Environmental Performance


EU27 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions* fall nearly 53% since 1990

GHG emissions* in the EU27 chemical industry

Long-term data gives evidence of the EU27 chemical industry, including pharmaceuticals, having a solid track record from 1990 to 2018 in reducing its GHG emissions.

According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), the EU27 chemical industry, including pharmaceuticals, emitted a total of 128.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in 2018, down from a total of 270.3 million tonnes in 1990. This 52.5% decrease clearly illustrates how much importance the chemical industry attaches to reducing GHG emissions.

Our industry’s shift to less carbon-intensive energy sources has helped reduce GHG emissions. Much of the decline over the past years is linked to abatement of nitrous oxide (N2O), which has a higher global warming potential than CO2 and is emitted by some chemical processes.

EU27 GHG emissions* fall by 142.0 million tonnes (CO2) since 1990

GHG emissions* in the EU27 chemical sector, million of tonnes (CO2 equivalent)

This chart gives an overview of the main trends in the EU27 chemical industry (including pharmaceuticals) GHG emissions for the period 1990–2018.

According to the EEA, the most important GHG is CO2 for the EU27 chemical industry (including pharmaceuticals). It accounted for 90.7% of total EU GHG emissions in 2018. In 2018, EU27 CO2 emissions were 116.4 million tonnes, which was 24.5% below 1990 levels.

The second most important GHG is N2O, accounting for 5.1% of total EU27 GHG emissions in 2018. In 2018, EU27 N2O emissions were 6.5 million tonnes, which was 92.6% below 1990 levels. Compared to 2017, N2O emissions decreased by 13.5%.

Total EU27 GHG have fallen by 142.0 million tonnes (CO2) since 1990. Data shows that emissions of CH4 increased whereas emissions of the other GHG such as CO2, HFCs, N2O, SF6, and PFCs decreased during the same period.

Ammonia: EU27 GHG emissions* fall 29% since 1990

Ammonia production: EU27 GHG emissions, million of tonnes (CO2 equivalent)

The long-term analysis shows a strong decline in GHG emissions for the period 1990–2018. The chemical industry continues to devote much effort to reducing GHG emissions from ammonia production.

According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), EU27 production of ammonia by the EU27 chemical industry emitted a total of 22.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2018, down from 31.5 million tonnes in 1990.

Total GHG emissions from ammonia production went down by an average of 1.2% per annum between 1990 and 2018, reducing 1990 emission values by about 30%.

In relative terms, more than one third (36.7%) of total GHG emissions were attributable to ammonia in 2018 (22.2 vs 60.6, million tonnes); this is far above the 18.8% reported in 1990 (31.5 vs 167.6 million tonnes).

Caprolactam, Glyoxal and Glyoxylic Acid: EU27 emissions* fall about 50% since 1990

Caprolactam, Glyoxal and Glyoxylic acid production: EU27 GHG emissions, million of tonnes (CO2 equivalent)

According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), the EU production of CGGA, (Caprolactam, Glyoxal and Glyoxylic Acid) by the EU27 chemical industry emitted a total of 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2018, down from a total of 4.1 million tonnes in 1990. Total GHG emissions from CGGA production went down by an average of 2.4% per annum between 1990 and 2018. Nearly half of the original emission values in 1990 have been reduced.

Long-term data shows a significant reduction of GHG emissions between 1990 and 2003. Total GHG emissions from CGGA production went down by an average of 6.0% per annum between 1990 and 2003. Since 2004, GHG emissions have been relatively flat.

In relative terms, GHG emissions from producing CGGA accounted for 3.5% of total GHG emissions in the EU27 chemical industry in 2018 (2.1 vs 60.6 million tonnes).

Nitric Acid: EU27 GHG emissions* fall 93% since 1990

Nitric acid production: EU27 GHG emissions, million of tonnes (CO2 equivalent)

According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), EU27 production of Nitric Acid by the EU27 chemical industry emitted a total of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2018, down from a total of 45.7 million tonnes in 1990.

Total EU27 GHG emissions from Nitric Acid production went down by an average of 8.9% per annum between 1990 and 2018. More than 90% of the original emission values in 1990 have been reduced.

Data shows a significant reduction of EU27 GHG emissions between 2006 and 2018. Total EU27 GHG emissions from Nitric Acid production went down by an average of 17.7% per annum between 2006 and 2018. Since 2013, GHG emissions have been relatively flat.

In relative terms, 5.6% of total GHG emissions were attributable to Nitric Acid in 2018 (3.4 vs 60.6 million tonnes); this is far below the 27.3% reported in 1990 (45.7 vs 167.6 million tonnes).

Adipic Acid: EU27 GHG emissions* fall nearly 100% since 1990

Adipic acid production: EU27 GHG emissions, million of tonnes (CO2 equivalent)

The long-term analysis shows a sharp decline in EU27 GHG emissions from 1990 to 2010. The chart shows an impressive reduction in total EU27 GHG emissions from Adipic Acid production between 1990 and 1999. This was followed by a gradual decline in GHG emissions between 1999 and 2009. Since 2010, there have been no significant changes.

According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), EU27 production of Adipic Acid by the EU27 chemical industry emitted a total of 0.41 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2018, down from a total of 37.6 million tonnes in 1990.

Total EU27 GHG emissions from Adipic Acid production went down by an average of 14.9% per annum between 1990 and 2018. 99% of the original emission values in 1990 have been reduced.

