NPRA ’07: Global worries press chemical meeting

24 March 2007 06:06  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Global climate concerns, the looming impact of new European chemical regulations, security, feedstock and transportation issues are expected to dominate as some 3,000 industry officials gather in San Antonio, Texas on Saturday.


In what the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) calls the world’s largest business meeting of its kind, the 32nd annual International Petrochemical Conference (IPC) draws participants from more than 40 countries.


“The over-arching issues this year are global climate regulation, the European Union’s Reach rules, rail transport and natural gas supply,” said Charlie Drevna, executive vice president of the association.


“This conference is after all a big business meeting, and all of those issues and more play into the calculus of business decisions and will impact business development and direction,” he said.


The global nature of chemicals manufacturing and the broad uncertainties raised by growing international and domestic regulatory controls are reflected in the meeting’s agenda.


Jose Carlos Grubisich, chief executive of Brazilian petrochemical giant Braskem, is scheduled as the keynote speaker on Monday.  Bjorn Lomberg, author of “The Sceptical Environmentalist” and named one of the 100 most influential global figures by Time magazine, is to address the scientific and policy controversies of global warming.


“The global climate debate is a great challenge to our industry,” Drevna said.  “The way in which US and other policymakers deal with this issue will have an impact on chemicals and all of manufacturing,” he said.


Drevna noted that for US chemical producers - almost wholly dependent on natural gas as a feedstock - the global climate issue poses not only the potential for increased limits on manufacturing operations but also additional pricing pressures for natural gas.


“The effort to moderate or limit greenhouse gas emissions can only drive increased demand for natural gas as a fuel,” Drevna said.  “Over the past 20 years or so, US environmental rules have forced electric utilities from coal to natural gas, causing huge demand destruction already in the US petrochemicals industry,” he added.


“We can only imagine the impact if Congress imposes a legislative mandate on utilities that results in still more demand for natgas,” he said.


“This has the potential to destroy the manufacturing base in this country,” Drevna said.


Similar pressures on industry are seen in the coming implementation of the European Union’s (EU) programme for registration, evaluation and registration of chemicals (Reach).  That issue is seen certain to generate keen attention to remarks on Tuesday by European Parliament member Graf Lambsdorff.


Al Martinez-Fonts, assistant secretary at the US Department of Homeland Security is to address an increasingly worrisome subject for US producers, imminent enforcement of the first federal mandate for antiterrorism security measures at high-risk US chemical plants.


The fact that the US Congress is already moving to rewrite those rules is troubling, Drevna said.  “This dismantles the regulations even before they are out, and it creates a level of uncertainty that is disconcerting,” he said.


The three-day IPC runs Sunday through Tuesday.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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