Chemicals & Petrochemicals

Direct and indirect CO2 emissions from the chemicals & petrochemicals industries amount to
approximately 1.7 gigatonnes, accounting for 5% of total energy- and process-related CO2
emissions. The main chemicals produced are steam-cracking products, ammonia and methanol.

Fossil fuels are the main raw material for primary petrochemicals, which in turn serve as the building blocks for the plastics, fibres and polymers in our everyday lives. 

In 2018, global production of these petrochemicals amounted to some 644 megatonnes (Mt). The largest share – some 360 Mt – went to the plastics sector, which is forecast to consume as much as 1000 Mt of petrochemicals by 2050. This kind of growth demands new solutions for recycling plastics.


Paths towards decarbonization

Carbon-capture technology is already being applied as part of the ammonia or hydrogen production process at up to 400 chemical plants around the world. Most of the captured CO2 is released, but some is used for secondary applications. Some 20 facilities worldwide are also storing the carbon they capture.

The industry has three options for decarbonizing to net zero:

  1.   Use biomass feedstocks together with renewable energy. 
  2.   Use synthetic hydrocarbons as feedstocks, together with renewable energy.
  3.   Apply carbon capture, utilization and storage technology to existing processes, while using renewable heat and electricity. Final products such as plastics also need to be recycled, or their energy captured through combustion. If combusted, the carbon must be captured too.


How SFW is helping

SFW can provide the chemicals & petrochemicals industries with captive power plants that run on biomass. There is also a future opportunity to recycle the chemicals used in plastics, either through gasification or pyrolysis.



The key ingredient in fertilizer is ammonia, the production of which accounts for 0.4 gigatonnes
of CO2 emissions (1.3% of total global emissions). The fertilizer industry uses around 85%
of the 200 megatonnes of ammonia produced each year.

Some 90% of ammonia is produced using the Haber-Bosch process, which combines nitrogen and hydrogen under high temperatures and pressures. The hydrogen used by the industry is mainly derived from steam-reformed natural gas. 

Decarbonization options are available (see below), but they come at a considerable cost that’s reflected in market prices for end products. Fossil-based ammonia currently trades at around USD 200 per tonne, whereas green ammonia is around USD 600 per tonne.


Paths towards decarbonization

The industry has a two-step option towards net zero:


Replace natural-gas based hydrogen with biomass gasification or electrolysis-based hydrogen to produce green ammonia.

Step 2:

Use the green ammonia as an energy carrier to decarbonize other sectors. Green ammonia offers some benefits over pure hydrogen when used in this way.

How SFW is helping

SFW can provide biomass-based captive power plants for the heat needed to create ammonia. In addition, our gasification technology can be utilized to replace natural-gas based hydrogen with biomass or waste-based feedstock.