Identifying breakthrough technologies for the production of basic chemicals

The European Commission’s Roadmap for a competitive and low carbon economy in 2050 indicates that greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in all sectors should be significantly reduced to meet the European Union (EU) objective of 80 to 95% greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. The European Commission indicated in the Roadmap that the EU’s industrial sectors should reduce emissions by 83 to 87% domestically by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

The objective of this study is to explore breakthrough abatement technologies in three processes in the European chemical industry that can considerably contribute to achieving the required greenhouse gas emission reductions. In this context we have assessed the processes for the production of:

  • Ammonia
  • Olefins
  • Aromatics (BTX)

For all three processes possible breakthrough abatement technologies were found allowing for reductions in GHG emissions varying between 50 and 100% compared to the conventional processes. Our finding regarding the chemical industry and our earlier findings regarding options in the steel, cement and pulp and paper industries show that promising breakthrough abatement technologies are available for European energy-intensive industries to contribute to a low-carbon economy. However, large scale deployment requires an integrated EU industry and energy policy allowing for a resource efficient and sustainable use of available biomass, CCS storage capacity and renewable energy capacity.