It’s Center Will Hold: Examining the Petrochemical Industry in 2015

ELN, Petrochemicals

petrochemical industry
The petrochemical industry is facing new challenges with calls to develop its green chemistry-based options and improve the sustainability of its practices. Electronic notebooks can go far toward fostering creativity for such new products, while ensuring current practices are modified to reduce environmental harm.
Image Source: Flickr user john mcsporran

In his poem “The Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats writes “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” And at least for some individuals, anarchy has already descended on the world of petrochemicals. As a 2014 report by the company Panorama warned, the petrochemical industry “will experience structural and economic upheaval, driven by the development of shale gas in the United States and increasing tensions surrounding the availability and price of certain intermediate products.” Beyond geopolitics and new sources for oil, the petrochemical industry must address other challenges as well. For example, at the 2015 International Petrochemical Conference held in San Antonio, Texas, the conference planners spent a significant amount of time discussing issues. In the words of the organizers, “As the petrochemical industry continues to evolve and grow…so does the regulatory landscape.”

Despite the upheaval mentioned by Panorama’s report, there is nothing to suggest that such disruptive change must be disruptive of the petrochemical industry as a unit. Indeed, the Panorama report goes on to discuss that the key area (and opportunity for growth) within the petrochemical industry is in “green chemistry” options, particularly how biomass can serve the “increased demand for energy and consumer products currently based on petrochemicals.” And as the industry invests more in devising solutions based on plant-based raw materials and other “green chemistry options,” the difficulties of environmental and process safety regulations will likely be revised as well.

Social media and sustainability in the petrochemical industry

As the necessity for green chemistry options become more apparent for industry executives, many have also realized that beyond regulators and laws, laypeople have also trained their eyes on the output of the petrochemical industry. Moreover, as the world becomes increasingly connected, those companies that wish not to change are forced to rethink their standards. For example, during a address at the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) Annual Forum in Dubai, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC president Peter L. Cella warned that, “Doing the right thing and communicating with greater transparency is becoming an imperative, and social media is one of those essential vehicles.” And as the Chevron Phillips company continued in a post about their president’s speech, “User activities on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms lead to almost immediate action…”

What is the output more people would like to see? As discussed before, both green chemistry options and current changes in the petrochemical industry to support sustainability are desired by investors and consumers. In particular, the petrochemical industry should pursue what one report called the “Triple Bottom Line,” innovations that support 1) growth and environment, 2) efficiency and society and 3) the environment and welfare. Attaining this “Triple Bottom Line,” however, is difficult and as the report warns, the conditions can potentially conflict with one another. But the reward for doing so is immense and creates a competitive advantage for any petrochemical industry company able to attain this glorified goal.

Electronic Notebooks as a Path Toward the Triple Bottom Line

How then can the petrochemical industry begin to move toward a brighter, more sustainable future? The adoption of electronic notebooks within the industry can help significantly, especially given the goals of sustainability. According to the report, “Environmentally Sustainable GCC Petrochemicals,” companies can develop their sustainability practices by improving their internal manufacturing process to improve yields, reducing waste from inputs, while increasing both energy and supply chain efficiency. As discussed above, when consumers and the public see such changes, “influential stakeholders view [these practices] as a proxy for corporate attributes” and “as an indicator of the quality of [a company’s] governance, risk management and customer responsiveness.”

Electronic notebooks thus enable the petrochemical industry to pursue these goals by providing a careful record of internal manufacturing processes, for example. By providing extensive documentation of the machines used and the waste of chemicals produced, for example, companies can then begin to identify trends and determine where best to trim certain processes to increase efficiency and reduce waste.

Additionally, electronic notebooks serve as a repository for company ideas, an important component of innovation and innovative thinking to support green chemistry and sustainability. The 2014 Panorama report warned that pursuing green chemistry options “requires a fairly extensive overhaul of traditional processes…[And] the medium-term development of bio-based processes will require heavy investments and industrial partnerships between biomass, biotechnology and chemical specialists” as the petrochemical industry moves away from oil refineries and closer to biorefineries. Electronic notebooks thus provide a powerful means for keeping track of these developments, while fostering collaborations between a diverse group of individuals and productivity within organizations that will together lead to better, more sustainable practices.

Electronic notebook can enable leaders to make better use of company time by cleanly consolidating all information within a single location and providing a means for people in disparate locations to monitor developments within their companies and contribute to such innovations. With the BIOVIA Notebook, we are devoted to supporting the petrochemical industry and other specialists interested in improving their processes. To determine how our products can help you, please contact us today.

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