21 Juli 2017

How the European chemical industry could become carbon neutral by 2050

Making the sector carbon neutral while retaining its competitiveness in a full circular economy in Europe is a significant challenge

The chemical industry’s ambition is to play a leading role in the transformation of the European economy to a low-carbon and circular one by creating innovative climate and energy friendly solutions for its own processes and for many other industries through chemical products. A new report Low carbon energy and feedstock for the European chemical industry released today explores how the chemical industry can become carbon neutral by 2050. 

Marco Mensink, Cefic Director General, said: “Many promising low-carbon technologies are available at a relatively advanced stage of development. The industry will need to find the way to overcome the investment, raw material and energy challenges for them to be implemented on a large scale in Europe.”

Kurt Wagemann, Executive Director of DECHEMA said: “The implementation of the technologies investigated in this study would allow for a very significant reduction of CO2 emissions of the chemical industry by 2050 even under the least ambitious scenario.”

The DECHEMA study analyses the technological options available for the chemical industry and outlines the conditions necessary to facilitate the transition of the European chemical industry to carbon neutrality. Besides giving a first full overview of all available technologies for the main chemical production processes, it describes what is needed to refurbish the industrial base we know today in Europe, in a world full of shale gas and low oil prices:

  • Abundant low-carbon electricity in much larger volumes and at competitive prices;
  • Availability of alternative feedstocks (e.g. bio-based raw materials, CO2 or industrial waste gases).
  • An enabling fiscal structure to modernise ageing production facilities and equipment or build new plants;
  • Government or public-private support to scale-up technologies and share investment risk for those technologies that are first of a kind or high risk
  • Innovation and research into new chemical technologies that help overcome these challenges.
  • Enabling business models to enhance cross-sectoral collaboration to find sustainable ways to re-use CO2

The chemical industry has already halved its energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, but producing chemicals remains one of the most energy intensive industrial processes. Making the sector carbon neutral while retaining its competitiveness in a full circular economy in Europe is a significant challenge, which cannot be solved by the industry on its own.

Source: Cefic, press release, 2017-07-19.

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