in the pipeline?
Dr Huenger: I am very excited about ChemCycling and hope that we will be able to bring our lessons learned to the Middle East. At our headquarters in Germany, we recently broke new ground by producing material using recycled plastic feedstocks. With chemical recycling, fossil resources for chemical production that can be replaced with recycled material from plastic waste. This is how we create value for the environment, society and the economy.
The Zone: What do you think is the future of the petrochemical industry in the UAE?
Dr Huenger: I am very optimistic about the future of the petrochemical industry in the region. I believe we are all clear on what the drivers for the industry will be: forward integration, operational excellence, digitalisation and sustainability. Transformative partnership between local players and global players such as BASF will increasingly play a greater role. It’s a very exciting time to be part of this.
“I am very optimistic about the future of the petrochemical industry in the region”Dr. Udo Huenger