The Circular Economy Interview Series: Accelerate the Energy Transition with VOPAK

Interview with Juan Miguel Perez, CEO & Co-Founder of Finboot and Ron Abbott, Vice President Chemical Recycling of Vopak
March 25, 2024

In the chemical manufacturing sector, there has been significant change in recent years.


The CEO and Co-Founder of Finboot, Juan Miguel Perez, was delighted to be able to spend some time with Ron Abbott, Vice President Chemical Recycling, Vopak to discuss these changes and look ahead to the challenges capital intensive industries face as they look to accelerate their role in the energy and feedstock transition.



Ron’s professional journey began at the Phillips Petroleum Company, which led him to Chevron Phillips Chemical Company after the merger of Chevron Chemical and Phillips Petroleum’s chemical division.


Ron has so far amassed an impressive 31 years’ of experience, primarily in R&D and new technology development.  His focus throughout his career has always been on practical application of new technologies and making a positive difference.  For the past five years Ron has focused on chemical recycling of plastics.


During the conversation, Ron highlighted the need for but the limitations of mechanical recycling. Supply issues loom large, and the resulting material is typically not suitable for regulated applications. Enter advanced technologies like chemical recycling, which is emerging as an effective complementary approach to mechanical recycling needed to meet future regulatory recycled content requirements.


Vopak recognizes that the path to sustainability lies in collaboration. As Vice President of Chemical Recycling, Ron is excited about where Vopak is heading. Vopak seeks to help pyrolysis[1] oil companies and resin producers scale up their technologies and build efficiencies.


In the end, the global community needs to achieve a more circular economyVopak’s sprint towards this more circular economy is fuelled by innovation, transparency, and an unwavering, long-standing commitment to serve their customers. Transparency in supply chain data is instrumental for true sustainability. Ron said, ¨At Vopak, we’re not just witnesses to this global shift; we’re active participants shaping a future where the circular economy isn’t an aspiration but a tangible reality. ¨


Navigating Toward Net-Zero and Sustainable Growth

Vopak was established in 1616. This 400-year-old company has weathered many storms, adapting, and evolving to remain relevant. But how does a company maintain its longevity in a world that’s rapidly transforming? The answer lies in innovation, foresight, and a commitment to sustainability.


Vopak has had to reinvent itself periodically to grow. The need for emissions reduction present both challenges and opportunities. Fossil fuels, once the lifeblood of our economies, are no longer sustainable. Vopak recognises this seismic shift and embraces it. Their new energies team at Vopak, that Ron is a part of, is at the forefront of this transformation.


“As one example, we’ve been repurposing storage tanks,” Ron says. In Los Angeles for example, 22 tanks have been converted to store Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel. Similarly, 16 new storage tanks have been constructed in Rotterdam for the same purpose. In Singapore, bio methanol bunkering activities are also underway. “Renewable feedstocks - they’re the future,” says Ron. Major petrochemical producers now integrate renewable feedstocks into their portfolios. It’s a shift towards net-zero emissions – an audacious goal, but one Vopak embraces.


In the dynamic landscape of energy and sustainability, Vopak, a global leader in storage and infrastructure solutions, has charted a strategic course that combines growth with a steadfast commitment to environmental responsibility. Ron said Vopak’s strategy, can be summarised as “improve, grow, and accelerate.”

Three Pillars of Vopak’s Strategy

1 - Improving Financial and Sustainability Performance

The bedrock of Vopak’s strategylies in enhancing both financial and sustainability metrics. By optimizing operations, reducing emissions, and fostering responsible practices, Vopak aims to create value for shareholders while minimizing its environmental footprint.

2 - Growing in Base, Industrial and Gas Terminals

Vopak recognises the critical role it plays in the energy transition. As the world shifts toward cleaner fuels, liquefied natural gas (LNG) has emerged as an interim solution. Vopak's terminals, strategically positioned across the globe – serve as vital hubs forstoring and distributing essential energy resources.


