Focus on innovation sees huge returns


Waleed K. Al-Bader, former CEO, Kuwait National Petroleum Company, outlines the company’s recent major achievements and its new projects aimed at increasing its global market share and supporting the country’s sustainability agenda.

Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) was established in 1960 to lead the country’s prolific refining sector and distribute petroleum products. Under the arm of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, KNPC has extended its refining capacity to 800,000 barrels per day and undergone a transformation process to export petroleum byproducts at global standards. Under its recently launched 2040 strategy, the government-led entity plans to pump $4.2 billion to upgrade existing production and extend its number of petrol filling stations in the country. New projects under the strategy will see the Gulf nation’s domestic crude refining capacity rise to 839,600 barrels per day by 2025, and 1,575 million bpd in the long run (2027-2040). Under the leadership of former CEO Waleed K. Al-Bader, KNPC has revolutionized its offerings and modernized the company’s focus on innovation.

A significant milestone was KNPC’s completion of its $16-billion Clean Fuels Project in September 2021, which involved integrating Mina Abdullah refinery to 454,000 barrels-per-day and Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery to 346,000, enabling production of Euro 4 and Euro 5 standards of production and significantly cutting down the company’s carbon emissions. Al-Bader oversaw the project and explained its importance: “We are now capable of producing petroleum products that meet all international specifications of every legislation. We can export our products to any region without losing our market share.”

The company also launched its $1.41-billion fifth liquefied gas train at Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery in March 2022, enabling a 30 percent increase in production. The scope of the project was impressive, with up to 6,900 workers required on the site and involving 57 million working hours. With it, the country looks to raise exports of its petroleum products to meet rising regional needs. KNPC’s recent efforts were reflected in its revenues, which saw a 133 percent increase during the 2021/2022 fiscal year compared to the previous year.

"We are now capable of producing petroleum products that meet all international specifications of every legislation. We can export our products to any region without losing our market share."

Now, the company is looking to build a new petroleum products depot in North Kuwait to meet local demand and build 180 petrol filling stations by 2040 in all areas of the country. The new petrol stations are to be powered by solar energy as part of Kuwait’s goal to have a carbon neutral oil and gas industry by 2060. “We are also studying the requirement of building a new gas processing facility to accommodate the anticipated increase in gas production from the upstream sector,” said Al-Bader. While marketing of the company’s products is handled by KPC International Markets, the company’s former CEO pointed at new prospective markets in Asia, Europe and Africa.

Although KNPC’s operations are expanding rapidly, Al-Bader has kept sustainability at the center of the company’s focus. “We are leaders in sustainability in Kuwait,” he explained. “Major steps are being taken to address greenhouse gas emissions, waste reduction and management, recycling, leak and spill detection and prevention, vapor recovery systems, phasing out of halons, energy consumption optimization and other related activities.” The company has installed flare gas units in two refineries to reduce sulfur oxide, carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “We continually exert sincere efforts and invest resources to protect our environment and combat our carbon footprint,” he said.

Another key focus for the company is on innovation through a revamp of new systems and strategies started in 2018 to unlock its full potential. “We promote the culture of innovation via several activities such as corporate hackathons, awareness and design thinking workshops and Ideas Together campaigns. Our objective is to encourage all our staff – regardless of their position in the company or nationality – to come up with ideas,” Al-Bader said. Now, the bulk of the company’s main ideas are hashed out in hackathons and Ideas Together campaigns. “We motivate company employees to think outside of the box and come out with ideas; it might be a small thing, but it has a huge impact.” An example of this is KNPC’s use of a mobile application in its data and monitoring operations, which allows operations to happen without entering a processing unit.

With its boost in revenues, the company has also heavily pursued its corporate social responsibility projects aimed at supporting the local population in areas of education, environmental enhancement, health and safety awareness. Al-Bader outlined the recent projects he was most proud of: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we set up a large tent, brought in our medical teams and encouraged the population to get examined and treated if necessary. This was open to every member of our society, not just our employees. Also, during the Holy month of Ramadan we set up another tent where everyone is welcome to come and break their fast and get fed.” The company also concerns itself with ethical work practices. “Ethical recruitment and employment practices, safe work practices, as well as safe and healthy living and working conditions are critical elements to KNPC’s way of delivering work.”