Reaching Net-Zero in the Chemical Industry – A study of roadmaps for Industrial Decarbonisation
Examination Thesis by Ylva Kloo
Supervisor: Lars J. Nilsson
Co-supervisor: Ellen Palm
Department of Technology and Society, Division of Environmental and Energy System Studies, Lund University
Net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, a necessity to reach international climate objectives, was adopted as a target for 2050 by the European Union. In this paper, chemical industry roadmaps from the past five years are assessed and compared for the purpose of uncovering how the European chemical industry envisions its role in the transition to net-zero emissions. The roadmaps are assessed in terms of ambition level, technology strategies and feedstocks, investment needs, agency and dependency on other actors, as well as how specific they are concerning these aspects and the timing of events. Although net-zero pathways are often drawn out in the roadmaps, some argue for less ambitious pathways with emission reductions of only 40-50%. The roadmaps vary widely in terms of the importance they assign to mechanical and chemical recycling, switching to biogenic carbon and carbon dioxide as feedstock, electrification and hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage. Industry actors often avoid the option of reducing demand for plastics and other products, e.g., through reuse or materials efficiency. High investment needs are generally highlighted, as well as the need for policy to create enabling conditions, whereas the agency and responsibility of the chemical industry itself is downplayed. We conclude that the chemical industry does not yet have a strong and shared vision for pathways to net-zero emissions. Such a future vision would benefit from taking a whole value-chain approach including demand-side options and consideration of scope 3 emissions.