Supporting The Global Energy Transition Towards a More Sustainable Future: An Interview with Rich Sumner, President & CEO of Methanex Corporation

Supporting The Global Energy Transition Towards a More Sustainable Future: An Interview with Rich Sumner, President & CEO of Methanex Corporation

How does Methanex’s strategy support the achievement of the vision of Methanol global leadership?

We take pride in being the global market leader in the production and supply of methanol to major international markets. To maintain our leadership position, we focus on creating value through the global production, marketing and delivery of methanol to customers supporting both traditional and energy-related markets. We also focus on maintaining a low-cost structure as an important competitive advantage in a commodity industry – as well as operational excellence across all aspects of our business, from manufacturing and supply chain processes to corporate governance practices and financial management. Our strategically positioned production sites in every major market enable our team to quickly adapt and respond to our customers’ needs.

Another key factor in maintaining our leadership position is our extensive global supply chain and distribution network of terminals and storage facilities and our integrated in-region logistics capabilities that provide us with unique flexibility to deliver methanol directly to customers by several modes of transport including tanker, barge, rail, truck and pipeline.

We also pride ourselves on being a leader in Responsible Care®, an operating ethic and set of principles for sustainability developed by the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada and recognized by the United Nations, to manage issues related to employee health and safety, environmental protection, community involvement, social responsibility, sustainability, security and emergency preparedness. Our commitment to Responsible Care is one of the main pillars that support the sustainability of our business and helps us maintain our license to operate globally.

How can Methanex positively contribute to the global energy transition and support the transition to a low-carbon economy?

As the world’s largest producer and supplier of methanol, we recognize that it is essential that we use our leadership position to promote the role methanol has to play in contributing to a more sustainable future.

We are committed to playing an active role in the transition to a low-carbon economy by leveraging our existing production assets and collaborating with government and industry. Our objective is to drive solutions that can meet the growing demand for our product in ways that can support the environmental commitments of our company, industry and customers. Two priorities are guiding our activities to support a transition to a low-carbon economy: producing low-carbon/carbon neutral methanol and growing the markets for methanol.

We are currently exploring low-carbon pathways to make methanol using our existing asset portfolio, in particular carbon capture utilization and storage, e-methanol and renewable natural gas. Developing methods to efficiently and reliably produce methanol from renewable sources on a commercial scale is an important next step on the path to meeting society’s decarbonization goals.

We are also focused on identifying efficiency projects for our existing sites to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emission intensity. We are committed to reducing our GHG emission intensity from manufacturing by 10 per cent by 2030, compared to 2019 levels. Also, we have committed capital and resources to look at technology for a new build design that could achieve a fifty-percent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to our current methanol plant design.

In addition, methanol is a chemical building block for hundreds of products, many of which help make our lives more sustainable, including energy-efficient buildings, electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines. It is also a cleaner burning fuel that can be used to improve air quality compared to traditional fuels like diesel or coal.

Regarding growing markets for methanol, we continue to promote methanol as a marine and vehicle fuel, as well as promoting its heating uses for industrial and domestic applications. We take pride in our leadership role in advancing the use of methanol as a cleaner-burning marine fuel and supporting the shipping industry’s goal to significantly reduce emissions. Today, there are over 100 methanol or dual-fuel vessels that are either running or on order, from leading shipping companies including Maersk, Cosco Shipping and many others.

How do you see the future of methanol?

Methanol is an essential chemical building block for many everyday products in modern society, including clothing, construction materials, automotive parts, pharmaceuticals, and more. It’s also difficult to substitute due to its unique chemistry, scale and ease of transport and cost.

As society and industry commit to decarbonization, the world faces a dilemma: while demand for petrochemicals and global transportation of goods is growing, so are the pressures to reduce or eliminate the carbon footprint of these products and activities. Methanol, as both a chemical building block and a fuel, can help resolve this dilemma. It can help meet the increased demand for petrochemical-based products and reduce air pollution and GHG emissions from combustion-related applications. It can also be made from renewable sources and support the long-term decarbonization of both the chemicals that make modern life possible and the transportation sector.

Methanol can also support decarbonization pathways in developing economies that are most likely going to face challenges in transitioning to lower-carbon fuels. These countries will require affordable energy options that still set them on a path to decarbonization which is where methanol can play a role.

What essential role does Methanex play in Egypt’s national economy and how do its partnerships within the country help it achieve its key strategic objectives?

As the only methanol production business in the country, this means that our joint venture substantially provides most of the country’s methanol needs. Methanex supports the government’s vision of maximizing the value of the country’s oil and gas resources, through providing vital feedstock to a number of petrochemical industries that further contribute to Egypt’s economic growth. Of equal importance is our exports – about 85% of our production is exported via ships to various destinations around the world, mainly in Europe – providing revenues that further contribute to the country’s economy.

We have also developed strong and successful partnerships in Egypt, within the Egyptian oil and gas sector and the local community. On the sector level, and through our ongoing collaboration and partnership with the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), the Egyptian Petrochemicals Holding Company (ECHEM) and other key holding companies, we were able to start a rich dialogue around Process Safety Management (PSM) within the sector. This enabled us to take real steps on the ground towards turning our joint PSM vision of safer processes, assets, and operations, into a reality. This led to the creation of a three-year roadmap to guide all petrochemical, oil and gas companies on their PSM journeys, aligning with the Minister of Petroleum’s vision for the modernization of the sector. In just three years after signing our PSM Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2020, we are now witnessing the development of 24 world-class PSM standards and guidelines created by the PSM Technical Sub-Committee under the leadership of the Egyptian PSM Steering Committee. Those standards and guidelines will set the path for companies in the Egyptian oil and gas sector to achieve the zero injuries and zero release goals set by the ministry.

As a responsible neighbor, we have been committed to making a difference to the communities in Damietta, through a focus on social investments in health, education, sustainable development, and training. Over the years, we have accelerated our social responsibility journey through strengthening our sustainability maturity and ensuring that positive impacts experienced by the community and local partners are enhanced and meaningful. We are also aligned with Egypt’s Vision 2030 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030 which form the framing structure of our social responsibility work in Damietta. I believe we have created a success story through our partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2019 that extends ILO’s flagship project, “Decent Jobs for Egypt’s Young People (DJEP)”, to the governorate to create decent employment opportunities for youth in Damietta, through promoting entrepreneurship and facilitating job matching processes. So far, this successful partnership resulted in empowering and training 1,891 young entrepreneurs, including 1,387 women, and creating more than 653 job opportunities within Damietta.

Can you share with us your take on EGYPS and your participation in this year’s show?

I am excited that my first industry conference engagement as Methanex’s CEO will be at EGYPS, the largest oil and gas show in Egypt and the region. There are great opportunities here to share knowledge with and learn from other leaders and brands in the industry, as well as engage with policy makers and government officials. We’re all working together to achieve a better future for one of the keys enabling sectors of the global economy.

I am honored to be one of the strategic conference speakers, joining a panel with other senior leaders to discuss decarbonization. I will also be joining members of our Egypt team to celebrate the successful partnerships we have established during our 12-year journey in Egypt. We will be sharing our success stories about embedding Process Safety Management (PSM) within the Egyptian oil, gas, and petrochemical sector, as well as supporting the Damietta community on the journey to embracing sustainable development as a vehicle for growth through our agreement with the International Labor Organization (ILO). Methanex is also a finalist in Sustainability in Energy Conference’s Safety Awards, recognizing our efforts in creating a PSM framework. So overall, I have many reasons to be excited about my participation in EGYPS 2023.



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