Sustainability in Petrochem: What to Expect Soon

To operate, the petrochemical sector needs 25% of the Earth’s carrying capacity and the industry contributes significantly to carbon emissions. Chemicals made from naphtha and other fossil fuels, like ethylene and propylene, demand a lot of resources that are not sustainable enough.

The trajectory is shifting, though, in favor of more environmentally friendly, renewable, and bio-based goods. There are many opportunities that are even profitable thanks to the use of renewable energy in the petrochemical sector. The future of the chemical industry will be dominated by sustainability and technological advancements in the coming years for sure.

The primary concern for the oil and gas industry is not just carbon emissions but also the intensity of these emissions. All of the carbon dioxide (in grams) released to produce electricity accounts for this emission intensity. When fossil fuels are used, the intensity of carbon emissions increases, and this is where sustainable efforts can alter the narrative.

The 2 Degree Celsius Scenario

After nations endorsed the 2015 Paris Agreement, the sustainability issue as a whole was well-taken. That agreement included a number of requests for modifications, adaptations, and innovations. The commitment to keeping the average global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and lowering it all the way to 1.5 degrees Celsius is what sparked the wildfire.

To accomplish the stated goal, the petrochemical industry needs strong commitment, but it was challenging to dig deep enough for large-scale businesses. 

There is still no assurance that the goals set forth will be accomplished because a significant reduction in energy consumption is required. But gradually, to some extent, the operations have changed, moving the agenda forward in baby steps.

So how can it be achieved?

Any oil and gas company attempting to join the 2 degree celsius propaganda would not be able to increase its production capacity using conventional methods. Depending on the situation, using sustainable and renewable energy sources may be the only viable option. Switching from the use of fossil fuels for production to renewable sources can help create a circular economy. In order to make this transition without losing market share, strategic business planning and portfolio management are required.

Clean Tech Movement

Technology that is renewable and clean does not always imply the use of solar or wind power. Clean technology emphasizes the ability to use energy more effectively while producing products that are readily recyclable. Additionally, this entails switching the raw material to something renewable, an extract, or a byproduct from another industry.

The topic of conversation right now is operational improvement.

Many petrochemical startup companies are developing innovative SAAS products with cutting-edge technology with the help of IoT. In this regard, Digital Oilfields is an intriguing development to be aware of, where technology enables customized surveillance, providing useful information for enhancing overall operations.

The sharks are working with startup companies and accepting technological and innovative aspects in order to fulfill their commitment to building a sustainable industry. However, switching from outdated models to new ones will take some time.

Government Intervention and Support for Sustainability

Various governments have been actively promoting sustainability; for instance, Japan and South Korea have made commitments to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. China, on the other hand, has outdone other nations by pledging to have net-zero emissions by 2030 and has set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Similar to this, the Indonesian government has mentioned working with companies to reduce 29% of carbon emissions by 2030.

It is safe to say that European and Asian nations are working hard to clean up and green up their petrochemical industries. This unquestionably encourages players and industries to develop ever-more sustainable business models, which helps the world succeed as a whole.

Changing Market Synergy

With its sustainable ecosystem, lower costs, and enhanced functionality, the clean tech movement is here to stay. Investors are being picky when funding projects in the wake of the Paris Agreement, looking at how sustainable the operations in question are. Poor sustainability controls, procedures, and operations are a growing concern, but businesses are adjusting to the change gradually but steadily. The market is flooded with new ideas and technological advancements. New ideologies to reduce carbon footprints are being introduced by important players and start-ups.

Recently, BASF announced plans to increase the production of synthetic ester base stocks by twofold. This is directly related to the product’s numerous long-term advantages. These include, but are not limited to, cost savings, emissions reduction, biodegradability, and so on.

SABIC, a global leader in chemicals, offers another illustration. In a new collaboration with Kraton, SABIC introduced “certified renewable butadiene.” When compared to butadiene made from fossil fuels, it is asserted that each kilogram of this renewable butadiene can cut carbon emissions by up to 4 kg. The second generation renewable feedstock used to create SABIC’s renewable butadiene is free of palm oil and animal products, making it a great example of green technology. 

Another crucial aspect of sustainability and the circular economy is recycling. With the recycling of flexible polyurethane foam from old mattresses, Covestro has been doing some amazing work there. Unilever, Danone, and Coca-Cola, among others, have made commitments to use less plastic in their consumer packaged goods.

Key players are looking at a range of collaborations with businesses that provide recyclable and sustainable solutions. This has two benefits: it improves brand recognition and encourages market funding and support. The market has seen a lot of activity, and the interest in sustainability is only going to increase. Energy efficiency, low carbon dioxide emission processes, and lighter feedstocks could all be advantageous to the concept as a whole.

In a nutshell

The petrochemical sector faces ongoing environmental challenges, so reforms are necessary. An IEA report claims that Clean Technology Scenario products can contribute to the development of a sustainable society, and by 2050, air pollutants from chemical production should have decreased by 90%. It would be interesting to see how the players contribute to the overarching petrochemical sustainability ideology in light of such lofty claims. 

A number of factors, such as supply chain disruptions and political-social problems, have had an impact on the industry. The petrochemical industry may experience significant value chain shifts in the upcoming years, contributing to a sustainable planet. There may be a delay, but the certainty of change is visible in the eroding of barriers, the original ideas, and the passion for a cleaner world in general.

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