Comment: Chemistry & Climate Action
Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun says industries should work together to reduce the region's carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency
Addressing global climate issues, particularly through improved energy efficiency, is very important to the chemical industry. Although Green House Gas (GHGs) are emitted in the manufacturing of chemical products, the use of many of these products enables significant emission reductions in other sectors, often greater than the amount of GHGs emitted during their production.
For example, high-performance foam insulation in homes significantly reduces the heating required, thereby reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions. In fact, foam insulation can save 233 times the amount of GHG emitted to make it.
Over the next few decades, the amount of energy used by the building sector will increase dramatically (more than 62% by 2050), as will the amount of CO₂ emissions (more than 87% by 2050). With the use of commercially available energy-efficient building technologies, great strides can be achieved in reducing emissions and achieving energy-efficient buildings of the future. The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), of which GPCA is an active member, has developed a Building Technology Roadmap, which analyses energy and GHG reductions that are possible from using chemically derived building products, such as: wall and roof insulation, plastic pipe and pipe insulation, air barriers and air sealing products, reflective roof coatings and pigments and windows. Each of these products prevents energy loss or the loss of cooled or heated air from inside the buildings either by reducing heat/cool flow transfer – through the roof, walls, and windows, or by reducing the infiltration of outside air.
According to the ICCA roadmap, robust building standards, combined with ambitious renovation in building structure, would result in a 23% reduction in energy use by 2050. When improvements to the building envelope are combined with lower-carbon fuel scenarios, the 23% reduction from ambitious renovation would increase to a 73% reduction by 2050.
The increased use of chemically derived products will play a major role in minimising energy use and GHG emissions in the fast growing cities in the Arabian Gulf. Considering our warm summers, notably cooling energy is an important consideration. Cool roofing, which owes its reflective properties to chemically derived pigments and coatings, has the potential to make significant contributions to reductions in cooling energy in newly constructed buildings and the existing high rise towers dominating the cityscape in the Gulf.
Cooling acrylic polymer, for example, is specifically designed to withstand the extreme weather conditions native to this region. When applied to exterior roof surfaces, the coatings help reduce the amount of air conditioning required in hot weather conditions by reflecting solar heat rather than absorbing. Plastics also rival traditional materials for window glazing. For example, polycarbonate can be used as panes, allowing to balance the increasing demand for building designs that admit large amounts of light with concerns about energy costs.
Behind walls and under floors, the use of polystyrene foams can also provide significant energy efficiency. Structural insulated panels made with expanded polystyrene (EPS) can help building owners save costs on cooling bills, while the advent of plastic house wrap technology can reduce infiltration of hot air from outside into the average home by 10-50%.
The GCC chemical industry, and notably the world leading plastics producers from this region, are committed to playing a crucial role in the building needs of our fast growing societies. By partnering with national governments on building formulations codes and by developing new, innovative solutions in collaboration with developers, builders and architects, we will enhance the lives of the people in the Arabian Gulf and minimise the carbon footprint of our region.