Industrial Energy in Transition: A Petrochemical Perspective

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Science  10 Feb 1978:
Vol. 199, Issue 4329, pp. 614-618
DOI: 10.1126/science.199.4329.614


The future growth of the petrochemical industry depends in part on the industry's ability to improve efficiency in the use of oil and gas feedstocks and to develop promising alternatives. Technological innovation is proving to be the key to the long-term viability of the industry. The next 6 to 7 years will be characterized by the commercialization of new technologies designed to improve the efficiency of petroleum as a feedstock. Union Carbide's advanced cracking reactor, now nearing the demonstration stage, exemplifies this type of effort. The increasing price of oil and gas will make coal-based synthesis gas more attractive as a feedstock, particularly for oxygenated petrochemical products. A further development involves the conversion of biomass, through fermentation, to useful chemical products and the gasification of municipal wastes to raise steam for electricity generation and as a possible, supplemental feedstock. By the year 2000, it is predicted that feedstocks from all sources other than oil and gas may constitute 10 to 14 percent of the total new material requirement for the petrochemical industry.