Interview with David Pullan, Group Downstream Development Senior Vice President, MOL Group

David Pullan is the Group Downstream Technology & Development Vice President at MOL Group, with responsibilities that include group level management of the downstream capital program, development of the MOL product and technology portfolio, and supervision of research, development and innovation activities.  David has 25 years’ experience in the Refining Industry, working previously for ExxonMobil Engineering and Petroplus.  He is a Chartered Engineer who has experience in materials engineering, and reliability improvement strategies.  In addition, he has significant leadership experience from filling key management roles in different refineries.  David has a BSc (Hons) in Materials Technology from Coventry University.

How has the role for process and maintenance engineers changed over the years? What are the current challenges?

I believe that the role of engineers in industry has become harder over the years.  Refineries are more complex than in the past, and they need to run in a fully optimized operation to maximize profitability.  There is now significantly more automation used in refinery operations and so the engineers need to have different, broader competencies than in the past.  In addition, the demographics of the industry has changed making it harder to ensure knowledge and experience is passed on to the younger generation.  And of course the other challenge is to simply attract new engineers to this industry, which in Europe is not always seen as attractive as other industries like car manufacturing.

What importance do events like ERTC: Ask the Experts play in supporting this young contingent?

The ERTC: Ask the Experts event provides a great opportunity for young engineers to network with more experienced engineers, and to learn through asking questions.  I am a great believer in learning through other people’s experiences and stealing shamelessly their good ideas.  I hope our engineers take the opportunity to get solutions to their issues, and identify improvement opportunities that they can take and drive to be implemented in their plants.


At MOL what are the biggest challenges in the market at the moment? What trends are you seeing and adapting to?

The biggest challenge to MOL is how to prosper in a lower carbon future, characterized by constant technological innovation and ever shifting consumer habits.  Technological advances in competing low carbon alternative fuels, and increasing environmental regulations will impact traditional motor fuel demand.  In addition, the global competitiveness of the industry will increase, meaning that increased imports into the region will hit crack spreads and margins.  Added to this changing consumer mobility preferences and choices, we believe it makes the future for the whole industry very challenging. However, over a year ago we adopted our 2030 strategy in order to ensure that our business can respond dynamically to these trends. Using our capabilities, market positions and financial means we will diversify our downstream operations by increasing the proportion of high-value non-fuel products as well as growing our petrochemical business. This will give us flexibility to go in new directions and lead the industrial transformation of the region.


How can the European refining community as a whole work together to create a more stable outlook on the continent?

The European refining community is represented in Europe through Fuels Europe and we support their efforts to lobby the EU regulators, to give the industry a fair hearing and to allow EU refineries to compete on an international level playing field.


What one piece of advice would you give to an up and coming engineer on their future career within the downstream industry?

I have already mentioned this but I strongly believe that it is important to steal shamelessly, meaning use other people’s ideas and experiences to innovate, learn and improve.

See David Pullan kick off ERTC Ask the Experts in our Future of Refining Panel on Day 1.