EPCA '09: Innovation key to sustainable development in chems

05 October 2009 09:10  [Source: ICIS news]

By Nigel Davis

Innovation key to sustainable development in chems - ExxonMobilBERLIN (ICIS news)--Innovation in feedstocks, processes and products will underpin sustainable development in chemicals, Stephen Pryor, president of ExxonMobil Chemical, said on Monday.

“If you don’t continue to provide more and more value to customers and society, you will be sidelined,” he said in the keynote address to the 43rd European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting in Berlin.

“The winners will be the innovators and the ones with the right product offering," Pryor added, referring to the development specifically of the European petrochemical industry.

He expected closures across the business but said that energy efficiency and a company’s cash and feedstock position were vitally important ingredients in the mix.

Europe’s ethylene plants were currently running at about 85% of nameplate capacity, he said.

He expected (demand) growth to return but pressure would be felt by plants at the wrong end of the cost curve as new ethylene chain plants were added in the Middle East.

“If you deliver energy saving products you will do fine in the marketplace,” he said.

“Our industry has been successful because it has been sustainable,” Pryor said, adding that innovation had and would continue to underpin that success.

Energy saving products and processes being developed by the industry would contribute to the growth and social development of developing nations and to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

A sector-wide study by McKinsey & Co had shown that greenhouse gas emission would be between 8% and 13% higher without the use of modern chemistry products, he pointed out.

Pryor expected the industry to prosper and grow based on four provisos. First, innovation in lower cost feedstocks and manufacturing processes; second, the longer term development of bio-based feedstocks; third, a step up in industry advocacy efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions; and fourth, strengthened product safety management through the EU’s Reach programme, the developing toxic substance control act (TSCA) debate in the US and global product safety initiatives.

“Industry should support research into product safety testing methods,” he said.

ExxonMobil estimates that petrochemicals will continue to grow faster than the economy globally with growth focused on Asia. The region would represent more than half of petrochemical industry demand by 2015, he said.

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