SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

More data show how far we still have to go to solve the climate and plastic waste crises

JOHN RICHARDSON | June 27, 2021

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SEE THE END section of this blog post for a dystopian version of our environmental future. In a follow-up post – which I will publish on Thursday, 1 July – I will offer some suggestions about how we can avoid an outcome that nobody of course wants.Both posts are meant to be provocative, challenging and controversial because only through debate, and sometimes outright argument, will we get to the answers.

If you disagree after either or both posts have been published, great, that would be good. In fact, I would love to hear from you whatever your views at john.richardson@icis.com.  The petrochemicals industry can do this; we can fix this if we create the right forums for ideas and then solutions.

Let me provide the background first. Let me start by examining developments in the refinery industry and the implications for petrochemicals as important background.  Then I will look at a sample of ICIS petrochemicals demand growth forecasts for 2020-2040. I will conclude by providing the bleakest of bleak outcomes for the world in 2025

Spotlight

CHRYSO

CHRYSO, a specialist in chemistry for building materials, has tripled its turnover in the last decade to become an active international leader in 70 countries through its 16 subsidiaries around the world. CHRYSO provides its clients - cement manufacturers, concrete plants, prefabrication companies or construction companies - its expertise in formulation and knowledge of materials.

OTHER ARTICLES

Improving Pump Seal Reliability for Bay Area Petrochem Plants

Article | March 10, 2020

Keeping thousands of pumps in San Francisco Bay Area refineries running 24/7/365 requires a well-planned and well-executed maintenance strategy. Unplanned failures may have ramifications for safety, budget, and compliance—especially with regard to Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) regulations. One of the most mission-critical elements for smooth operations is pump seal reliability. Many plants run pumps outside the safe operating envelope and replace them only when economically feasible. Over time, however, you increasingly risk catastrophic downtime. Fortunately, you have the means to largely mitigate pump seal reliability problems with awareness and proactive management of conditions to improve safety and compliance.

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CHEMICAL MANAGEMENT

Demographics are reshaping petrochemicals trade flows, investment patterns and demand

Article | March 10, 2020

TEN YEARS AGO, fellowblogger Paul Hodgesand Ifirst highlighted the leading rolethat changing demographics would play in reshaping petrochemicals supply and demand. We have been emphasising the importance of demographics ever since. Demographics have, of course, always been a critical shaper of economies throughout human history. But during the last 70 years, there have been such major changes in demographics that the study of demographics must be at the very heart of your company’s strategy. The Babyboomer generation in the West led to a surge in demand as the rapid increase in babies born in the 1950s and early 1960s joined the workforce from the 1970s onwards. This helps explain high levels of inflation during that decade because too much demand was chasing too little supply. Another driver of inflation was the Middle East embargos against oil exports to the West because of the West’s support for Israel. Then came the 1990s and first the integration of Eastern Europe into the global economy. This helped dampen inflationary pressures because of the plentiful supply of workers in the east willing to work for low wages in export-focused factories. This reduced the cost of finished goods in the West. Next came Deng Xiaoping’s critically important“southern tour”in the early 1990s and China’s gradual integration into the global economy. China increasingly leveraged its very youthful population to again make cheap goods to export to the West. Hundreds of millions of young people were willing to migrate from the countryside to China’s coastal cities to work in export-focused manufacturing plants. The world began to talk about the “China price” and how it was further depressing global inflation.

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CHEMICAL MANAGEMENT

Global polyethylene demand boom likely, increasing the sustainability challenge

Article | March 10, 2020

IT FEELS LIKE several lifetimes ago. If you recall, way back in November-December 2019 Asian variable cost integrated naphtha-based polyethylene (PE) margins turned negative because of the increase in US capacity. Then in January the following year, deep Asian and Middle East operating rate cuts returned some order to the market. Then, bang, as we all know, the pandemic arrived and turned everything on its head. The pandemic has, in my view, accentuated trends that were already well underway. I believe this means that the supply-driven downturn that started in late 2019 will not return.Long before coronavirus upended everyone’s lives, PE demand was becoming increasingly divorced from GDP growth because of the shifting nature of end-use demand. Booming internet sales was, I believe, a major factor behind the split between the growth of the overall economies in the developed world plus China and PE demand.The average product bought online is dropped 17 times because of the large number of people involved in the logistics chain, according to Forbes. This had led to a surge in demand for protective packaging made not from PE and other polymers such as polypropylene, expandable polystyrene and PET films (I will look at their demand growth prospects in later posts).Despite sustainability pressures, the scale of demand for stuff bought online translated to a lot more consumption of virgin polymers.

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Pulmonary toxicity – a challenge for drug and chemical development

Article | March 10, 2020

Despite the common assumption that adverse drug reactions only affect the kidney and liver, more than 600 medications inducing lung toxicity have been reported.1 Lungs are susceptible to toxicity due to their large surface area and metabolism of certain substances2, such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and specialist drugs targeting the cardiovascular system and tumours. This has resulted in 4-10% of patients developing pulmonary toxicity.

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Spotlight

CHRYSO

CHRYSO, a specialist in chemistry for building materials, has tripled its turnover in the last decade to become an active international leader in 70 countries through its 16 subsidiaries around the world. CHRYSO provides its clients - cement manufacturers, concrete plants, prefabrication companies or construction companies - its expertise in formulation and knowledge of materials.

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