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Technology Roadmap: Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes

Technology Roadmap: Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes
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Edition: 2013
56 pages

The chemical industry is a large energy user; but chemical products and technologies also are used in a wide array of energy saving and/or renewable energy applications so the industry has also an energy saving role. The chemical and petrochemical sector is by far the largest industrial energy user, accounting for roughly 10% of total worldwide final energy demand and 7% of global GHG emissions. The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) has partnered with the IEA and DECHEMA (Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology) to describe the path toward further improvements in energy efficiency and GHG reductions in the chemical sector.

The roadmap looks at measures needed from the chemical industry, policymakers, investors and academia to press on with catalysis technology and unleash its potential around the globe. The report uncovers findings and best practice opportunities that illustrate how continuous improvements and breakthrough technology options can cut energy use and bring down greenhouse gas (GHG) emission rates. Around 90% of chemical processes involve the use of catalysts – such as 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.  This work shows an energy savings potential approaching 13 exajoules (EJ) by 2050 – equivalent to the current annual primary energy use of Germany.

Key findings:

The manufacture of 18 products (among thousands) from the chemical industry account for 80% of energy demand in the chemical industry and 75% of GHG emissions.

  • Catalyst and related process improvements could reduce energy intensity for these products by 20% to 40% as a whole by 2050 combining all scenarios. In absolute terms, such improvements could save as much as 13 exajoules (EJ) and 1 gigatonne (Gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) per year by 2050 versus a "business-as-usual" scenario. [1]
  • In the short to medium term (to 2025), steady progress in implementing incremental improvements and deploying best practice technologies (BPT) could provide substantial energy savings and emissions reductions compared to business as usual.
  • Achieving deeper energy and emissions cuts will require development and deployment of emerging technologies that exceed the capacity of current BPTs.
  • A step change in the sector’s energy consumption and GHG emissions would require the development of “game changer” technologies, such as sustainable biomass feedstocks and hydrogen from renewable energy sources which have not yet reached commercial maturity..
  • Therefore, long-term investment and support for research and development (R&D) to enable innovation is warranted to continue advances in new technologies.

Key figures:

Current energy savings potential from chemicals and petrochemicals, based on Best Practice Technology Deployment

Energy impact of improvement options for the top 10 chemical products to 2050

GHG emissions avoidance potential of catalyst and rlated process advances from all categories compared to Business As Usual


  • Technology Roadmap – Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes (report | foldout)
  • Press release [link forthcoming]

Related publications and papers:


Chemical Roadmap Launch - Webinar Presentation

[1] Energy used per unit of product produced.