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Europe is back: Major petrochemical projects reflect a positive outlook
Several major petrochemical projects, includ- ing propane dehydrogenation plants and a possible steam cracker, have been announced in 2017-18 for Europe. It is the first time for many years that Europe has seen capital-investment announce- ments in petrochemicals of this size.
The potential projects reflect a positive outlook for the petrochemical industry in Europe and worldwide, says Dan Holton, an EPCA board member and global product executive/basic chemicals at ExxonMobil Chemical. “ExxonMobil estimates that global demand for chemicals will double within the next 20 years,” he says.
“That is more than the expected growth of energy demand and GDP over that same period. An important reason for this positive demand outlook is the growth of the middle class. As middle-class consumers seek higher standards of living, they are projected to purchase more packaged goods, appliances, automobiles, and clothing, many of which are manufactured from the chemicals produced by our industry.”
A critical enabler of this future industry growth will be the way producers and customers work together to increase the sustainability of the industry’s products and services across the entire value chain, Mr Holton says. “Plastics, for example, provide significant benefits to society,” he says. “However, we all have to do more to address the growing challenge of plastic waste. ExxonMobil is collaborating with industry, NGOs, and governments to help develop solutions.”
Dan Holton notes that ExxonMobil has a long history of developing products with significant sustainable benefits. These include lightweight plastics for vehicles to help improve fuel efficiency; thin, durable packaging films that extend food shelf life and reduce waste; and differentiated products for vehicle tires that improve vehicle fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
Despite the big project announcements in Europe, there is still a competitiveness gap in petrochemicals between Europe and other regions such as the United States and Middle East. But Europe retains certain fundamental strengths that can help to narrow this gap.
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