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Editorial comment

A couple of months ago, BP successfully completed an autonomous vehicle trial at its Lingen refinery in Germany. Working with Oxbotica, an autonomous vehicle software company, the trial was a world first in the energy sector. According to BP, the vehicle travelled over 180 km fully autonomously, safely navigating the complex refinery environment including busy junctions, narrow paths, railway crossings, and multiple terrains, during both day and night and in unpredictable weather conditions.

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Following the successful trial, BP has said that it now plans to deploy its first autonomous vehicle for monitoring operations at the refinery by the end of the year. The company’s aim is for the vehicles to enhance human operations and improve safety by increasing the monitoring of irregular conditions, faulty equipment and security threats.

The trial demonstrates how automation and digitalisation can be used to improve safety, increase efficiency and boost productivity at refineries, all while reducing carbon emissions. It is just one glimpse into what the future may hold for the downstream oil and gas industry.

On 5 May, Hydrocarbon Engineering will be hosting its second ‘Refinery of the Future’ virtual conference, which aims to shine the spotlight on other innovative technology that is driving the future of the refining sector, as well as the latest industry developments, forecasts and trends following an unprecedented year. I’m delighted to announce that we have an excellent line-up of speakers, with experts joining us from Wood Mackenzie, Honeywell Forge for Industrial, AFPM, API, and Honeywell UOP. The presentations will cover a range of interesting topics including the recovery of global oil demand following the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) & machine learning (ML), safety & security, and petrochemical integration.

In addition to these excellent technical presentations, Refinery of the Future will offer a host of new interactive features for attendees, including live Q&As following each presentation. We will also have a virtual exhibition running alongside the conference, so you can drop by our exhibitor booths to interact with company representatives and get the latest information on their products and services. And just like any physical conference, you will be able to network with your fellow attendees throughout the day by making use of our live chat and video conferencing features.

If you haven’t already registered to attend Refinery of the Future, please head over to, and sign up to reserve your free space today. If you’re unable to join us live on 5 May, there’s no need to worry. By registering to attend, you will receive a recording of the full conference once the session has closed, so you can catch up with all of the presentations at your leisure.

I look forward to seeing you all on 5 May. In the meantime, please enjoy this issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering, which is packed full of articles exploring revolutionary technology for the downstream sector, and insights into the post-pandemic future.

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