The recently-published Cefic 2020 facts and figures show that petrochemicals account for over one quarter (25.4%) of EU chemical sales in 2018 and is the largest investor in the EU chemical sector, followed by plastics and “auxiliary for industry” with €6.5 billion.

Petrochemicals was the second largest exporting sector, contributing 25% of total EU chemical exports and the largest chemicals importer in 2018 (36%). Worldwide, the European petrochemicals industry is facing challenging times as all the regions are expanding their petrochemical production capacity. These investments are usually not intended as stand-alone plants, but as an initial step to generate huge chemical and, subsequently, manufacturing hubs. Several major petrochemical projects were announced in 2017 and 2018, including the construction of the first steam cracker to be built in Europe (Antwerp, Belgium) in 20 years by Ineos and of a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant by Borealis Kallo, Belgium. It was the first time in many years that Europe has seen capital investment announcements in petrochemicals of this size.

One of the main assets of the European petrochemicals industry is its integrated sites (“Verbund”) with local optimization of side streams, i.e. the by-products of one production process are used for the production of other substances on the same site or in neighboring plants. On the other hand, the European Commission-led Green New Deal and the discussion to fully decarbonise the EU economy by 2050 will be the key challenges that the industry will have to face.

For further information, please read the full Fact & Figures 2020 report.