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Report on 39th Annual Meeting Vienna 24-28 September 2005

“Do We Like Chemicals?”
“Do We Need Chemicals?”


The EPCA’s 39th Annual Meeting was held in Vienna, Austria on September 24-28, 2005. In his welcome address, EPCA President Dr Walter Thünker of BP Refining and Petrochemicals pointed out that the number of delegates attending the meeting, at 1,475, was the highest ever. Ironically, the 39th in the series was also the last EPCA Annual Meeting per se. From next year the EPCA Annual and Logistics Meetings will be combined and held as a joint event. Thus, it is extremely likely that a new record attendance figure for an EPCA gathering will be achieved in 2006.

In introducing the theme of this year’s meeting - ““Do We Like Chemicals?” ... “Do We Need Chemicals?”” - Dr Thünker said that the topic was a fitting one on which to end the series of Annual Meetings in their current format. It goes right to the heart of the European chemical industry’s raison d’etre and, by taking note of the responses to these questions by the range of expert speakers and panellists assembled for the Vienna meeting, chemical company executives would have a better idea of what they had achieved and, more importantly, what still needs to be done in order to secure public confidence in the chemical industry.

Dr Thünker handed over proceedings to Michael Buerk of the BBC, mentioning that this was the 12th year in succession in which Michael was moderating EPCA meetings in his inimitable style. In his own introductory comments, Michael Buerk pointed out that this year’s Annual Meeting would go right to the root of how the chemical industry is perceived and how it needs to move forward in the 21st century. This soul-searching was taking place at a time of great tension in the global marketplace, as the soaring demand for oil and rising prices have raised awareness of the finite nature of fossil fuels. Feedstock costs represent a major challenge for European chemical producers and highlight the extent to which the region’s chemical companies are exposed to the need for oil and gas imports as they compete globally.

In launching proceedings, Michael Buerk explained that the first day of the Annual Meeting would focus on the initial question - “Do We Like Chemicals?” - and set the stage for day two when the fundamental issue - “Do We Need Chemicals?”- would be considered.