The global chemicals industry is by nearly every account the largest industrial consumer of fossil fuels in the world. Reducing the industry’s overall dependence on so-called petrochemicals is one of the great scientific challenges of our time. It’s an endeavor worth pursuing.
The Numbers of Fossil Fuel Usage
Fossil fuels today are still necessary to meet over 80% of the energy demand in the U.S. alone. Nearly 20% of all products derived from petrochemicals are used in the manufacture of other chemicals, themselves often going on to become the building blocks of end-products.
Why is it so important the chemical industry reduce its dependence on oil? For starters, the United States still relies on other countries to produce nearly a quarter of all its domestically-used oil. Although global fossil fuel supply is still high, nearly half could be used up by 2030. Most importantly, it’s impossible to understate the impact fossil fuels have on the greater environment, from the ozone layer to acid rain to overall land use.
Fossil Fuels and the Chemicals Industry
The chemicals industry is founded on materials science. Over the 20th century, chemical suppliers the world over grew dependent on fossil fuels to power plants, enhance chemical processes, and for the logistics of shipping and distribution. Diversification is now proving key to moving away from a petrochemical dependence.
A few of the most notable ways in which chemical suppliers are growing less reliant on fossil fuels includes modification of feedstocks. Feedstocks are the chemicals used to power other chemical processes. While gas and oil have long been the preferred chemical feedstock, forward-thinking suppliers are looking toward bio-based solutions to lessen their overall strain on the environment.
Research is driving a push to better develop the fifty or so “intermediate and basic” chemicals used in nearly all sectors of materials science. By making these building blocks more sustainable, chemical suppliers can continue business as usual without interrupting the greater supply chain. Today, synthetic biology is perhaps the best hope for developing carbon-based, “green” alternatives that will eventually supplant petrochemicals by utilizing sustainable materials such as yeast, sugar, and corn.
Noah Chemicals’ Role
The need for a better solution to fossil fuels is urgent. No industry stands more to gain than the chemicals sector, and what happens among chemical suppliers inevitably trickles downstream to manufacturers, producers, and eventually to consumers. The current level of fossil fuel dependence maintained by the global chemicals industry is simply unsustainable.
Noah Chemicals is proud to be part of the solution. Our chemicals and compounds are used for research in some of the most promising areas of science, from biotech to green energy. As a corporate citizen, it’s important for us to play at least some role in the slow but steady march towards a decreased reliance on fossil fuels.
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