The Future of Sustainable Chemicals Depends on Feedstocks

The chemical industry has always focused on using feedstocks from the most readily available sources. As renewable resources become a more important energy source in a future low-carbon economy, they provide an opportunity for chemical companies to develop a renewable chemicals industry. This research service examines the following second-generation renewable feedstocks that have the potential to supply raw materials for a large proportion of the chemical industry: cellulose, lignin, algae, and carbon dioxide. The service has a base year of 2012; it also provides poll results from 2013.

Key Findings—Impact of the Low-carbon Economy on Chemical Feedstocks

• The chemical industry has always focused on using feedstocks from the most readily available sources, typically the products being used as fuel at the time, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. As sustainable resources become a more important energy source in a future low-carbon economy, opportunities will arise for chemical companies to develop a sustainable chemical industry.
• Even though heating is the largest consumer of energy, and will use large quantities of biomass in the future, more co-production of chemical feedstocks will come from the transportation fuel sector.
• This research looks in detail at 4 second-generation renewable feedstocks that have the potential to supply raw materials for a large proportion of the chemical industry. These feedstocks are cellulose, lignin, algae, and carbon dioxide (CO2).
• Beyond these 4 feedstocks, others are also undergoing change:
- Shale gas is impacting chemical feedstocks.
- Reductions in associated gas flaring are increasing availability of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as a feedstock for processes such as propane dehydrogenation (PDH).
- Volatility in global crop harvests, caused in part by unpredictable weather conditions, continues to provide a challenge for first-generation bio-based chemicals.
- The development of closed-loop recycling will reduce the need for virgin materials in some markets.

Introduction

Feedstocks for the chemical industry are changing due to many Mega Trends:
• Health and wellness needs have led to regulations over chemical use, such as REACH.
• The markets for chemical feedstocks are becoming increasingly globalised.
• Functionality and performance requirements continue to drive innovation in application development for the chemical industry, but they have less impact on feedstock dynamics.
• The desire for a sustainable, low-carbon economy will be the most important driver for change in chemical feedstocks in the next Xyears.

This research service provides an assessment of the latest opinions from the chemical industry regarding the growing use of innovative low-carbon feedstocks.
• This service complements earlier research that provides a more holistic, strategic overview of factors affecting the use of bio-based chemicals.
• It assesses key supply and demand scenarios for X feedstocks that have the potential to compete against other, more established alternatives, such as the following:
- Traditional petrochemical feedstocks.
- New petrochemical feedstocks, such as shale gas.
- First-generation bio-based feedstocks.

Table Of Contents

Table of Contents

Executive Summary 4
Introduction 7
Cellulose 21
Plant Lignin 27
Algae 32
Captured Carbon Dioxide 37
Summary and Conclusions 43
Appendix 49
The Frost and Sullivan Story 51

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