Recarbonizing the Chemical Industry

CIEP, August 2022
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While the number of hydrogen policies and projects in Northwest Europe is rising quickly, surprisingly little attention is focused on the question of how carbon may be sourced in a net-zero world. Organic chemicals production is one of the sectors that uses carbon as a primary element and that relies on some source of carbon for its emissions reduction strategies. Belgium, the Netherlands and western Germany are home to the organic chemical cluster referred to as the Antwerp, Rotterdam, Rhine, Ruhr Area (ARRRA). This area represents Europe’s largest cluster for the transformation of hydrocarbons into organic chemical products. Recently, the European Commission shared new ambitions and policy initiatives to increase the sustainable use of non-fossil sourced carbon in the production of chemicals and polymers.

This paper describes how these announcements correspond to the evolving EU policy landscape. In addition, it describes the available technical options to reach new ambitions by altering the organic chemical value chain. It furthermore describes how players active in this value chain may be affected by new upstream investments, partly induced by transportation fuel policy. It concludes by reflecting on what (sub)national governments and industry partners in the region could do going forward.

This paper is part of the ‘Cracking the Clean Molecule’ project. In this ongoing project we explore the future of organic chemicals production against the backdrop of society’s push towards net-zero emissions. The organic chemical industry is responsible for ensuring that the countless indispensable products that it produces are safe for human health and the environment. At the same time, it must continue to provide employment for thousands of workers and create added value from a societal and private perspective in a world that is highly globalized but which shows signs of increasing fragmentation.

The first paper in the ‘Cracking the Clean Molecule’ Project can be found here:

CIEP Paper 2021 | 01 The Dynamic Development of Organic Chemistry in North-West Europe