HOUSTON (ICIS)--Sustainability was a key and urgent theme on the opening day of the Reuters USA Downstream conference, with Dow and Chemours executives speaking about how they aim to make the chemicals industry more sustainable.
As oil majors face activist pressure to address the issues of climate change by reducing their dependence on fossil fuels and pivoting to renewable energy, the chemical sector is not far behind, pledging to meet ambitious sustainability targets and carbon-neutral goals.
“The path to zero is the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do. It is affordable, and it is a path to growth,” said John Sampson, senior vice president, Operations, Dow.
Dow began to reduce emissions in the early 2000s, through more-efficient designs and access to renewable energy. The result has led to a reduction of 15% in greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, according to Dow.
The company aims to add to that percentage by reducing carbon emissions another 15% by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Dow will replace end-of-life assets with low carbon emitting assets, use carbon-efficient manufacturing, increase renewable power purchases and innovate in next-generation technologies.
Dow’s Texas 9 cracker in Freeport is operationally efficient, with 65% lower conversion costs. Last year, the company expanded to its current capacity of 2m tonnes/year and have consistently run it more than 10% above nameplate capacity.
Texas 9 has the lowest carbon intensity of its fleet, producing 60% less carbon dioxide (CO2) per ton of production than average.
“The cost of carbon will further differentiate crackers like Texas 9, and we see it as an example of how we can profitably grow while continuing to improve our sustainable footprint,” Sampson said.
Chemours set corporate responsibility commitments three years ago with feedback from external participants. The company has recently appointed a chief sustainability officer and at least once a quarter, goes through a rigorous assessment to look at how it integrates sustainability into its business.
“This year, we will spend about $350m in capital expenditure, about $75m of that spending is tied to sustainability initiatives, that’s almost equal to the capital spending on growth,” said Chemours CEO Mark Newman.
Chemours also has a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 60% by 2030, with a target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Newman said that investment in new technology could lead the way into the development of new renewable energy, such as hydrogen.
The company sees development in the hydrogen infrastructure sector. In particular, it is expecting to see development with its Nafion Membranes in its advanced performance materials business.
Nafion boosts the energy efficiency of many processes in the chemical and chlor-alkali industries, and could help develop hydrogen production via water electrolysis.
On the packaging front, Dow said it is committed to advancing new materials and recycling technologies.
More than 80% of packaging applications the company sells are recyclable or reusable. And with numerous partnerships around the world, it expects to work with recyclers, converters and brand owners to deliver recyclable products.
Focus article by Janet Miranda