[Women Leading Change at TotalEnergies Marine Fuels] Xin-Fang Chua: No pressure, no diamonds
Blog Article - May 5, 2023
When Xin-Fang Chua began her role as an LNG and New Fuels Bunker Trader last year, she immersed herself in the world of decarbonization. Together with the Singapore commercial team, their hard work was rewarded in January 2023, when TotalEnergies Marine Fuels kicked off its first commercial contract for biofuels bunker supply. Despite being in the job of her dreams, she also learnt she needed to pay attention to her own wellbeing, without which she would have little to contribute in the long run.
Xin-Fang had already had a sterling career at TotalEnergies’ Singapore office. Over the last 8 years, she has risen from a credit and risk analyst position to commercial roles including a joint venture project. She honed her frontline expertise of the bunker industry by becoming a conventional fuels trader before her job was expanded to include alternative fuels. The shipping industry’s focus on decarbonization prompted the business entity to increase t’s offering and bolster its trading team.
“At that point there was this sudden interest from customers looking to understand and engage on not just new fuels, but everything related to emissions and regulatory changes,” Xin-Fang said.
“I am the kind of person that has a lot of energy and adrenalin and I like things to happen quickly. The moment I took on the role, I just jumped into it and spent a lot of time engaged on related topics, reading up and in discussions with a multitude of external stakeholders. Quickly!”
LNG and biofuels have a smaller carbon footprint than conventional fuel oil and so have become a choice of fuel for many shipping companies that want to decrease their emissions immediately or need to comply with stricter regulations.
However, creating a new fuel from scratch by blending used cooking oil with fuel oil, ensuring it can be delivered safely and reliably, and structuring commercial contracts managing its price-risk exposure in different markets are all complex tasks. Xin-Fang has been involved in many of these aspects as they all contribute to the economics and financial viability of biofuels, affecting the price at which the trading team sells them.
From talking to regional suppliers of used cooking oil to checking that the logistics to blend and deliver are there, there is an extensive list of things Xin-Fang and her colleagues need to do to ensure a trade takes place.
“We want to be a market leader so we are also exploring how we can be more competitive,” she says. “What other green drop-in solutions are there? I am focusing now on talking to biofuel suppliers through our trading desk to get samples and test. Different feedstocks have different emissions so it’s a way of seeing which provides better value to our customers.”
Added to that, Xin-Fang also works on the commercial side of the development of other future fuels, such as low-carbon methanol as a marine fuel and contributes to the Strategy Department’s work.
THE DECARBONIZATION RACE: BUILDING RESILIENCE IN THE WORKFORCE
With this great push for shipping’s decarbonization and the consequent work that is required by the industry to achieve various milestones, Xin-Fang is also gently nudging her industry peers to be mindful of their wellbeing and the need to achieve some sort of balance in their lives.
“(As with life), the alternative fuels business is a project that will be a decade or more in the making as the industry develops, learns and establishes an entirely new way of powering vessels. I realized I didn’t always have to sprint; that this race is a marathon.”
She speaks from personal experience. Coinciding with this hard work, Xin-Fang experienced unprecedented personal challenges in her private life and the combined adversity on the two fronts had made her feel at one point, constantly vulnerable to physical tiredness, colds and flus that negatively impacted her health.
Thankfully, with the support of her mentors, family and friends, she found new sporting activities that have helped to improve her outlook and health. “I began doing yoga and other wellness activities to slow my mind down and to regain a sense of balance. In this way, I feel strong again to take on life’s challenges that come in one’s way.”
NO STRUGGLE, NO STRENGTH
Xin-Fang and her team at SIBCON 2022
As for being a woman in the shipping industry, Xin-Fang says she has felt a positive boost from the increasing focus on diversity that inspires young, up and coming professionals such as her.
“I had several mentors who often encouraged and reminded me to be confident regardless of my age and gender. In turn, I become a role model to other women who come to me for advice. Being a female peer, as a trader – there are not many on the (trading) floor – gives me a level of influence as well as confidence.”
And despite her newfound enthusiasm for yoga, Xin-Fang is just as determined to excel at her job as ever.
Recounting her former days, fresh out of school and working in the bank, she noted: “On my first day, just when I thought I was doing really well, at about nine in the night, I received a list of negative feedback! It was then that I realized there might have been a gap between my expectations and the corporate world’s expectations. So, I shifted the expectations I had for myself much higher, and I think – if under normal circumstances people get up to speed in 6 months, I want to do it in 6 days!”
Besides which, she says, her favourite mantra is: “No pressure, no diamonds. No struggle, no strength.”