Petrochemicals are set to account for more than one third of the growth in world oil demand by 2030 according to a study undertaken by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The IEA highlighted that petrochemicals were becoming the largest drivers of global oil demand and were poised to consume an additional 56 billion cubic metres of natural gas by 2030.
“Our economies are heavily dependent on petrochemicals, but the sector receives far less attention than it deserves,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said.
He added that petrochemicals were one of the key blind spots in the global energy debate, given the influence they will exert on future energy trends.
“Our analysis shows they will have a greater influence on the future of oil demand than cars, trucks and aviation.”
Although products derived from petrochemicals are beneficial and promote clean technologies, the side effects of petrochemical-manufactured products present pollution and climate challenges that need to be addressed.
The report further highlighted potential avenues that could be explored to mitigate the environmental impacts of petrochemicals.
“Despite near-tripling in plastic waste collection by 2050, the limited availability of cost-effective substitutes for oil feedstock means that oil demand for petrochemicals remains resilient,” it said.
Petrochemical products provide substantial benefits to society, including a growing number of applications in various cutting-edge, clean technologies critical to sustainable energy systems.
“While substantial increases in recycling and efforts to curb single-use plastics are underway, especially in Europe, Japan and Korea, the impact these efforts can have on demand for petrochemicals is far outweighed by sharply increasing plastic consumption in emerging economies,” the IEA said.