Amidst the self-awakened conscience and sanctions in line, India is thriving with its ambitious aim of promoting renewable energy so that it can help with its share to mitigate the ill-effects of global warming and the consequent climate change.
But while the country’s leadership and Intellectuals, along with the International Experts are hopeful of a brighter future and better infrastructure powered with fossil-fuel free Businesses, the poor in the country find it difficult to derive their own self-sustaining needs.
And the energy transition that may come on India’s way, may fall short of its own promises, at least on the equitable grounds.
The people of this country, that has battered poverty, ignorance, food insecurity, terror etc., have always found coal and oil like petrol, kerosene, mustard etc., to power their frail worlds even when nothing else could foster their needs.
Valid are the doubts, if renewable energy, despite the promotion, can serve everyone in plenty, without bias. Hence, fossil fuels have become a difficult thing to be replaced.
Indian Petrochemical Industry and the major segments involved:
Polymers: This constituent accounts for around 70% of petrochemicals, becoming the most important constituent of the Indian chemical industry.
Essentially used in various plastic products, polymers garner a fair share of demand i.e., around 55%.
India’s annual imports of all polymers has gone up 160% in the ten years from 2000 to 2020, estimated at 4,880,010 tonnes, while exports doubling to 2,662,100 tonnes, in the same period.
Polyester Intermediates: also known as the Fiber Intermediates, these products are required and subsumed in the production of fabrics, plastics or disinfectants. These can also be applied as raw material in other industries such as textile, automobile, petrochemical, plastics industries etc.
Aromatics: These have seen a growth of 18% and are expected to grow at the same for some considerable time.
Benzene, Toluene, MX (Mixed Xylene) and OX (Ortho Xylene): While the demands of Toluene and OX registered a decline in demand by 4% and 10% respectively, the Benzene and MX witnessed a positive growth.
India’s petrochemical pulls and the ecological crisis:
India, along with many countries of the world, has scaled up its petrochemical industry.
An investment of $100 billion can fuel the country’s in-house crude oil demand and accelerate petrochemical production in the upcoming decade.
It is to note that even the claimed sustainable methods like Decarbonization, fuels based out of plastic waste (Waste-to-energy plants) etc., are not cost-effective and economically viable.
This in turn leads to greater emissions and leave behind a greater carbon footprint for the industry.
“While these are scientifically proven methods to dispose or process waste, more mechanisms are needed to address the challenges of efficiency and cost,” explains an Expert of Waste Management.
With India aiming to achieve net-zero by 2070s (as announced at the Conference of Parties), it needs to make Herculean efforts with respect to transition, especially in term of recycling.
Council for Energy, Environment and Water Research (CEEW) report explains: “If we are to account for the petrochemical industry emissions in future scenarios, data on energy use for plastic production, both as fuel and as feedstock – the raw material used but not burned during an industrial process – is essential”.
“When government land is allocated for public recycling infrastructures, such as a landfill, a waste-to-energy plant, or a biogas plant, the informal sector is largely ignored”.
These challenges will only compound as according to the India’s Chemicals and Petrochemicals Manufacturers’ Association (CPMA), India’s petrochemical diet will continue to double every nine years, currently standing at 8 per cent CAGR growth rate.
The volume of petrochemical market in India has been ranked at 42.50 million tonnes and is projected to reach 49.62 million tonnes by 2025.
Projections claim India to contribute more than 10 percent to the incremental global growth in petrochemicals by 2030.
Since, we seem to be in no mood to use fossil fuels and the industry is burgeoning any day, there is a grave need to work on carbon capture technologies, empower the zero discharge plants and improve plastic recycling facilities.
The case is not just with India, the crude oil dealer nations have begun to experience a lot more than these petty challenges.
Petrochemical crisis and the climate change story:
With global warming making half of the places on the planet unlivable, the unclean industrial practices have added to the woes of people living in those areas.
Kuwait, the world’s center of Oil and gas, has become one of the hottest countries on the planet. Several parts of the country may become even 4.5 degree C hotter, as compared with the average, from 2071 to 2100.
“This is why we are seeing less and less wildlife in Kuwait, it’s because most of them aren’t making it through the seasons”.
“Last year, we had three to four days at the end of July that were incredibly humid and very hot, and it was hard to even walk outside your house, and there was no wind. A lot of the animals started having respiratory problems”, explains a native.
Lacking in its climate action, the country invests $700 billion sovereign wealth as a hedge against oil, but being export dependent, this never comes easy.
Another problem with greater focused climate action and the inherent energy transition for the region, i.e., the complete Middle East, can be a threat to their political survival.
This need for a cleaner future has developed new challenges of its kind: financial shock for the current fuel players. Better technology will be needed to drive the change ultimately as the regions with fossil fuel abundance, also seem to have been blessed with renewable resources.
After everything, it has rolled down to just one thing: Will.
The world has realized the urgent need for Energy transition. Time and again, we have changed the planet based on our needs. Now, let’s try to change our needs based on the health of this only planet.