Petrochemicals are fast becoming the most significant driver of global oil consumption – ahead of trucks, aviation and shipping – according to a new study from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Petrochemical components are used to make a variety of consumer and industrial goods, including plastics, fertilizers, clothing and digital devices. The oil-and-gas-derived products are set to account for more than one third of the growth in global oil demand to 2030, and nearly half the growth to 2050.
The IEA report says that the combination of a growing global economy, technological advances and rising population will lead to increased demand for petrochemical products. Though Europe, Japan and Korea are leading efforts to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics and increase recycling, these initiatives will be outweighed by the sharp rise in plastic consumption in developing economies.
Meanwhile, today’s primary drivers of global oil demand will shrink as alternative fuels, electrification and improved public transport reduce reliance on traditional combustion engines. Demand for plastics has nearly doubled since 2000, with advanced economies using up to 20 times more plastic and 10 times more fertilizer than developing economies on a per capita basis.
Around 10 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans each year. While about 20 per cent of this total figure is made up of fishing gear and other materials lost or dumped at sea, the vast majority of plastic litter in the oceans makes its way there from land.