3 - Accelerating Toward New Energies and Sustainable Feedstocks

The future demands innovation.Vopak is committed to investing in low-carbon alternatives, such as green hydrogen, ammonia, and carbon capture, storage, and utilization. By leveraging existing assets and exploring other opportunities, Vopak aims to contribute significantly to a net-zero society.

Download it now!

Leveraging Sustainability for Growth


Ron emphasized that urgency underscores Vopak mission. "Climate change is a serious threat, and we can't be complacent. Our environment has given us a deadline, and we need to pay attention to it. But there's a paradox: While developed countries are transitioning quickly, there are still many places that haven't reached the same level of growth. How can we bridge this gap? ¨


One part of the solution, he advocates, is to see energy transition and sustainability initiatives as opportunities for growth. Instead of obstacles, developed countries can help under developed regions move forward. ¨By investing in renewable energy, green technologies, and circular practices, we can create chances for economic progress. It's adelicate balance – combining urgency with inclusivity – but one that has great potential for humanity."


¨Vopak's dedication to sustainability is clear through three major investment commitments:


●      Improve:  Our commitment to shaping a better future  has led us to set ambitious goals to guide us towards 2030. Our focus is on  continuing to improve the financial and sustainability performance of our  portfolio and on creating value for all stakeholders.

●      Grow:  We aim to grow in industrial and gas infrastructure by investing EUR 1 billion by 2030. We operate, strategically located industrial terminals that are well connected to our customers' industrial facilities. In addition our gas terminals handling LNG and LPG form a vital connection between supply and demand and play an important role in the security of energy supply.

●      Accelerate: Vopak aims to accelerate the transition to new energies and sustainable feedstocks by investing EUR 1 billion by 2030. Our investments will help to facilitate new logistic chains to support customers in their energy transition ambitions. Decarbonizing our value chains will be a long-term journey involving many stages, while the speed and approach will vary from region to region. However, one thing is certain: infrastructure will be critical at every stage and location.  ¨    


Final thoughts: The Climate Risk Imperative


Why does circularity matter? Because we’re reshaping the world for generations to come. Consider Ron’s three-year-old grand daughter, poised to enter the workforce two decades from now. What legacy will she inherit? Our mission is clear: reduce carbon footprints, enhance efficiencies, and leave a planet that thrives.


Challenges and Tools

Yes, challenges loom large. But so do opportunities. As the population of the planet grows our planet demands steward ship. The key tools are digitisation, innovation, and the collective will to create behavioural change. Taken together these tools can be our compass – guiding us toward a sustainable destination.


Call to Action

We need to build a world where circularity isn’t an abstract concept but a daily practice. Together, we’ll turn challenges into stepping stones and opportunities into reality. And in the end the sprint (perhaps it’s a marathon AND a sprint!) to net-zero isn’t just about business; it’s about legacy. And in 20 years, when Ron’s grand daughter steps into her role, we will have been successful if she finds a world transformed—one where emissions goals have been met and circularity is the norm.



[1] “Pyrolysis is one of thetechnologies available to convert biomass to an intermediate liquid productthat can be refined to drop-in hydrocarbon biofuels, oxygenated fuel additivesand petrochemical replacements. Pyrolysis is the heating of an organic material,such as biomass, in the absence of oxygen”, USDA

------ END OF THE INTERVIEW ------

Final Note: This interview marks the beginning of our Circular Economy Series. Stay tuned for upcoming episodes, where thought leaders like Ron will discuss their perspectives and insights.


Discover More:  For deeper insights, explore our ebooks and blog. Dive into the world of blockchain-powered solutions, where trust meets efficiency.

Connect with Finboot on social media:

●      LinkedIn: Follow us for the latest updates and industry trends.

●     X (formerly known as Twitter): Join the conversation and stay informed.

Reach out to Finboot team – we’re eager toshare knowledge and collaborate.