ILF is a leading international engineering and consulting group with a focus on supporting clients in energy, industrial, and infrastructure projects. They have a long-standing history of more than 55 years and a deep commitment to improving quality of life around the globe, sustainability as well as to the reduction of ecological footprint and pollution. In the chemical industry, ILF plays a crucial role in optimizing production processes and reducing emissions. ILF uses its extensive expertise to help clients increase efficiency and reduce the impact of their operations on the environment.
Alexandre Pazos is Head of Process Engineering & Consulting at ILF Austria, dedicated to driving innovation and implementing sustainability in the chemical industry. He works closely with clients to identify areas for improvement, and to develop and execute strategies to achieve their sustainability goals.
Interview with Alexandre Pazos
Why did you decide to become a BioNanoNet member and what do you expect from the membership?
Alexandre Pazos: I got to know BioNanoNet and SusChem by talking to Bettina Mihalyi-Schneider (professor at the Technical University of Vienna and chairwoman of SusChem). She explained the mission and values of SusChem and I found it so inspiring and important that I immediately contacted one of the Managing Directors of ILF Austria. As the values and mission were common and shared, he supported the idea of becoming a member from the very beginning. Our main expectation from being a member of BioNanoNet is to actively contribute to the transformation of the chemical industry into a sustainable industry.
Sustainability is a core value of BNN. What strategies have you implemented to improve your organization’s sustainability?
Alexandre Pazos: Sustainability is a core value for ILF as well, starting with our CEO, Mr. Klaus Lässer, who personally leads many of our initiatives and strategies in this field. As a company, we have recently published our 2022 sustainability report, which will serve as a reference for our immediate actions. Our near-term goals are to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% and Scope 3 emissions by 40% by 2030. We are implementing several changes to our company’s facilities and our vehicle fleet, as well as reducing our business travel and employee commuting. By 2040 we would like to achieve net zero emissions by reducing our total emissions by 90% and offsetting residual emissions.
As an engineering company, we are more conscious and demanding of the jobs we accept. Specifically, in the sector in which I work, the chemical industry, we strive to find technical solutions that reduce energy demand and the amount of resources, maximize energy efficiency and heat integration, recycle material (circular economy), replace non-renewable sources with renewable ones, and reduce emissions, effluents and waste. We work to replace toxic and hazardous chemicals, design fit-for-purpose facilities and apply strict health, safety and environmental standards. We seek to honor our profession with high ethical standards, following professional (and ILF’s) code of conduct as well as ILF values, mission and beliefs.
Our Focus Topic this issue is the Materials 2030 Roadmap. Does your organization address any of the Materials Innovation Markets (MIMs)?
Alexandre Pazos: No, at least not directly. Once these materials become available as commercial products/solutions, ILF always uses and supports novel and advanced technologies that improve the quality of life.
What led you to your profession?
Alexandre Pazos: By chance. I wanted to study physics, but shortly before I applied to university I met a chemical engineering student. Talking to him, I decided to study chemical engineering, as it was a good mix of mathematics, physics and chemistry. The disappointment would come later, when those subjects became secondary in the third year of my degree and the subjects were focused on engineering topics. I became interested in my profession again during my final project and first years of work: process simulation and design of chemical facilities were what reconciled me with my profession.
What does your typical workday look like?
Alexandre Pazos: There really is no typical workday. There are days I may spend from morning until the end of the day in meetings (internal and external) and other days I may spend all day writing technical reports, performing calculations or reviewing the work of others. And, of course, anything in between. It is so variable, it is not unusual for me to check my agenda the night before to know exactly what I have to expect the next day. Some days it can be exhausting, but I cannot complain about having a monotonous job. It is really diverse and colorful.
What’s the best aspect of your job?
Alexandre Pazos: What I appreciate most is the great autonomy I have to perform my duties, which leaves significant room for a creative approach, as well as the possibility to positively influence (to a certain extent) our society and the world we live in.
What would you advise a young person considering working in your field?
Alexandre Pazos: Many things, but probably the most important ones could be the following:
- Be critical and think for yourself
- Continuously re-assess your work and conduct and learn from the past
- Don’t adjust your standards to accommodate your past decisions
Who are people in your field that inspire you?
Alexandre Pazos: Instead of naming important and well-known figures, I would rather put the focus on the people around me. I feel fortunate enough to find many role models among my colleagues, clients and former university professors. To name a few: Bettina Mihalyi-Schneider (Professor at TU Wien) for her uncompromising commitment to sustainability, Erich Schmidt (ILF Senior Consultant) for his mentoring of younger engineers or Walter Tesch (former ILF Director of Special Projects and Technologies and currently working at OMV as CCU Advisor) for his human focus and importance on teamwork. However, the people who have had the most profound impact on my work and work ethic are my grandmother (my mother’s mother), my mother and my wife. These three women have been and continue to be the people who have most influenced my career and have instilled in me the importance of a job well done, responsibility for my actions, critical thinking and the importance of work-life balance.
What was your dream job when you were a kid?
Alexandre Pazos: I don’t remember. I guess astronaut, because I was crazy about space.
If you could study anything (new) right now, what would it be?
Alexandre Pazos: Philosophy
Office, home office or hybrid?
Alexandre Pazos: For me, office. But home office and hybrid are great advancements.
Which book have you most enjoyed reading lately?
Controlling Technology: Ethics & The Responsible Engineer (Stephen H. Unger)
Alexandre Pazos: Limits and Beyond: 50 years on from The Limits to Growth, what did we learn and what’s next? (Ugo Bardi and Carlos Alvarez Pereira)
If you could make any activity an Olympic discipline, in which would you win a medal?
Alexandre Pazos: None at all. I don’t think I excel at anything. But at the end of the day, the world has been built by normal people.
What is your motto?
Alexandre Pazos: “Shoshin”, meaning “Beginner’s mind”. This is a concept from Zen Buddhism meaning attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.