Industrial energy use and carbon emissions reduction in the chemicals sector: A UK perspective

Paul Griffin, Geoffrey Hammond, Jonathan Norman

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81 Citations (SciVal)


The opportunities and challenges to reducing industrial energy demand and carbon dioxide (CO 2) emissions in the Chemicals sector are evaluated with a focus on the situation in the United Kingdom (UK), although the lessons learned are applicable across much of the industrialised world. This sector can be characterised as being heterogeneous; embracing a diverse range of products (including advanced materials, cleaning fluids, composites, dyes, paints, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and surfactants). It sits on the boundary between energy-intensive (EI) and non-energy-intensive (NEI) industrial sectors. The improvement potential of various technological interventions has been identified in terms of their energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Currently-available best practice technologies (BPTs) will lead to further, short-term energy and CO 2 emissions savings in chemicals processing, but the prospects for the commercial exploitation of innovative technologies by mid-21st century are far more speculative. A set of industrial decarbonisation ‘technology roadmaps’ out to the mid-21st Century are also reported, based on various alternative scenarios. These yield low-carbon transition pathways that represent future projections which match short-term and long-term (2050) targets with specific technological solutions to help meet the key energy saving and decarbonisation goals. The roadmaps’ contents were built up on the basis of the improvement potentials associated with various processes employed in the chemicals industry. They help identify the steps needed to be undertaken by developers, policy makers and other stakeholders in order to ensure the decarbonisation of the UK chemicals industry. The attainment of significant falls in carbon emissions over this period will depends critically on the adoption of a small number of key technologies [e.g., carbon capture and storage (CCS), energy efficiency techniques, and bioenergy], alongside a decarbonisation of the electricity supply.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-602
Number of pages16
JournalApplied Energy
Early online date12 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Carbon accounting
  • Chemicals
  • Enabling technologies
  • Improvement potential
  • Industrial energy analysis
  • United Kingdom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Energy(all)
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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