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Chemical R&D and the Global Energy Economy

Chemical & Engineering News reports on the Council for Chemical Research’s (CCR) annual meeting. The theme was Chemical Research Opportunities for the Global Energy Economy and the focus was exploring the role of chemical R&D in avoiding an impending global energy crisis.

FIRST OFF, several industry analysts pointedly said U.S. chemical companies’ long-running advantage, gained from its use of once-inexpensive natural gas as feedstock and fuel, is over.

About 65% of U.S. chemical industry production is dependent upon natural gas, compared with Europe’s 15% and Asia-Pacific’s 10%, according to analysts’ estimates. Consequently, U.S. industry faces a gas-driven energy problem of large dimensions and different from the rest of the world.

Speakers also predicted that worldwide demand for fossil-fuel resources will grow as well. This will be led by China, India, and other developing nations, which will have increasing need for oil, gas, and other fossil fuels for chemical production and energy.

Toss in the problem of global climate change and the search for non-fossil-based alternative fuels and feedstocks become even more important, speakers said.

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n other words, for a biobased future, chemical R&D must help develop high-value chemicals and manufacturing processes as well as fuel, says Donald B. Anthony, the council’s president and executive director, in a postconference interview. He envisions biorefineries that manufacture new chemical products along with producing fuels, such as ethanol.

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