The International Energy Agency´s (IEA) report, “The Future of Petrochemicals”, published on 5 October predicts that petrochemicals’ significant growth will drive oil demand in the next decades. Petrochemicals should account for over a third of the growth in global oil demand to 2030, and nearly half the growth to 2050

The report recognizes the enabling role of petrochemicals for modern societies and forecasts an increase in petrochemicals’ production and demand due to a growing global economy, a rising population and technological developments. It also emphasizes the fact that petrochemicals are key components of clean energy technologies such as solar panels, wind turbine blades, insulation materials etc. New capacities are planned to be built in the US and China in the short-term, and in Asia & Middle East in the long-term. Meanwhile, the production in Europe should remain stable. As a result, petrochemicals will become the largest driver of global oil consumption beyond 2030, especially in view of decreasing oil demand for fuels.

Production, use and disposal of chemicals take an environmental toll, especially when it comes to burning or decomposing products at the end of their life cycle. However, the IEA provides an ambitious but achievable scenario to reduce the environmental footprint of petrochemicals and reduce air pollutants by 90%, direct CO2 emissions by nearly 60%, and water demand by 30% by 2050.

Plastic recycling & reuse are considered essential to meeting the environmental challenges. New technologies such as Carbon Capture, Utilisation & Storage, catalytic processes and global shifts from coal to gas are also seen as critical to further enhance GHG emission savings. In all the IEA scenarios, oil-based petrochemicals will continue to be part of chemical value chains for decades to come.

For further information, please read the press releases of the IEA and the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA).