Addressing water efficiency key to GCC chemical producers


By Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun

DUBAI — Water scarcity is not just a global but also important regional concern, and part of UN Sustainable Development Goals. Albeit abounding in rich hydrocarbon reserves, the Arabian Gulf is dominated by a harsh desert terrain, and lacks access to crucial fresh water resources. The wider MENA region is home to 6.3% of the world’s population, and yet owns just 1.4% of global renewable fresh water.

Water availability — or scarcity hereby — is a growing economic challenge and a major source of risk to businesses in this region. The efficient use of water is especially relevant measure in the GCC manufacturing sector and of particular importance to the GCC chemical industry, where industry relies on energy intensive processes to provide desalinated water for production as well as domestic use.

The chemical industry is a responsible player in the global market compliant with international standards such as Responsible Care — the chemical manufacturing industry's environmental, health, safety and security performance initiative. Since its adoption, the Arabian Gulf region has come a long way in its Responsible Care journey, and leads the rankings in implementation compared to other regions globally.

Effective waste water management and resource utilization remain a key priority for GCC producers who continue to invest heavily in developing the right processes and technologies to achieve better results. Another important focus for producers in the region is growing energy efficiency, and lowering their environmental footprint, while maintaining safe and healthy operations both inside and outside the fence.

Reducing the volumes of water consumption in our production processes relies largely on identifying losses and implementing technological improvements, plant upgrades and minimization of waste wherever possible. To achieve real and sustained reduction in water consumption and wastewater production, a holistic approach is required.

One of Gulf Petrochemicals & Chemicals Association (GPCA) members, the Yanbu Petrochemical Company (YANPET), has addressed this problem in a holistic way by adopting a formal wastewater management program. As a result, instances of wastewater parameters exceedance was reduced by almost 100% by the end of 2016. Through their joint corporate social responsibility program Water for the World, Borealis and Borouge helped bring safe and affordable drinking water to more than 50,000 of the poorest residents in Nairobi, Kenya in 2015.

By 2050, the world population is projected to grow to 9 billion, meaning that global food production needs to increase by 60% from 2005-2007 levels. Chemical fertilizers are crucial in driving sustainable and efficient agriculture industry, while ensuring food security and supporting socio-economic development.

Furthermore, innovations in plastic packaging are key to food preservation, prolonging the shelf life of food, as well as reducing the environmental impact from waste, food wastage being the third largest contributor to greenhouse gases. Polymers, in particular, are a vital part of food packaging due to their mechanical strength, inexpensive cost, and ease of processing and manufacturing.

Zero waste is a key stepping stone for sustainability. The plastics industry offers huge potential for the establishment of a circular economy, which is based on conserving resources, prolonging the life of products, and recycling. Furthermore, our industry is adopting technology to allow commercialization of otherwise redundant or waste product from production processes.

A program initiated at Ma’aden Phosphate Company to enhance its recycling culture within its day-to-day operations resulted in doubling the company’s recycling rate vs waste generated from just 6% in 2015 to 11.5% within H1 in 2016.

Our members continue to work hard in all areas of environmental management, as well as developing strategies to reduce their environmental footprint through effective RC management systems. They are also investing in new technologies, process upgrades and plant changes to minimize their CO2 footprint. As a result of these efforts, average GHG emissions in tons of CO2 equivalent fell in 2016 by approximately 9% compared to the year before.

GPCA has recently released its 2016 Responsible Care Performance Metrics Report, highlighting the collective Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) performance of GCC chemical producers and the numerous success stories from GPCA member companies.

— the writer is the Secretary General of GPCA