The many pathways to decarbonizing chemicals

Chemicals manufacturing will be the biggest source of growth for oil by midcentury. How do we reverse that trend?

Chemicals might be the most daunting industrial sector to decarbonize. Unlike concrete and steel, where the end products are largely uniform, refineries spit out thousands of different chemicals through a dizzyingly complex set of processes. These end products are, in turn, used in everything from plastics to fertilizers to pharmaceuticals to clothing. 

The International Energy Agency predicts that chemicals will be the largest source of demand growth for oil through 2050

A wide range of approaches could transform the sector. To talk through them, Shayle turned to industrial emissions guru Rebecca Dell, the program director for industry at ClimateWorks Foundation. 

She breaks down this enigmatic sector. Which chemicals are we talking about? Where are they made? And where do the associated emissions come from? 

Shayle and Rebecca also talk about the feedstock problem: Decarbonizing heat and electricity in the industry is a difficult but straightforward challenge. But how do we replace the versatile fossil fuels used as feedstocks?

Plus, Rebecca has a bone to pick with anyone who thinks we should store captured carbon in plastics. 

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