Energy & Climate

The road towards a low-carbon economy

The Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, sets targets that require tremendous efforts by all industries associated with climate change. This transition to a climate neutral and circular economy demands specific actions which are currently processed by the chemical industry. To further reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions the industry needs to improve the energy efficiency of its production processes, increase the share of Renewable Sources of Energy in the energy mix and low-carbon raw materials. The industry needs to save resources while reducing waste by implementing a circular economy.
To limit global average temperature increase to below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be reduced worldwide.

Delivering EU Green Deal objectives

Cefic and its members support Europe’s ambition to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. By reducing GHG emissions, the industry is working towards climate neutrality, clean energy and zero pollution.

Energy security

The strong growth recorded in 2021 in combination with the geopolitical developments in the first quarter of 2022 have led to soaring energy costs and placed adequacy of supply under pressure. The chemical industry is involved in the decision making concerning energy security. The Greek chemical industry has commissioned the Foundation for Economic & Industrial Research (IOBE) to carry out a study on the impacts of energy costs on its production activities.

Greenhouse gas emissions by the EU chemical industry

In the period 1997–2013, the chemical industry achieved a 50% decrease in GHG emissions due to technological advances in production processes. Since 2013, the reduction rate has slowed down. The chemical industry is however looking into developments to continue on a reduction path.

Absolute GHG emissions by the EU chemical industry are illustrated in the following chart.
Total scope 1 – GHG emissions* by the EU27

GHG emission intensity

GHG emissions decreased by 67%, although chemicals production increased by 49%, therefore emission intensity per production unit decreased by 51%. This means that the growth in production within the EU27 chemical industry was successfully decoupled from the GHG emissions.

GHG emission intensity of the EU27 chemical industry

Here are some examples of technological advancements in the European chemical industry that have contributed to reducing GHG emissions during production:

  1. Improving technologies to reduce direct GHG emissions in production
    • Salt-filled ponds accumulate and store solar energy for further use
    • Chemical industry-led consortium to buy renewable energy from offshore wind farm
  2. Improving energy-efficiency continuously
    • Upscaling electrocatalysis to repurpose CO2 as raw material
  3. Switching to low-carbon and renewable alternatives for energy and electricity sources
    • Upscaling electrocatalysis to repurpose CO2 as raw material
    • Recycling CO2 to generate renewable methanol
  4. CO2 capture and utilisation
    • Check out companies’ example on chemistry can/circular economy

The Greek chemical industry

Energy consumption by the Greek chemical industry 1990-2018

Final energy consumption per energy source in the chemical and petrochemical industries

  • In 2018, fuel and electricity consumption by the chemical industry in Greece, the pharmaceutical industry included, reached 130 thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE). This amount accounts for approximately 5% of energy consumption by the industry in Greece for the same year, reduced by 58% compared to 1990. Therefore, energy consumption by the domestic chemical industry has significantly decreased.
  • Excluding natural gas, the consumption of other energy sources (oil, electricity and solid fuels) has been significantly reduced since 1990. The changing composition of production in the chemical industry and the substitution between energy sources explain in part these changes.

Energy intensity in the chemical industry

  • The energy intensity of the chemical industry has drastically improved between 1990 to 2018 and in fact, considerably more than the manufacturing average in Greece.
  • Improved energy efficiency has contributed significantly to the reduction in energy consumption by the chemical industry.
  • The energy intensity index of the chemical industry is estimated to have decreased by 63% in 2018 compared to 1990, when it has decreased by just 19% in total manufacturing since 1990. The increased weight of energy-intensive industries in domestic manufacturing might explain these changes.

GHG emissions

  • Greenhouse gas emissions by the chemical industry in Greece (in equivalent CO2 emissions) have significantly dropped compared to 1990 (defined as base year in relevant measurements conducted as part of international agreements for climate change).
  • In 2018 GHG emissions dropped by 67% compared to base year, amounting to 974 thousand tonnes from 2,931 thousand tonnes in 1990. A turning point was reached in 2006, when a ban on HCFC-22 production came into effect, which led to a sharp decline in total greenhouse gas emissions by the domestic chemical industry.
  • According to the European Environment Agency, greenhouse gas emissions by the chemical industry in Greece in the past years have mainly derived from carbon dioxide (CO2), recording a substantial increase by 40% since 1990. An opposite trend was followed by nitrous oxide, which has dropped by 98% since 1990.

  • In recent years, ammonia production has been the main source of greenhouse gas emissions in the Greek chemical industry.