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Improving Chemical Industry Energy Use, Emissions Intensity

Published: Tuesday, July 02, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 02, 2013
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IEA/ICCA/DECHEMA joint report concludes that emerging and breakthrough technologies promise indispensable energy efficiency improvements.

The IEA, ICCA and DECHEMA jointly released today their new roadmap that explores how the chemical industry can further amplify catalysis and other related technology advances to boost energy efficiency in its production processes.

Entitled Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes, the report looks at measures needed from the chemical industry, policymakers, investors and academia to achieve the full potential of catalysts for high-volume processes worldwide. The report details the potential impact of continuous improvements, best practices, emerging technologies, and breakthrough advances to cut energy use in 2050 by 13 exajoules and bring down greenhouse gas (GHG) emission rates by 1 gigatonne of CO2 equivalent.

Around 90 per cent of chemical processes involve the use of catalysts –added substances that increase the rate of reaction without being consumed by it – and related processes to enhance production efficiency and reduce energy use, thereby curtailing GHG emission levels.

Maria van der Hoeven, IEA Executive Director, said: “Energy efficiency is the ‘hidden’ fuel that not only reduces consumption but also mitigates threats to energy security from climate change.  This roadmap identifies important measures that, if adopted, could slash by the middle of the century annual energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions that are equivalent to what Germany consumes and emits today.”

The report calls on policymakers to start developing and implementing policies that bestow greater reward for energy efficiency investments and remove barriers for new investments. A long-term policy framework should be created that encourages investments to reinvigorate catalyst and process improvement and R&D for high-energy consuming processes. Energy subsidies that thwart use of energy efficient technology should be stopped, the report recommends.

The report urges better link-up between financial institutions and chemical industries to meet the pressing need for funding during the transition to and upon reaching a lower-carbon business model. The roadmap outlines a clear need for global and regional co-operation on reducing energy and related emissions via industry associations.

Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, who leads energy and climate change efforts at the International Council of Chemical Associations, added: “Among the thousands of chemicals produced each year, 18 of them account for 80 per cent of energy demand in the chemical industry and 75 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. It is a reality that the industry has made substantial efficiency improvements for this small group of chemicals, but going to the next level for all chemical products will require further development and deployment of emerging technologies.”

Sustainable biomass feedstocks and hydrogen from renewable energy sources offer additional greenhouse gas savings, according to the paper. The challenge for both is the long-term R&D needed to bring down the amount of energy consumed, to harness this technology for broad use.

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