"In Singapore, we are the first manufacturing site to valorise the CO2 emitted by the petrochemical industry on Jurong Island; the by-product is valorised through water treatment and industrial applications."

Novacap changed its name to SEQENS two years ago. What has motivated this change?

Since the company was founded in 2003, SEQENS grew both organically and through acquisitions, to an equal extent. When a company experiences high growth, it reaches a point when it needs to integrate its different brands and new acquisitions under one umbrella, not only to avoid confusion in the market but also to create structural cohesion. We have thus reorganized the group under three divisions: pharmaceuticals, advanced specialties, and minerals specialties. The group’s strategy has been centred on continuous growth, especially in the pharmaceutical division, in which we made significant acquisitions between 2017 to 2019 to complement our portfolio. In the meantime, we have advanced our two other divisions through organic growth, by either expanding capacity or investing in greener products.

Could you share SEQENS's integration efforts and why are these important?

Our minerals specialty division consists of three assets: two facilities in France, of which one is our flagship asset, and one asset in Singapore. Since 2010, we have transitioned to more specialty, premium products, to produce sodium bicarbonate. With a team of over 300 people, our flagship facility in France is fully integrated, both upstream and downstream, which gives us a strong competitive advantage. Today we are supplying 150,000 tons of sodium bicarbonate a year to Europe. Moving forward, our goal is to continue to focus on premium, high-value sectors in pharmaceutical, personal care, cosmetics and food. Below the flagship asset, we run our sodium bicarbonate facility in Singapore, also dedicated to the premium sectors, as well as a second French site producing sodium silicate with two applications: green tires and detergents.

Could you elaborate on the asset “greenification” projects that SEQENS has embarked on?

To produce the soda ash at our flagship facility, we historically used coal as a source of energy, but today, on top of the energy efficiency projects we continuously manage, we have two on-going major projects that will eliminate the use of coal and strongly reduce our CO2 emissions. The first one is a biomass cogeneration project (under a JV with Engie) based on a boiler that will consume waste wood and railway sleepers; we will use the steam generated to power our own operations (replacing existing coal based steam), which offers a cost advantage, and will sell the electricity produced by the unit to the French national electricity grid.

The second project is due to come live in 2024; this is a collaboration with SUEZ to build a solid recovered fuel (SRF) valorisation plant, turning industrial or commercial waste into steam, instead of landfilling this waste fuel. By completing these two projects, we will create the first Soda Ash asset in Europe to be 100% green.

Moving to Singapore, we are the first manufacturing site to valorise the CO2 emitted by the petrochemical industry on Jurong Island; the by-product is valorised through water treatment and industrial applications. Our state-of-the-art facility in Singapore thus benefits from low energy consumption and is also incredibly modern, with a very lean organization, made of a few yet highly skilled people. Singapore thus acts as the perfect hub to supply our products to the rest of the world; 98% of all output is exported to the Middle East and Asia.

How has SEQENS performed during the pandemic?

In 2020, SEQENS overperformed across all business units compared to the last financial year. In the organic specialties business, we took a leading position with our gel sanitizer, we are also a leader in the aspirin and paracetamol space, and we are working with the pharmaceutical community to develop the new molecules for the Covid-19 vaccine. In the minerals division, our overperformance is on account of a diversified portfolio across the premium segments.

What are your views on the future of the chemicals industry in Singapore?

The industry needs more entrepreneurial spirit applied even at top corporations. In times of crisis, our devise has been to invest. SEQENS did not hesitate and invested massively back in 2008, while the rest of the market did the opposite and waited. We have learned the lessons of the past and we continue to apply these with agility and an ambitious vision for the future.