CEO: Net-zero ambitions need an innovative and viable materials transition
Amin Nasser says the downstream chemicals industry can enable a world of the future built to last with more durable, more sustainable materials at scale, and with lower cost.
An accelerated transition to materials of the future must run parallel with the energy transition to contribute to climate protection goals and deliver on net-zero ambitions, Aramco’s president and CEO has told a major chemicals conference.
Amin Nasser was speaking at the 16th Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) Annual Forum in Riyadh, held for the first time in the Kingdom.
The three-day conference, which was held under the theme “Chemistry in Action, Shaping a Sustainable Future,” drew a global audience
Opportunities and Ambitions
The first day of the forum saw an inaugural address by HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, in which he described the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as, “a land of opportunities and hope, ambitions and determination.”
In a keynote address on Aramco’s chemicals journey and the path ahead, Nasser set the modern context of global population growth, the growth of cities, and a parallel growth in demand for materials.
“By 2060, the world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion people,” he said. “Eighty percent of them are projected to be living in cities by then, and global GDP is forecast to quadruple. People will rightly want a share of this, meaning demand for materials is also likely to increase considerably.”
Nasser pointed out that demand for materials is projected to more than double from 79 giga-tonnes in 2011 to 167 giga-tonnes in 2060.
Materials production, use, and eventual disposal already accounts for almost a quarter of all global CO2 emissions, he noted.
“Under a business-as-usual scenario, emissions from various industries are projected to increase substantially.
“To help reduce emissions in this growth environment, the building blocks of 21st century life must last longer, cost less, and have lower emissions.
“Just imagine a future where skyscrapers, bridges, planes, cars — including electric ones — and even World Cup stadiums are built with advanced materials,” said Nasser.
Delivering a well-considered and accelerated materials transition will require cutting-edge R&D innovation and meaningful investment, he added.
Circular carbon economy
Nasser went on to highlight the critical role of the circular carbon economy in the quest for lower emissions and more sustainable materials for the future.
“Two notable examples include the world-first circular polymer by our affiliate SABIC, and Aramco’s sustainable e-fuels.”
Lower-carbon hydrogen is expected to also play a major role in the chemicals industry, said Nasser, pointing to SABIC’s recently obtained first independent certification recognizing the production of blue hydrogen and blue ammonia.
Powerful business case
Nasser told the GPCA forum that the case for sustainable materials is supported by a powerful business case, with opportunities to expand and strengthen business portfolios.
As demand for petrochemicals is expected to remain robust, Nasser said, “That is why our (Aramco’s) strategy to convert up to four million barrels per day of liquids into chemicals by 2030, supported by technology investments is beginning to take shape.”
A call to action
In a call to action, Nasser urged the chemical industry to strengthen and accelerate its innovation efforts to develop more durable and more sustainable materials at scale, while reducing costs.
He also called for the establishment of an advanced materials center in the Kingdom, and the attraction of chemicals companies to invest in a nation blessed with abundant fuels and feedstocks and an extensive network of support infrastructure.
“Ladies and gentlemen, a viable materials transition in parallel with a viable energy transition is urgently needed to build a new world made to last.”
“This is a unique opportunity for the chemical industry to take big decisions, redefine the materials of modern life, and make a decisive difference to both transitions and our planet,” Nasser concluded.
Aramco’s vice president of Chemicals, Olivier Thorel, contributed to a leadership dialogue under the theme “Clean Energy Transition – The GCC’s Opportunity toward World Leadership.”
He shared the panel discussion with president of KAPSARC, Fahad Alajlan; Tatsuya Terazawa, chairman and CEO of the Japanese Institute of Energy Economics; Doug Kelly, president of technology with KBR; and Al Murthir Al Kharusi, chief executive of Strategy and Transformation at OQ.
“We believe that the energy transition is a huge commercial opportunity for chemicals, especially in this region where the cost of energy is low,” Thorel said.
He also mentioned how the CCS hub announced at the Saudi Green Initiative Forum 2022 will enable the production of lower-carbon chemicals in Jubail, possibly positioning Jubail and Ras Al-Khair as competitively advantaged low-carbon chemicals production hubs in the future, unlocking significant growth opportunities for the Kingdom.
“The energy transition is a materials transition, for example, every 1MW of solar requires eight tons of chemical products, so chemicals are a major part of our future.
“That is one of the reasons why we purchased our majority stake in SABIC, and why we’re investing in novel liquids-to-chemicals technologies, including thermal liquids to chemicals which we plan to deploy with our S-Oil affiliate in Korea,” he said.