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GCC petrochemicals industry on course towards environmental sustainability, reports GPCA

The GCC petrochemicals industry has taken positive steps towards achieving environmental sustainability over the last two years, according to the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA).

“Between 2011- 2012, the GCC petrochemicals industry not only added capacity to their facilities, but also reduced the emissions per ton of capacity in their manufacturing units,” said Dr. Abdulwahab Al Sadoun, Secretary General, GPCA. “This is a positive development as it shows that the sector is growing in a way that is environmentally sustainable.”

According to the World Resources Institute, China and the US were the top emitters in 2010, producing 10,385 and 6,866 million tons of greenhouse gases respectively.

“We must also recognize that while the GCC has a high level of emissions per capita, the region as a whole has a lower population density than that of the United States or China,” said Dr. Sadoun.

Today, Saudi Arabia accounts for 84.2 million tons of petrochemicals capacity, 65% of the GCC’s production. “As the Kingdom accounts for more than half of the petrochemicals capacity in the GCC, any developments to reduce the production of greenhouse gases will have a positive effect on the region’s emissions portfolio,” said Dr. Sadoun.

Progress to curb emissions has already been made by some companies in Saudi Arabia. In 2009, Saudi International Petrochemical Company (Sipchem) reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by 50% through a project to replace conventional burners in the reformer furnace with burners utilizing the latest induced flue gas recirculation technology. The plant upgrade resulted in reducing emissions from 1,800 metric tons per year, to an annual emissions amount of 500 tons.

“The Sipchem example is an extraordinary achievement contributing to improved air quality in the community,” concluded Dr. Sadoun.

While the region’s petrochemical companies now track data on some greenhouse gas emissions, the GPCA notes that there is room for improvement.

“We recommend that the region’s petrochemicals companies continue to monitor greenhouse gases and also track carbon dioxide emissions,” advises Dr. Sadoun. “Monitoring greenhouse gases is an important factor in developing a sustainable petrochemical facility, making it easier for chemical producers to identify specific areas in which emissions can be reduced.”

Reducing greenhouse gases in the petrochemicals industry was the key focus on day one of GPCA’s inaugural Sustainability Conference. Nadeem Ahmad Bashir, Senior Environment & Sustainable Development Engineer, Qatar Fuel Additives Company (QAFAC) provided insights on how the company has reduced its emissions through the recovery of carbon dioxide.

Held from December 17-19 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in DIFC, the Sustainability Conference includes speakers from Borouge, Dow Chemical and SABIC discussing way in which chemicals companies can operate profitably in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible.