For this issue of Energy, Oil & Gas, we joined Jorge Lanza, CEO at Exolum, a leading European logistics company for liquid products, to get an insight into one of the fastest growing bulk liquid solution providers in the world. Jorge is no newcomer. In fact, he’s been in the industry for decades, first joining BP back in 1994. This role would serve as the starting point for his entire professional career in the oil sector. For almost 30 years, he’s worked in various downstream (refining, midstream, trading and marketing) roles across several European and North American countries. Between 2012 and 2014, he was promoted to and performing as Executive President for BP in Spain and Portugal.
At the same time, Jorge served as a member of Exolum’s board of directors, though back then it went by the name CLH. “This afforded the opportunity to become part of this great company and to help it transform so it can achieve at least 100 more years of success!” he tells us.
Jorge is eager to tell us about Exolum, a company that, he will readily admit, suffered during the pandemic years.
“With almost 100 years of history, we play a key role in society as – through our operations concerning the storage and transportation of fuels, chemicals, and other bulk liquid products – we facilitate responsible and sustainable access to these resources,” he explains.
“These meet sustainable mobility requirements and the demands of the industry, contributing to improving people’s lives on a daily basis,” he continues. “In this way, we actively contribute to fostering social progress and wellbeing.”
Exolum is present in eight countries, namely Spain, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru. It employs 2200 people and manages a diverse portfolio: 68 storage terminals, 46 airport facilities, over 6000 kilometers of pipeline, and 11 million cubic meters of capacity.
Resilience and adaptability
As a company focused on the logistics of liquid products such as fuel oil, among others, the Covid-19 pandemic was understandably a difficult period for Exolum, but the company has not wavered in its determination to succeed and
remain relevant. In the recent presentation of its 2022 financial results, the company was able to demonstrate significant growth since the pandemic’s decline.
“Our corporate financial results have experienced a considerable recovery compared to the two previous years, which were greatly affected by Covid-19 and everything surrounding it,” Jorge reflects.
“The end of restrictions on mobility, the recovery of the aviation sector, coupled with the implementation of new biofuel services and the consolidation of our international business, made it possible to put an end to a phase marked by great global uncertainty as a result of the pandemic.
“In 2022, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization reached 533 million euros, which is 13.2 percent more than in 2021,” he adds. “As I mentioned before, the recovery of the activity and the diversification initiated by Exolum some seven years ago have enabled us to obtain more balanced results. It should be noted that 28 percent of revenue came from outside Spain, and new lines of business adapted to the energy transition.
“Moreover, the recovery of the aviation sector strengthens the company’s commitment to this area, which already represents 32 percent of the overall business.
“In 2022, Exolum faced the challenge of absorbing major changes in fuel supply chains as a result of the sanctions imposed by the EU on imports of Russian product, and all of this with no impact on the end customer,” Jorge says.
“I would like to highlight the resilience and adaptability of our logistics network. Despite the highly volatile situation, it has continued with strength.”
As Jorge has mentioned, one way Exolum has diversified its operations is through the implementation of new biofuel services. The company has undoubtedly responded to wider changes in the industry.
Championing the energy transition
Indeed, the world’s energy sector is undergoing a transformation, which is driving a decarbonized energy transition. “Our company is playing a key role in this transition,” says Jorge. “We’re currently finding the balance between meeting society’s need for fuels and chemicals and developing new solutions for sustainable mobility and the industry of the future.
“At Exolum, we’re committed to the energy transition and the fight against climate change, and we aim to accompany the decarbonization of mobility by developing new logistics solutions for the energy vectors of the future, such as advanced biofuels, hydrogen, and its derivatives,” he adds.
“In principle, we could think that the new decarbonization movement within a traditional sector such as ours might represent a threat to the company’s own sustainability; however, since embarking on a green journey of our own, we’ve discovered opportunities in the application of new technologies.
“In turn, these make our activities more sustainable and efficient,” Jorge continues. “Furthermore, an array of opportunities have arisen during the development of new infrastructures, a necessary factor in the deployment of new emerging energy vectors.”
In this regard, Exolum’s commitment to the energy transition and decarbonization involves not only the decarbonization of its own activity, but also the promotion of sustainable fuels of the future with the cooperation of its customers. As such, Exolum is currently working on the development of new energy vectors like advanced biofuels made from recycled waste, as well as synthetic fuels, hydrogen, and its derivatives.
When it comes to sectors that are notoriously difficult to electrify – including aviation, maritime, and heavy transport – organizations will rely on these new vectors, which are being pioneered by companies like Exolum, in order to decarbonize.
“Our strategy for the future involves adapting our existing infrastructure,” says Jorge, “which means building more when required and developing other services to promote a decarbonized energy transition.
“In this regard, we can highlight five main pillars,” he reveals. “The first, as I’ve noted, is our involved pledge to advance biofuels, which represents a great opportunity to support the decarbonization of transport.
“These biofuels can be used in conventional combustion engines and in existing infrastructure, making their adoption and penetration easier. At Exolum, we started the adaptation process of our transportation network and facilities for the storage and distribution of these sustainable fuels years ago.
“We took many steps to increase the number of tanks at our plants to offer greater storage capacity and expand our range of services to support a variety of components and raw materials,” he adds. The second pillar, which is tied to the first, is the fact that Exolum is a major driver in the adoption of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for air transport.
“We collaborate with operators and airline companies in their expansion through partnerships such as the Alliance for Air Transport Sustainability,” details Jorge. “As a member of the executive committee, we are an active member in the SAF movement.
“Moreover, we’ve created the Avikor platform, which offers users the possibility to fly more sustainably by reducing the carbon dioxide emissions caused by flights by up to 80 percent – just by switching to SAF.”
Investing in the future
Pillars three and four are intertwined: develop green hydrogen projects and deploy a robust hydrogen strategy. To achieve this, Exolum is relying on startups like H2Vector and technology including liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC) to develop a comprehensive hydrogen transport and storage service.”
Lastly, in the longer term, Exolum has identified an opportunity in carbon capture for the purpose of transforming the damaging gas into other products: synthetic fuels, for example, and storing it in underground deposits.
“We are committed to becoming a relevant player in the development of the supply chains for new sustainable energy products, such as ammonia and green ethanol,” Jorge concludes. “For such purpose, we aim to harness our privileged position at many ports to support the development and establishment of new international supply chains.”