BLOG: Boom in petrochemicals demand guaranteed but we must grow sustainably

Author: John Richardson


SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Click here to see the latest blog post on Asian Chemical Connections by John Richardson.

Demand for five major polymers in the developing world is forecast to increase to 3.4bn tonnes in 2021-2040 from 1.4bn tonnes in 2001-2021.

This would be great news as it would mean hundreds of millions more people had escaped poverty.

Without petrochemicals, it would be impossible to make enough medical devices, medical packaging, face masks, hospital gowns and plastic films that preserve food etc, etc.

There are no realistic ways to provide the volumes required without building more conventional petrochemical plants. Recycling will have a role but cannot be scaled-up to meet demand.

The bigger sustainably challenge we must instead focus on is building adequate plastic rubbish collection systems for the 3bn people who lack such systems.

New plants must be carbon efficient. This was highlighted by the recent Dutch court ruling requiring Shell to more aggressively reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and activist investors winning seats on the ExxonMobil board. This means carbon mitigation technologies must be used in new plants.

But there are no realistic replacements for our industry. We are essential .

Editor’s note: This blog post is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS.