Sustainability in the Global Petrochemical Industry

Posted on Thursday, November 4th, 2010 in News, Polymer conferences| Share this article

The Polymer Centre’s Business Development Consultant, Dr. Joe Gaunt, attended the Global Petrochemical Technology conference in Doha, Qatar, in early October.  The industry was well represented by a selection of presenters ranging from petrochemical producers (including Polyolefins) and catalyst suppliers through to financial and engineering services as well as a small academic contingency.  A strong theme throughout the conference was the importance of environmental, operational and financial sustainability.

The recent economic difficulties have strongly affected the petrochemical industry due to its position as one of the foundations of production industry.  As a result many people have left the industry and there is a degree of fear that, if it continues, this loss of expertise will be difficult to replace as the industry begins to grow again.  Many new plant building projects have been delayed due to difficulties obtaining financing.

However, there was generally an optimistic outlook for growth in the sector, driven by India and China.  Coupled to this optimism was the feeling that societal pressures to improve the environmental sustainability of the industry could continue to be met at the same time as maintaining the profitability necessary for the industry to survive.  This could be carried out, broadly, by four approaches:

  • Developing more efficient technologies to produce the chemicals currently required by manufacturing industries (i.e. resource efficiency)
  • Exploring new feedstocks (bio, coal, gas)
  • Producing new materials that have improved functionality over those used currently (eg. using lighter stuctural plastics to replace steel in transport or diesel produced from natural gas to improve the burning properties of conventional fuels)
  • Exploring carbon dioxide capture

One particularly interesting presentation from Frank Kuijpers of SABIC proposed the use of solar power as having long term feasibility as a power source for the Middle East’s petrochemical industries.

Other talks regarding development of new technologies and products as well as company profiles were also presented.  It was also obvious that many of the  Middle Eastern companies had identified the need to develop their intellectual capital and were taking steps to improve their technical capabilities rather than relying on technology licensing from more traditional petrochemical producers.

For further information regarding opportunities for academic collaboration within Yorkshire to support the petrochemical industry, please contact us.

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