A growing chemical industry in a sustainable world
The chemical industry plays a crucial role in the industrial activities of the world. Indeed it is chemistry who turns feedstock (fossil basis or renewable) into building blocks and later in polymers etc. Materials make use of it to develop new materials and finally consumer products. In the past feedstock as coal, oil and gas defined the chemical processes and new developments lead to new materials. In a changing world it is clear that also from the consumer side new demands are created. These are based on sustainability, bio-based, but also new performances etc. In this way a strong growing world with more and more specific needs, but also increasing markets creates many challenges for the chemical industry. On top of that fluctuating feedstock prices and a broadening of feedstock supplies (shale gas, biomass, CO2-based, etc.) makes that they have to anticipate with it, but taking into account the specific expectations of the consumers. Consumers are well aware of impact on sustainability, quality, toxicity and environmental issues of chemicals and related materials.
Therefore the Chemical industry session at i-SUP2014 will try to give answers on the challenging questions and on the main topic of the conference: “How can we combine growth with the sustainability needs of our planet with a steadily increasing population?”
Detailed program Chemistry
Dealing with 9 billion people on one planet and keeping the temperature rise below + 2°C is the big challenge for all of us and so does the chemical industry. It was clear that since the sixties the driver for doing business extended from making profit over safety and environmental issues further to climate change concerns and nowadays includes also corporate social responsibility. In order to achieve this, chemical company decision makers believe strongly in sustainable or green technologies if implemented in a leap frogging approach.
Europe is facing nowadays several problems due to non-competitive energy (e.g. shale gas in the US) and feedstock costs and the movement of the market to the east. As stated at the CEO-summit, the world is expecting that Europe will take the lead not only via legislation, but also via green technology development and taking the challenge to bring this sustainable technology to the rest of the world.
The competitiveness in innovation is based on:
- Renewable resources (from old sun to new sun): Chemical companies are looking for renewable feedstock based on C1-chemicals (CO2, syngas, biogas etc.), and on second generation biomass as lignocellulose (sugar- and lignin-based). As an attractive point the development of lignocellulose-based aromatics is seen as a challenge. At a minor extent companies are also looking for marine-based biomass.
- Sustainability Design Lab: The chemical industry sees a big need in Europe to design new pathways for existing and new molecules to make them safer, cleaner (redesign value chains) and more performant (more sustainable performant materials). End of life management. Companies should put more emphasis on end of life management of materials towards a circular economy.
- Collaboration: Companies need to work together with feedstock processing companies as well as with complete other sectors (e.g. steel industry) that can provide rest heat, waste gases etc.
Actions will be taken to make specific roadmaps and to increase speed of innovation with a small group of strongly involved companies. In the framework of the outcome of this i-SUP2014 conference a small working group will be set up to re-invent chemistry of the future in a European context and with an objective to spread sustainable processes over the world. This initiative fits perfectly with the BIG-C (Bio Innovation for Growth Chemical Cluster) initiative bringing Flanders, the Netherlands and NordRhein Westphalia together as chemical megacluster and taking initiatives of smart specialisation towards large demonstration plants in the region.