In relative terms, only 0.7% of total EU27 GHG emissions were attributable to Adipic Acid in 2018 (0.41 vs 60.6 million tonnes); this is far below the 22.5% reported in 1990 (37.6 vs 167.6 million tonnes).

Carbide: EU27 GHG emissions* fall 86% since 1990

Carbide production: EU27 GHG emissions, million of tonnes (CO2 equivalent)

According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), EU27 production of Carbide by the EU27 chemical industry emitted a total of 0.24 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2018, down from a total of 1.7 million tonnes in 1990.

Total EU27 GHG emissions from Carbide production went down by an average of 6.8% between 1990 and 2018. 86% of the original emission values in 1990 have been reduced.

In relative terms, less than 1% of total GHG emissions were attributable to Carbide in 2018 (0.24 vs 60.6 million tonnes).

EU27 Chemical production, greenhouse gas emissions, decouple

EU27 GHG emissions and production

The 50% decrease in EU27 GHG emissions between 1991 and 2018 is even more remarkable given that, at the same time, production in the EU27 chemical industry, including pharmaceuticals, expanded by 95%.

This was achieved thanks to the chemical industry’s conscious effort to develop cleaner technologies, and above all to increase energy efficiency. Besides increasing energy efficiency of its own processes, innovations in the chemical industry also help to increase the energy efficiency of downstream users and their products.

Our products make a significant contribution to society’s capacity to reduce EU27 GHG emissions. A study from the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) entitled ”Innovations for Greenhouse Gas Reductions, 2009” found that the products of the chemical industry, over their lifecycle, save between 2.1 to 2.6 times the GHG emissions that are required to produce them. It also concluded that this ratio could increase to more than 4.1 by 2030.

EU27 Greenhouse gas intensity plummets 74% since 1991

EU27 GHG emissions* per unit of energy consumption and per unit of production**

Over the last two decades, the EU27 chemical industry, including pharmaceuticals, has made an enormous effort to minimise the environmental impact of its production.

EU27 GHG emissions per unit of energy consumption fell by 42% between 1991 and 2018. GHG intensity – EU27 GHG emissions per unit of production – fell by 74% from 1991 to 2018

EU27 +UK Acidifying emission intensity falls by 40% since 2007

Acidifying* emissions in the (EU27+UK) chemical industry

Between 2007 and 2017, the chemical industry achieved a 40 per cent reduction in its acidifying emissions intensity (acidifying gas emissions per tonne unit).

Some emissions, such as sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia (NH3), together with their reaction products, lead after their deposition to changes in the chemical composition of the soil and surface water.

This process interferes with ecosystems, leading to what is termed ‘acidification’. In the chemical industry, potentially acidifying gases originate mainly from combustion and the production of sulphuric acid, ammonia and nitric acid.

EU27 +UK Nitrogen emission intensity falls by 47% since 2007

Nitrogen emissions in the (EU27+UK) chemical industry

The chemical sector saw a fall of 47% in nitrogen emissions to water (per production unit) between 2007 and 2017.

Nitrogen occurs naturally and is an essential nutrient for healthy ecosystems. Too high levels can lead to eutrophication of lakes, streams, rivers, estuaries and oceans. As well as successfully reducing its releases of nitrogen to water through end-of pipe controls, the industry is also working on stewardship approaches with its partners down the value chain.

EU27 +UK Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emission intensity falls by 47% since 2007

Non-methane volatile organic compounds emissions to air in the (EU27+UK) chemical industry

The chemical sector has seen a fall of 47% in NMVOC emissions intensity since 2007 (European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) data). This is the result of a range of measures including process optimisation and improved emissions control during storage and transport.

NMVOCs are ozone precursors, and exposure to high levels of ozone can cause health issues. The majority of NMVOCs are emitted from natural sources and the rest from man-made sources, such as road transport, dry cleaning and solvents use.

The largest source of man-made NMVOC emissions (approx. 50%[i]) is from solvent and product use. The chemical sector contributed to this reduction through a change from solvent based to water-based paints, process optimisation to reduce emissions, and higher levels of solvent recycling.

Total number of accidents dropped by 31% in the EU27+UK chemical industry since 2010

Number of accidents at work in EU27+UK Chemicals

Chart Source: Eurostat database (hsw_n2_01 and hsw_n2_02) and Cefic Analysis-Sep 2020, *number in thousands

The chart presented above on accidents at work shows the following results

  • The number of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU27+UK chemical sector dropped significantly from 19.8 thousand in 2010 to 13.7 thousand in 2017 (a decrease of 31%). There was a decrease of 14% in the total number of non-fatal accidents at work from 15970 in 2016 to 13728 in 2017. The number of non-fatal accidents at work dropped on average, by 5.1% per annum between 2010 and 2017.
  • In 2017, there were just over 620 thousand non-fatal accidents in the EU27+UK manufacturing sector that resulted in at least four calendar days of absence from work and 496 fatal accidents in the EU-27+UK.
  • The number of fatal accidents at work in the EU27+UK chemical sector dropped from 29 cases in 2010, to 20 cases in 2017. On average, the number of fatal accidents at work dropped by 5.2% per annum between 2010 and 2017. However, there was an increase in the total number of fatal accidents at work in the EU27+UK chemical sector from 2016 to 2017, 6 accidents more.
  • In 2017, there were just over 490 fatal accidents in the EU27+UK manufacturing sector that resulted in at least four calendar days of absence from work, down from 710 fatal accidents in 2010.
  • The incidence rate in chemicals (1.51, number of fatal accidents per 100 000 employed persons) is totally in line with EU manufacturing situation (1.46).
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