Fuelling advances

Innospec Specialty Chemicals is an international specialty chemicals company, with 1000 employees spread across 23 countries, that aims to be recognised in its chosen markets as the leading provider of innovative specialty chemical solutions.

The company, which is dedicated to the principle of sustainable development, focuses on customers’ needs, whilst delivering value to clients and shareholders, and embraces innovation.

Dr. Philip Boon, executive vice president of business operations, elaborates on Innospec’s activities and discusses how the business has developed in recent years: “Innospec was formerly known as Octel, which stood for octane and tetra ethyl lead. I joined the company 12 years ago when it was still very much a lead company that operated other fledgling businesses. Two and a half years ago we changed our name to Innospec, which stands for innovation specialties, to move away from the legacy of tetra ethyl lead.

“Today, we separate our activities into three divisions; Octane Additives, which is the relatively small remaining sale of tetra ethyl lead; Fuel Specialties, which is the largest division within Innospec and has grown from turning over $70 million in 1998 to more than $400 million last year; and Active Chemicals, which is essentially focused on three huge international market areas of personal care, fragrance ingredients and household/industrial/institutional cleaners and detergents.”

Speaking in further detail about the latter of these business divisions, to which a year ago Innospec applied the model that previously enabled the successful growth of Fuel Specialties, Philip adds: “We’re a much smaller player in the Active Chemicals area but within the niches that we participate we’re pretty strong. In personal care our focus has been on emollients, surfactants, sunscreen additives, and skin and hair conditioners. In fragrances we manufacture a significant ingredient called Lilestralis (lilyof- the-valley), which is used in anything from laundry detergents to perfumes. Innospec 08 2009 bAlso, with cleaning we have a technology leading biodegradable chelant.”

Innospec occupies a prominent position on the global market and has a presence in 23 countries, managed through three regions – the Americas; Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and Asia Pacific. They key to much of Innospec’s profitability seems to be its competence in selling products. “We’re not a manufacturing led organisation; we are very much sales led,” Philip asserts. “If a part of the company isn’t doing something that relates to supporting the selling activity then it’s not doing the right job. We have very strong sales management, an excellent sales process and dedicated sales personnel who possess technical ability alongside commercial skills. We also have a great technical service group out in the field that helps to provide solutions to customers regarding applying the product to a given application. That team is concerned with adding value and solving problems.”

Research and development is also integral, in terms of maintaining Innospec’s leading position and impressive reputation. By investing in innovation, the company is able to provide a complete range of technologies to customers and ensure its own longevity. “We compete with rivals by spending significant amounts on R&D and developing new products, rather than simply progressing organically on existing product bases,” Philip reveals. “Innovation is critical and we keep R&D as a separate function to the business – our technical service function, for example, is not about R&D, as that’s about solving problems today. For R&D we look at possible changes in the marketplace and what solutions may be required over the next ten years. We undertake related analysis to ensure our R&D projects’ success in the future.”

Such dedication has proved fruitful, as Philip comments: “Over the last few years we have built up a range of technologies that can be used across the breadth of fuels used today; we have products for gasoline, aviation fuel, diesel, heavy fuel oil, etc. We segment our market and have a full technology range to solve problems that customers might have with certain fuels. We’re also involved with new fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, and we’re actively taking an interest in coal.”

Its commitment to R&D is evidently one of Innospec’s foremost strengths and this goes hand-in-hand with its product line for refineries, which Philip believes to be another of the company’s key qualities. He explains: “We have the fullest basket of technologies and additives to allow refineries to meet fuel specifications. We help them to make sure they have the right storage and offloading equipment for example, and provide support, regardless of whatever product customers need. We supply a complete range of additives that a refinery would need in order to sell fuel that meets the right specification. When those fuels are blended properties can be fundamentally changed, so it’s vital we understand the issues that can arise from that and provide solutions to customers accordingly.”

In terms of current activities, one of the big areas that Innospec is working on at the moment is the new high-speed diesel injection engines that are used in diesel cars. The hydrogenation process used to remove sulphur produces a purer fuel but makes it less stable. Also, in these new injection engines it’s possible to get up to 2000psi and there are high temperatures involved, so degradation of the fuel occurs, which can lead to power loss. Innospec has been developing new technologies that actively prevent that from happening, which helps refineries, OEMs and consumers alike.

Discussing other potential developments, Philip says there are three drivers in the fuel specialties market: “One is the cost of crude or fuel, which means people require better fuel economy. Another relates to the emerging nations of China and India becoming more affluent; everybody is going to want to have a car and everybody is going to want air conditioning, which will drive the need for power and require the fuel to provide it. But the biggest driver in our market is legislation around emissions and clean air, which can affect us in a number of different ways – for example, reductions in emissions offers opportunities to make the fuel burn more efficiently or make the engine work better.”

With so many opportunities emerging, Innospec looks set to bring new ideas it has developed to the market and turn them into profitable products, processes and services. Innovation will likely continue to be the company’s mainstay as its approach to innovation thus far has been a tremendous success, in respect of producing results. Across the company’s market sectors there are many examples of how it is bringing tangible benefits to its customers and the wider world.

Sharing his thoughts on how the business will hopefully develop in the future, Philip concludes: “I’d like to see Innospec maintain a global leadership position in fuels and fuel technology. We have worked hard to get where we are and we would obviously like to maintain that. This might require us partnering with or acquiring other companies in order to improve the portfolio of technologies and/or products that we have. I think our Active Chemicals’ division has much greater scope in which to grow and clearly we want to make that aspect of the business as big and successful as Fuel Specialties. Currently we are a $650 million business and we have ambitions to try and double that in the foreseeable future.”

Innospec Ltd

Products: Speciality chemicals including fuels