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Abstract: The petrochemical industry grew to become one of the world's largest industries during the 20th century. It is expected that it will continue to grow, as the world's population gets wealthier, social dynamics change and people demand more affordable and useful materials. The industry recognizes that the Earth's carrying capacity is limited. It is adapting to seek to become a truly sustainable ‘carbo’-chemical industry. This paper will address the three main challenges of this transition: shifting hydrocarbon stock, climate change and circular economy. As the energy sector transitions from oil, coal and eventually natural gas, it is expected that the chemical industry will have access to abundant hydrocarbon stocks for which it can find valuable uses. But rising CO2 prices and increasing upgrading costs will likely encourage greater use of alternative, low-carbon feedstocks. In particular, there may be a development of biomass for manufacturing oxygenated chemical intermediates and bio-based materials. To help tackle climate change, the industry will need to reduce the CO2 emissions of its processes and utilities (energy sources). Ways to achieve this will include efficiency improvements, electrification of utilities and processes and switching to renewable H2; upgrading by-products to chemicals, and CO2 capture and storage or utilization (CCS/CCU). The issue of plastic waste pollution is combining with the challenges discussed above to push society and governments towards a more circular economy. Customer demand for sustainable products is growing. New regulations (and technologies) are being rolled out for waste collection, sorting and recycling. In addition, the industry is making pledges to produce and use more sustainably. However, it is expected that fresh carbon will still have to enter the material cycle. It will be needed to feed the growth of the chemical industry and to compensate for inevitable recycling losses. For a truly circular industry, this fresh carbon would come from a renewable source, i.e. from atmospheric CO2, initially via biomass and later possibly from direct CO2 capture and utilization (CCU).
Biography: Jean-Paul Lange is a principal research scientist at Shell Projects & Technology in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where he has been exploring novel catalytic processes for producing fuels and chemicals, initially from natural gas and oil and, since more than twenty years from biomass and plastic wastes. His research embraces heterogeneous catalysis, chemical engineering, conceptual process design, manufacturing economics and technology strategy.
Jean-Paul Lange is also a Professor in Chemical Biorefining at the University of Twente, the Netherlands, where he is investigating thermo-chemical and -catalytic routes to convert biomass to fuels and chemicals and to recycle plastic wastes. Before joining Shell, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Lehigh University in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania/US), got his Ph.D. at the Fritz-Haber Institute (Max Planck Society) in Berlin (Germany), and graduated at the University of Namur (Belgium). Jean-Paul Lange is co-author of >100 patent series, >60 scientific publications, 7 book chapters and is working on co-editing a scientific book. He is also contributing to public science through various advisory boards in the Netherlands, Europe and for the European Commission.