Raw material change in the chemical industry – What is behind it?

Raw material change in the chemical industry - What is behind it?

The chemical industry worldwide faces a major challenge in the coming years: most of the value creation in chemistry is based on carbon compounds. These carbon compounds are found in only 3 sources that can be accessed: Fossil raw materials, such as coal, natural gas or petroleum, biomass or carbon dioxide. Here, fossil raw materials account for about 15% of the raw material total. Given that fossil raw materials are finite, they are becoming more and more expensive, but also rarer, with the prospect that in the medium term there will no longer be sufficient fossil raw materials, especially oil, available. Accordingly, the chemical industry must make new arrangements and make greater use of other sources. This article is based on the unique Top 700 Chemical Companies Germany – List of the largest chemical companies.

  • Excel list of the 600 largest German chemical companies for download
  • Including: sales (since 2015), number of employees, e-mail, address, telephone number, management, etc
  • Detailed information on industry (specialty chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paints and coatings, construction chemicals, etc.)
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  • Last update: 07.08.2020

Gradual replacement of crude oil

Since the integration of crude oil into the (German) chemical industry, especially the petrochemical industry, is so deeply rooted, it will be a while before crude oil is no longer the leading raw material. It is likely that crude oil will initially be replaced by natural gas, although the industry still faces a number of challenges here – because to date it has not yet been possible to convert natural gas directly into finished products. Coal would then be a possible starting point, but a lot of carbon dioxide is produced during processing. Accordingly, in view of climate change, other options such as the expansion of side streams from the food and feed industry or the processing of biomass are more sustainable. The most long-term and climate-friendly solution could even be the production of renewable hydrogen without carbon dioxide emissions, which can be obtained, for example, from the water electrolysis of renewable energies.

Disruptive startups as pioneers

As with almost all industries, to gain insight into innovative ideas and solutions, it is worth taking a look at the startup industry. One very promising startup is Opus-12. The California-based startup has developed a technology through which CO₂ can be recycled into various chemicals/fuels using only water and electricity. This can simultaneously reduce emissions into the atmosphere and produce much-needed chemicals in a sustainable manner. Another example of a successful business model is the Finnish company Neste – Neste produces various renewable products, including a diesel fuel made from 100% renewable resources.

Source: Dechema, 26.04.2021 Image source: Unsplash

Definition: Fine and Specialty Chemicals SegmentThis article is based partly on our list of the 600 largest chemical companies in Germany and partly on our Chemical Industry Report. In our industry report of the German chemical sector you will find detailed information on areas of activity, an overview of the locations and clusters of the chemical industry, key financial figures as well as insights into the gender distribution and sustainability efforts of the industry.


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