Catalytic technologies can boost energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions

The chemical industry uses a variety of strategies to reduce its energy consumption. The use of catalysts – added substances that increase the rate of chemical reactions – is one process that has helped optimize energy use in the manufacturing process and, in turn, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Around 90 percent of chemical manufacturing processes use catalysis and related processes to enhance production efficiency and reduce energy use. As a result of such innovations, ACC member companies have improved their energy efficiency by more than 17 percent since 1992, while GHG intensity dropped by more than 18 percent.

Recently, the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (DECHEMA) jointly released a report that explores how the chemical industry can harness catalysis and other related technology advances to boost energy efficiency in chemical manufacturing processes.

The report, “Technology Roadmap: Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes,” shows potential for further energy efficiency improvement in the chemical sector if energy-saving catalytic processes get adopted widely. Energy use in 2050 can be reduced by 13 exajoules – equivalent to the current annual energy use of Germany. These savings could result in GHG emission reductions of 1.1 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, which is equal to the annual GHG emissions from more than 200 million passenger vehicles.

The report also recommends creation of a long-term policy framework that encourages investments to reinvigorate catalyst and process improvement and research and development for high-energy consuming processes.

The report was showcased Tuesday in Washington, D.C., by the IEA and the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which is an ICCA member, at an event hosted by The Hill newspaper and moderated by Editor in Chief Hugo Gurdon. Speakers included ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley, IEA Deputy Executive Director Richard Jones and Dow Chemical Director of Strategic Projects Ed Rightor.

In his opening remarks, Dooley said that catalysts are an important component of the chemical manufacturing process and have the potential to improve resources and energy efficiency in many fields. He noted that companies that make energy efficiency a priority reduce their costs and become more competitive in global markets. Dooley also pointed out the fact that the products and technologies developed by the chemistry industry enable society to save energy and reduce GHG emissions.

“While the process may not sound exciting, the energy savings are. We think the more people know about and understand the potential for catalysis and other energy-efficiency technologies, the greater the chance that they will be used and policymakers will do what they can to remove roadblocks to adoption,” Dooley said.

 

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